Americana Girl: KU grad Emma Johnson talks fashion, photography, and life in Kansas City

8.25.2015

Emma Johnson

By Aleah Milliner

With a love for all things thrifted and vintage, Emma Johnson, a recent KU graduate, is making a name for herself through her blog, The Bold Americana as well as her videography work for brands. She has an eye for personal style and is not afraid to be bold, wearing pieces that may surprise others. She says, “You have to risk people being like ‘what the heck’. Confidence is key.”

Growing up in Las Vegas, Nevada, Emma Johnson lived in a culture of superficiality, where money and appearance were the ultimate goal.  At 18, she moved to Kansas, not knowing a soul. Now, four years later, she has found a genuine community of creatives to surround herself with and grow in her art of photography and videography. She splits her time between Lawrence and Kansas City, a city that has an  influence on her and has been a place of community.

You can hardly call it a job when you are doing something that you love. For Johnson, working with brands means hanging out with friends—camping at the lake or a spontaneous weekend in Los Angeles—and using them to model products as she snaps the photos. Those brands include Fable, a shop owned by Tara Light selling her original designs, Sandlot, a leather goods company, and Future, a vintage clothing store specializing in denim jeans. Johnson has shot product photos for all three companies and calls the owners good friends. Many companies she works with are local Kansas City shops.

Johnson holds the Kansas City community dear—a city quite the opposite of her hometown.

“Everyone wants to move to Los Angeles or New York, which is so typical,” Johnson says. “There are so many big things happening in Kansas City and I love the people there. Being around such a calm atmosphere has helped me to not be afraid of what other people are going to think. I have found a very genuine friend group there.”

Along with her freelance work, Johnson writes her blog, The Bold Americana. The name of the fashion and lifestyle blog combines her love of coffee and her personal style.

“I have an American girl style. I try so hard to have my own style and be bold,” Johnson says.

The blog features style posts of Johnson herself, as well as other people she finds with unique style. Recently she blogged about Kansas City’s West 18th Street fashion show, an event she photographed at. Another recent post featured two Kansas City designers, their line called Covey, and the concept of “slow fashion.” Her blog is simple, letting the photographs speak for themselves. Her “about me” page tells of her love for all things 90’s and says “I hold on tight to nostalgia and cuddle my VHS tapes at night.”

“Without saying anything, it tells other people who you are,” Johnson says on why having personal style is important.

Her style is “sporty-chic,” a combination of feminine pieces and sports apparel (think Adidas). She credits Alexa Chung and Jane Birkin as her style icons. To achieve her look, Johnson shops mainly at vintage stores, searching for unique pieces and anything that speaks to her nostalgia (old band t-shirts for example).

Johnson’s favorite blogs include Man Repeller, Glamouri and Happily Greyall fashion and beauty blogs—though she admits she does not like to spend too much time looking at other creative’s work in an effort to keep her style and work unique. After reading through so many different blogs, it is easy to become influenced by the content.

The Bold Americana started while Johnson was still in high school and pushed her to create better photos. Her photography experience began with a tripod and self-timed photos capturing her outfits for her blog. Her next step was moving to Kansas and enrolling in the photo media major at KU.  As a photography student, Johnson slowly figured out what she wanted to do for a living.

She stumbled upon product videography, her current job, after being asked to shoot a promotional video at Alchemy Coffee. She shot a stop-motion video for the coffee shops owners, now good friends of hers, and her career began from there.

Now, Johnson shoots product photographs and videos for various brands she likes—lifestyle brands, skateboard companies, any brand that doesn’t make her follow certain rules. Her approach is unstructured; you can call her free-spirited. Johnson says she does not follow a specific plan and storyboards are not her thing. Instead, she comes up with ideas while driving around until an idea strikes.

“While I was in California, I didn’t have a plan,” Johnson says. “I just told all my friends that it would be cool if I took a bunch of video while we were there. I just took video of cool things we were doing and I gave them the video camera. It was so unstructured, but when I put it together, it was one of my favorite videos I’ve made. It has so much feel to it.”

