Contributed by Allison Klinghammer
Students gathered to watch a play about student life at Webster University on the second evening of new student orientation. Throughout the performance, a man in all black with a yoga mat occasionally walked across the set. He did not interact with the rest of the group. The man was portraying a Conservatory student.
“The negative on this campus with the Conservatory kids is that they’ve got their blinders on, they don’t really mix around,” said Dean of Fine Arts Peter Sargent. “But that’s just the way it goes when you love what you’re doing.”
Freshman musical theatre major Chase Thomaston said the reason behind the separation between Conservatory and non-Conservatory students is not that Conservatory students feel superior. He said the divide is linked to Conservatory students’ busy schedules.
“I think some people have a preconceived notion that just because we’re doing musical theatre, it’s not as intense,” Thomaston said. “And that’s the exact opposite of our experience here.”
Thomaston said on the most intense days, students go from 8 a.m. to midnight. When they work behind the scenes on a show for their crew assignments, they work even later.
Thomaston said his hectic schedule makes it difficult for him to hold onto friends outside of the Conservatory. Friends he made at the beginning of the year have moved on while he is consumed with course work. Thomaston said he found a family in his fellow Conservatory students.
“We all know how hard it is. We all need that nice bonding time together,” Thomaston said.
Conservatory alumnus Ben Nordstrom said things have not changed since he graduated in 1999. The separation between Conservatory students and non-Conservatory students was just as prominent 14 years ago as it is today.
“I don’t recall thinking I was better than anybody,” Nordstrom said. “I never knew anybody. We never saw anybody.”
Senior sociology major and the Student Government Association (SGA) President Katie Maxwell said she believes this separation should change.
“A lot of people will talk about how Conservatory students are kind of isolated,” Maxwell said. “We hate saying that, but we won’t really talk about how we can fix that.”
Maxwell experienced the separation first hand as a former student of the College of Fine Arts. She raised the issue at the fall 2011 Delegates’ Agenda with former Webster students Seanna Tucker and Devin Vogel. Maxwell said there has not been much improvement since the presentation.
Maxwell said Conservatory students miss out on opportunities because of their heavy course loads.
“It’s important that students get that chance to go outside of their major and their studies and learn from a different type of experience,” Maxwell said. Maxwell believes that having Tuesday afternoons off like the rest of the university would help. Since Conservatory students have block scheduling, from 1 p.m. – 5:20 p.m., they are not able to attend Tuesday afternoon meetings.
“Even clubs that meet at 9:30 (in the evening),” Maxwell said. “If they’re available at the time, they’re so worn out from everything they do throughout the day.”
Though his schedule is demanding, Thomaston said he is content following his passion for musical theatre, sometimes at the cost of not attending meetings. He said Conservatory students’ lives revolve around art.
“I know a lot of people see Conservatory kids walking around in all black with their yoga mats, and they think we believe we’re too good for them,” Thomaston said. “But it’s honestly just that we do not have time.”