Emma Johnson-2

You can keep up with Emma Johnson on Instagram or her blog.

Playlist: Back to School

8.24.2015

B2Splaylist

Welcome back to the hill, Jayhawks. We are beyond excited to start this semester! To kick it off right, we gathered the staff for another awesome playlist to keep you pumped all day long. Featuring the bouncy and addicting 80s pop style of The Griswolds and our favorite songstresses Demi Lovato and Beyonce, these jams will put some spring in your step on the first day back in class.

Don’t forget to follow us on Spotify (styleonthehill) to stay updated with all our new playlists!

Staff Style: Aleah

8.21.2015

Welcome back to our final Staff Style of the summer! Today, meet our Assistant Editor Aleah.

Staff Style Aleah

Junior and Assistant Editor Aleah Milliner has always loved fashion and is a big believer in dressing up everyday. She is currently refining her style and adding more and more neutral, –black, grey, and off-white— classic pieces to her wardrobe and is in search of the perfect ankle boot for fall. When she is not in classes at the journalism school, you will most likely find her drinking cold brew at Alchemy and reading her favorite blogs.

What’s the most creative outfit you’ve come up with?

This may not be my creation really, but I wore black tights under a pair of shorts with a tee and ankle boots. I felt so confident and styled in that outfit!

Most versatile piece of clothing you have. What makes it so great?

Maybe my jeans? I love Madewell’s denim. I would say it is versatile because with a good pair of jeans you can make so many different outfits. I honestly like to wear my black Nikes with jeans and tee for a casual look, and then a cardigan and heels to dress up.

That one outfit you’ll always remember.

I look back through my old photos on my computer sometimes, and I there are so many pictures of me in bad outfits. It makes me cringe. There is this one knit hat I used to wear all the time (like in high school, ahh). It was pink with a huge flower on it. I definitely remember that, not so much in a good way.

Unique personal project?

I’m a wedding photographer! I am sort of just getting started, but I love it so much. I love creating photos. And I blog. I dream of having a popular style blog…one day.

First childhood memory of fashion?

I used to do modeling when I was younger! I did small jobs around town, but being on set and trying on so many outfits picked out for me and then being photographed in them was so fun!

What’s the biggest misconception people have about fashion/style?

Maybe that it isn’t a big deal. I don’t know if that is a misconception but I think people dress down way too often, especially on our campus. Dressing up, in my opinion, is so much better! It reminds me of the quote “Dressing well is a form of good manners.”

What is your signature style? / What is your ‘go-to’ look?

I’m changing my style up right now and trying to build my wardrobe accordingly. I love a chic, classic look. Basically, Madewell is Heaven to me so anything that they create. My go to look during fall, cause its my favorite season, is a pair of high-waisted jeans, a tank tucked in, my cream-colored cardigan, and a pair of tan booties.

The trendiest spot to be seen in Lawrence?

I love Alchemy! They have the best coffee, there are always friendly people around, and honestly a lot of fashionable people stop by. I definitely have found some inspiration there.

What trend are you obsessed with right now?

High-waisted jeans, overalls, and I love sets (matching skirt and top), although I don’t own any yet.

Why is fashion important?

It is so important to me because it is the way I express myself. I can tell others who I am through my clothes, especially when what I’m wearing might be a little “weird” to others. I especially love dressing up and wearing heels to complete a look- for some reason they give me confidence. I love the saying “look good, feel good.” It’s so true!

Staff Style: Maddie

8.14.2015

We’re happy to introduce our staff and style with you each week. Today, meet our Social Media Director Maddie.

Maddie-2

 

Senior Maddie Farber says style has always been a large part of her life. From Oklahoma City, to Lawrence, and now to New York City, her casual, artsy and occasionally rocker wardrobe makes her stand out in any city. The Style on the Hill Social Media Director and Staff Writer talks style in Brooklyn, NY.

What’s the most creative outfit you’ve come up with?

I’m not sure I have a most creative, but back in May I wore distressed,  high waisted, urban renewal “mom jeans” from Urban Outfitters.  Along with that,  I wore a delicately laced white collared crop-top and Steve Madden floral strappy heels. It was the most creative outfit I’ve had this spring.

Most versatile piece of clothing you have. What makes it so great?

My black leather BCBG  jacket. It’s hooded, so it’s a bit more casual. However, the tooling and stitching on it are impeccable and make it easy to dress it up a bit. Come October, I probably wear it three times a week.

That one outfit you’ll always remember.

This could be answered with either a tragedy of an outfit or an all time best…. for entertainment purposes I’ll go with my worst. 10th grade homecoming dance. My dress was multi-colored from Forever 21 and my heels were not tall enough. Looking at pictures from that night make me want to cry!

Most cringe-worthy fashion trend (according to today’s fashion standards) that you followed?

I would have to say back around 2008 when Sperry’s Topsiders became popular for girls to wear. I can’t believe I actually owned a pair…on girls, I think they need to go!

Unique personal project?

Finding more ways outside of SOTH to incorporate my love for fashion with my love for journalism.

First childhood memory of fashion?

Definitely when I was about 3 and would wear my dad’s collared work shirts around the house. I like to think that gave me the inspiration to take men’s flannels later on and incorporate them into my wardrobe. Even now when my dad is missing his, he calls me to see if I have it first!

What’s the biggest misconception people have about fashion/style?

That following a fashion trend is too “mainstream.” I think you can put a personal touch to any fashion trend and call it your own unique idea. Besides, there’s nothing wrong with looking to the runway or other large fashion corporations for ideas!

What is your signature style? / What is your ‘go-to’ look?

I love black or dark blue skinny jeans with Converse or booties. Come fall, I usually pair that with my leather jacket and a tailored flannel underneath.

The trendiest spot to be seen in Lawrence?

Lawrence has so many trendy spots. However, I would definitely have to say Henry’s Coffee Shop, off of 8th and Mass. During the day, the coffee is incredible and the coffee shop itself is a great place to study or get some work done. At night, the bar upstairs, with its small round tables and open space, creates a great nightlife scene to chat with friends and have a beer.

What trend are you obsessed with right now?

I am obsessed with the boho look right now. I’m currently trying to incorporate that more into my everyday style by getting more Free People items here and there.

Why is fashion important?

As much as people hate to admit it, so much of an impression is your appearance. If you can keep up with style trends, but put your own personal flair to it, I think fashion can be used to help you stand out. I know well dressed people always catch my eye!

Maddie

Staff Style: Holly

8.07.2015

Ready for another dose of awesome style from the Style on the Hill staff? Good! Coming at you from the West Coast, meet Holly.

Staff Style Holly

Holly Kulm, our new marketing director, is a budding social media strategist with a love for anything maroon! She digs fashion marketing with a hope of moving to the West Coast after graduation. You can usually find her roaming Mass St. with her friends or searching for the best karaoke bars. She has an avid love for Game of Thrones and can not wait to take on senior year.

What’s the most creative outfit you’ve come up with?

I’ve always been drawn to wearing more simple kinds of outfits. I know mixing prints can end up being dangerous, but this one time I ended up mixing a bunch of prints together and it didn’t look too bad! I usually stick with the classic black and white though.

Most versatile piece of clothing you have. What makes it so great?

My most versatile piece of clothing are my black heeled boots with studs. I can wear them with anything. I can wear them with a fancy dress or with black pants. They are my go-to when I can’t figure out what shoes I want to wear, because they never fail to just work with whatever I have on.

That one outfit you’ll always remember.

Since spending the summer in San Francisco I have seen many different kinds of fashion that has influenced me. I will always remember going out and buying my first all-black outfit. I used to be against wearing all black because I liked to mix up colors, but I have come to realize how chic it looks!

Most cringe-worthy fashion trend (according to today’s fashion standards) that you followed?

Haha, definitely the “leggings as pants” trend. I can’t help myself, they’re so comfortable!

Unique personal project?

I’m currently working with an indie fashion magazine out in San Francisco called Lone Wolf Magazine. It is really inspiring. I am working on my marketing and social media skills. You should all check them out, it’s more than just your typical fashion magazine. It is created to empower and inspire the people that read it! Trust me, when you get done reading it you will feel amazing about yourself. Can you really say that about other fashion magazines out there?  

First childhood memory of fashion?

Oh wow, thats a tough one! I would have to say always begging my mom to take me to TJ Maxx whenever we were out and about doing anything. I just loved how it was basically like a scavenger hunt every time you went in there, you never knew what you were going to find! It was always so much fun.

What’s the biggest misconception people have about fashion/style?

I think a huge misconception people have is that everybody who cares about fashion is materialistic and that couldn’t be further from the truth. Fashion is used as a form of self-expression. I can change it up depending on how I am feeling that day. There is so much more freedom with that when it comes to fashion. I can’t change my hair everyday or my car, so being able to tell a story with my clothing is very important to me.

What is your signature style? / What is your ‘go-to’ look?

I really like to keep it simple. The craziest I will go is a repeated pattern on a t-shirt. I try to stay away from anything that has words on it. My go-to outfit would for sure be my boyfriend jeans, a fancy top and a nice pair of flats!

The trendiest spot to be seen in Lawrence?

Urban Outfitters. I hate to say it since I can’t afford anything in there most of the time, but that place is just filled with amazingly designed pieces.

What trend are you obsessed with right now?

I am obsessed with combat boots of any color. That is why Fall is definitely my favorite season. You won’t see me go less than 5 days out of 7 wearing boots.

Why is fashion important?

Fashion is important because it can make a statement or tell a story. It’s considered art in so many ways. It is a vehicle that people can use to enhance their daily lives. Fashion is about self-expression and self-confidence. It’s not about impressing others, it’s about being yourself in a way that is unique to only you.

Staff Style Holly-2

Staff Style: Hannah

7.31.2015

Welcome back to another update of Staff Style, featuring our all new staff. We’re excited to share our fashion stories and style favorites with you each week! Today, meet Hannah.Staff Style Hannah 2

From the calm of Watson Library to the bustle of Wescoe Beach, senior Hannah Pierangelo and Editor in Chief endeavors to be queen of versatility and is always looking for the perfect way to pair her sneakers with any outfit. Though she’s more commonly housed in the computer labs at Stauffer-Flint working on her journalism degree, Hannah spends a few minutes in downtown Lawrence to talk about her casual style that aims to fit any situation.

What inspires your style?

I find music gets incorporated into every aspect of my life, and it inevitably shows through in my style, too. Sometimes it’s as simple as a unique graphic tee paired with colorful shorts or a skirt, sometimes it’s jewelry that’s inspired by musicians, and sometimes it’s just capturing the mood of whatever’s on my playlist at the moment.

Most versatile piece of clothing you have. What makes it so great?

I have this amazing red/orange skirt and I adore it. It has pockets! It’s loose and comfortable and so much fun to wear. I can easily dress it up with a nice top and jewelry, or I can keep it casual with a v-neck and flats.

What’s the biggest misconception people have about fashion/style?

The biggest misconception is that fashion isn’t functional. I used to think this myself! But the fact is, if you’re not comfortable in what you’re wearing, you’re doing it wrong. Good fashion combines the best of both style and functionality.

What is your signature style? / What is your ‘go-to’ look?

Skirt and sneakers. I love being loose and casual, but still getting the chance to be dressy and girly. For me, that outfit is completely versatile—I can go anywhere and do anything! Whether it’s going to dinner with friends or climbing the hill to class, I like to think I can conquer the world in a skirt and sneakers.

What trend are you obsessed with right now?

I don’t know if it’s a trend or just a style, but I’m obsessed with everything “surfer girl.” Maybe it’s because I was born in San Diego (and find myself going back each summer), but I can’t help craving beachy waves, loose tops and strappy sandals. I love that this style has merged being fashionable with being active. I feel like the goal is to  always be ready to drop everything at a moment’s notice and jump on a surfboard.

Why is fashion important?

Fashion is art that you wear. It’s the ability to express your individuality without acting or speaking.

Quick! Grab one thing from your closet right now. What is it?

A black peplum top, because it’s timeless and always classy.

Staff Style Hannah

 

 

Staff Style: Audrey

7.24.2015

 

 

Get to know our new staff this summer! We’re excited to share our fashion stories and style favorites with you each week. Today, meet Audrey. Staff Style (Audrey)When it comes to style, senior Audrey Danser is hard not to spot in the halls of the engineering complex—her unique, yet classic style sets her out from the crowd. The Style on the Hill Content Editor talks fashion atop the Standard Hotel in New York City.

You’re living in New York for the summer—how did you prepare for such a fashion conscious city?

I arrived in New York with only a carry on suitcase. During my time abroad, I learned a lot about strategic packing (see January’s article Life From a Suitcase), and I realized how little we actually need to still be able to create fashion-forward outfits. Everything I packed was carefully planned to complement each other, transform from day to night, be dressed up or dressed down, etc. I think my most creative outfits have come from when I have the least amount of clothing options. It’s just too easy when you have a wardrobe full of options available at your fingertips to have to think very hard about making an outfit special.

Why is fashion important to you?

I view fashion as an art form—creating a look involves much creativity when pairing unique colors, patterns, and textures much like any other media of art. But it also involves a lot of problem solving. Unlike a painting, an outfit is temporary. The challenge is to deconstruct one look to create a whole new look out of the same pieces.  

By stereotype, an engineer is unfashionable…

Yes, I often get asked by my engineering peers if I had/have an interview that day. I usually laugh and respond “no, it’s just a Tuesday.” It takes the same amount of time for me to slip into a dress and flats as it does to throw on jeans and a t-shirt. Of course there are some days when going casual would be nice, but I always resist—there’s something about a great outfit that gives me confidence and drive.

What’s the most creative look you’ve come up with?

I recently paired a grey one-piece swim suit  with black ankle-length trousers, a tweed cropped blazer, and a turquoise stone necklace. It doesn’t sound very interesting when I describe it, but it was fabulous!

What’s the biggest misconception people have about fashion?

That you have to have deep pockets. 95% of my wardrobe has come from thrift stores. The other 5% is spent on high-quality investment pieces. Thrifting allows me to be experimental without spending too much money on a creative thought that may not be so successful. Some of the stuff you find at a second-hand stores is just so out-there, and that’s something you can’t find at H+M or Zara.

What was your first childhood memory of fashion?

Every summer after the end of the year dance recital, I would cut up my old dance costumes and reconfigure them. I learned how to use a sewing machine and from there, I branched out and started making some of my own clothing. It’s always fun look back on the sketches and designs I created for a good laugh!

Staff Style (Audrey)2

 

 

 

Playlist: Weekend Jams

7.23.2015

Weekend Jams Playlist

It’s only Thursday, but we’re kicking off the weekend early with a brand new staff-curated playlist. It features some of our favorite artists, like BORNS (who will be playing in Kansas City at the Starlight Theater with Charli XCX and Bleachers in two weeks!) and Vinyl Theatre. Pretend it’s Friday with us and turn up the music!

Playlist: Summer Vibes

7.03.2015

It’s 4th of July weekend, which means it’s time to get decked out in red, white & blue and indulge in a little pyromania. Just don’t forget to keep a drink in your hand and the music up loud. Start the weekend off right with our staff curated playlist on Spotify and keep the vibes going all summer song.

View this playlist in the Spotify app.

Follow Style on the Hill on Spotify to stay up to date with our playlists throughout the year. Show us how you celebrate the holiday weekend on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Buzzed on Bro-Funk: A Conversation With Captiva

6.25.2015

Captiva 2015

By Hannah Pierangelo

“Someone described it to me as Bro Funk,” Hank Wiedel says of his band’s unique sound. He’s the drummer for Captiva, a young band based out of Kansas City. Jackson Ries, guitarist and one of the vocalists, calls it indie alt-pop for now, but admits he still doesn’t know what category his music falls into.

Though Captiva may not have its genre figured out, the band certainly knows what sound they create. Wiedel and Ries tell me they draw their influences from indie-rock chart-toppers Young the Giant and another genre defying rising to fame—Twenty One Pilots.

“They’re like my favorite band ever,” Ries says. “I get a lot of my inspiration from them.”

Captiva will be opening for Twenty One Pilots at Starlight Theater in September. Wiedel says he simply reached out to the Starlight staff and managed to land the gig. Ries says playing in front of his idols will be a dream come true.

Captiva will play a handful of music festivals in the midwest this summer. Catch a show and add some “bro-funk” tunes to your playlists!

I heard you met in detention?

Jackson: “Well, [Hank] and Pat MCQuaid, the guitar player, met in detention. He got me into detention when it was all happening. We were at Rockhurst high school, and I had been talking to [Hank] about jamming. We weren’t really a band yet. He never texted me back and I guess he got his phone taken away at school and they saw that I texted him, so he got me three detentions.”

Hank: “Me and McQuaid, we both got detention for something stupid like being late or something, so we were taking out trash together after school. We had just been featured in the school newspaper on the same page, so that’s how we recognized each other. Then we just started talking music and he wanted me to play on their [Captiva’s] record. It kinda blossomed from there, into a beautiful flower.”

Jackson: “It eventually became Buzz Like Bees.”

Does Captiva have plans for an EP or an album coming up?

Jackson: “Yeah. We have like a five-song EP. We’re starting on it later this month and we have pretty much the whole summer with the studio. Not sure what it’s going to be called yet.”

Hank: “It was going be one theme, but we changed it up and started writing more progressive music.”

Jackson: “We have a lot of old songs in our arsenal, but ended up writing these brand new songs that we’re super excited about. So we’re kinda changing up the vibe.”

Hank: “It’s kind of a whole different Captiva, really.”

Jackson: “Yeah, it’s us evolving for sure.”

What would you say makes it different?

Hank: “It’s a little bit more poppy, almost, more up tempo, more dance-y. It’s got the same funk and Captiva charm, but it’s a little more mainstream honestly.”

The band has a pretty impressive lineup scheduled. Is there anything special you do to get your name out there?

Hank: “Really, it’s just like being as unique as possible. And being ourselves. A lot of bands, a lot of people in general, try to put on a façade of something that they want to be. If you just go out and be yourself, it’s easier to be charismatic about what you do if you’re not faking it.”

Jackson: “When you go out there and people see that you’re not pretending—that it’s all real, it’s all you—that’s what I think is the main instigator to get our name out there. Just staying true to ourselves. And sweet Instagram pics.”

On your social media, you tag a lot of posts with “Stay Buzzed.” Is there any meaning behind that?

Jackson: “Our song Buzz Like Bees is the song that got us the most hype. We just kinda like to promote the “stay buzzed” because we’re Captiva, we’ve kinda got that island feel and we want to bring people on vacation. And you’re buzzed on just whatever’s around you.”

Hank: “High on life. “Stay buzzed” is kind of a statement like “keep digging it.” If it’s not us, then dig whatever you surround yourself with. Enjoy life.”

Captiva will play Field Day Fest in Lawrence this weekend. Catch their 9 p.m. set at The Bottleneck on Friday, June 26th. The band will also perform at Audiofeed in Urbana, Illinois, Backwoods Music Festival, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and Fashion Meets Music Festival in Columbus, Ohio.

Check out the band on Facebook and Instagram, and hear their latest music on iTunes, Spotify, and Soundcloud.

Photo courtesy of Captiva. 

It’s Called Impromptu for a Reason

6.09.2015

By Alec Weaver

Impromptu Cafe

It comes as a welcome shock that I’ve found myself enjoying a crispy pork belly gyro with a cup of tomato bisque in the Kansas Union. Like many students, my experience with food on campus has pretty much been limited to grabbing a chicken-cheddar wrap or a mass–produced plastic box of sushi between classes, but here at the Impromptu café in the Kansas Union, the hustle of campus seems miles away.

The Impromptu Café is a bizarre culinary entity at KU. It is staffed by the university’s catering service and students, and yet retains its identity as a genuine restaurant. After spending some time with the staff, who are more a family than co-workers, I am ashamed to admit that this is the first time I’ve actually stepped foot into the place and eaten the food prepared as ordered by the Impromptu’s head cook Chris Clark.

Clark, like others who make the impromptu tick, comes from a restaurant background. The line cook, who looks a lot like comedian Jon Lajoie, learned his trade from growing up in the restaurants his parents started. “I’ve been doing restaurant stuff for about eight to 10 years now,” he tells me while stocking his prep station with ice to keep all of the cooler ingredients as fresh as possible until plating. The Wichita native took a brief hiatus from the culinary world when he accepted a job doing tech support for the university, but in July of 2014 found himself right back in food service and accepted a position with KU’s Dining Services. “I guess I just can’t leave it. It’s in my blood,” he tells me.

Clark is just about the most easy-going guy you’ll meet. It seems nothing gets to him, even when Kim Nixon, manager for the Impromptu comes to him in the middle of the lunch rush to tell him that they have a customer with 32 food allergies. Nixon and Clark manage to hammer out a special order in a little under a minute, plain grilled chicken breast and wilted greens. As Chris gets the order started, Nixon returns to the dining room, what’s commonly referred to in the restaurant industry as the “front of the house.”  She tells me that in addition to two groups of six from the university, she also saw a lot of visiting “nametags” walking around on campus. “We shouldn’t be too busy today,” she told me, “but then again, you can’t ever be certain of anything in a restaurant,” Nixon says “It’s called Impromptu for a reason.”

                    Impromptu Cafe
Hours: 11 am-2 pm Monday-Friday, when classes are in session + Stop Day and Finals Week
Location: Level 3 of Kansas Union
Price: $10 or less! View the full menu here.

Nixon is simultaneously mother hen and Don Corleone of the Impromptu, and like Clark, she too has a long history in the foodservice industry. “As you can see, I never really had a chance,” she says, her blue eyes beaming from behind her multi-colored glasses as she holds a picture of her father sitting in the kitchen with her as an infant. “I was literally raised in the kitchen.” For the first few years of her life, her crib was in the kitchen of her family’s small apartment. It is apparent that her father, a cook in the National Guard and later for BSNF railroad, was a great influence on her. She takes down a hardback, railroad recipe book from the bookshelf behind the cash register and flips to a bookmarked recipe, a published recipe of her father’s.

Since her childhood in the kitchen, Nixon has spent 31 years in the restaurant industry, mainly sticking to front-of-house positions, and it is her veteran mettle that has made her an integral part of the Impromptu since it opened in February 2008. Her day starts at 8 am Two hours before anyone else arrives to work the restaurant. Between 8 and 9 a.m. Nixon has already checked the dates on the prepped food in the refrigerator, made notes on what she needs made fresh and what she needs to order for the next big shipment of food. Once she’s taken stock of what’s in Impromptu’s kitchen, she’s off to what Nixon describes as the “Mother Ship” next door.

Across the hall, in the belly of KU dining services’ massive kitchen hub, a buzzing hive of cooks, bakers and dishwashers are all hard at work performing the various tasks needed to feed the university. Kim must snake her way back to the walk-in cooler where she must once again note what’s available before writes her final food order on the whiteboard next to the heavy metal door. She works her way to the back of the kitchen, where the chef de cuisine describes the day’s specials to her. There will be a roasted tomato and bell pepper bisque today as well as a shrimp nacho plate with chipotle black beans  and what Nixon jokes are “the usual suspects,” i.e. salsa and cilantro.

Once we finish up in the “Mother Ship,” its back over to the dining room of the Impromptu where Kim makes the necessary preparations for her serving crew who will be arriving shortly. She stock’s their bill folders with plenty of tickets and draws up their zones on a laminated chart of the 16-table brasserie. Later I will come to find out that these dry-erase borders don’t mean much, as the close-knit crew operates with maximum efficiency. Each of the three servers help wherever they are needed, while Kim floats from table to table taking care of guests’ needs in between visits from their respective waiter or waitress. “It really is like a family here,” says Paige Kime, one of the seniors on the Impromptu’s wait staff. While I ate with them at the end of the work shift, her co-workers echoed her sentiment, especially Ben Honeycutt, a junior who applied to serve at the Impromptu for two years before finally being hired in February. “I just really wanted to work here,” he says, “I was just blown away by the work environment.”

The Impromptu is not the first restaurant to inhabit the Kansas Union. Before it opened its doors seven years ago, the union has been home to five other restaurants, three of which have occupied the space that Impromptu currently calls home, and with its student-budget friendly menu ($10.00 and under) the Impromptu isn’t going anywhere soon. Despite only being open for lunch between 11 a.m. to 2  p.m, Nixon is there for a full eight hours, making preparations so that the day can run smoothly without a hitch.

Aside from the food itself, the environment of the Impromptu is truly remarkable. The warm palate of decor complements the warmth of the staff; it is an oasis for students, faculty and visitors alike. A place to just have a little time for yourself away from the mad rush of the campus that can at times feel like a micro-city. I know that as I sat, eating off of an actual plate, using actual silverware, I wasn’t thinking of graduation or finals or careers, in that moment I was merely thinking of how good that pork belly gyro tasted.

Photo courtesy of Impromptu Cafe.

Cream of the Crop: How A Band Called ‘Maybe Not’ Defied Its Own Name

6.01.2015

By Lyndsey Havens

Maybe Not KJHK Farmers ball 2015

Short, concise and memorable — that’s how Alex Chanay describes the name of the band he is part of. Chanay, a junior from Topeka, plays guitar and sings in the band Maybe Not. In addition to Chanay, the trio includes Sam Goodrich (drums) and Gus Cobb (bass), both seniors from Topeka.

“We would go back and forth on what we should call ourselves,” he says. “Most suggestions would get met with a ‘maybe not,’ so basically our band name was chosen from our indecisiveness.”

On the contrary, the audience at Farmers’ Ball—a music competition held by the University of Kansas’ student-run radio station, KJHK—voted a decisive yes when it awarded third place to the band on April 25.

Farmers’ Ball grew out of a KJHK program featuring local music called Plow the Fields in 1994. Tom Johnson, general manager at KJHK, says the event began “as a way to recognize the best in local Lawrence musical talent.”

For Mitchell Raznick, a senior from Omaha, Neb., the competition has evolved to more than just that. Raznick, the live event director at KJHK and one of the emcees at the event this year, says Farmers’ Ball is one of the defining events for local music. He says, “It creates an opportunity for the local musicians to get their work out there, and it helps KU students and Lawrence residents interact with the local music scene through tradition.”

That tradition started on the hill in 1994 when SUA still held Day on the Hill, a daylong music festival on Campanile Hill that featured national acts like Pearl Jam. Farmers’ Ball was conducted in partnership with this event. The local band that won Farmers’ Ball was awarded “the epic prize” of serving as the opening act, Johnson says.

Damage to the hill from concertgoers brought Day on the Hill to an end, but KJHK, unwilling to surrender, carried on with Farmers’ Ball. The competition offered substantial, though somewhat less “epic” prizes, such as studio time and t-shirt printing. The competition is now held at the Bottleneck and the prize is straight cash. Johnson says offering a cash prize “makes the most sense to support local bands, giving them the ability to invest in what they see fit to grow their act.”

Fresh Crop of Talent

Maybe Not KJHK Farmers Ball 2015

This year, there were 85 submissions to Farmers’ Ball. Johnson says each year the competition averages anywhere from 50 to 80 entries.

“I can tell you that every single band that made the top eight semifinal spots deserved to be there,” Johnson says. “I think that’s the first time I can honestly say that about all of the bands since I began at KJHK, so that indicates to me that the local music environment is as robust as ever.”

This was Maybe Not’s first time participating in the competition; the band officially formed in August 2014. Its music teeters between upbeat and emo-esque, finding a balance that’s pleasing to the ear.

Chanay says the group was having a tough time reaching a fan base beyond their immediate friend group and felt that Farmers’ Ball was the best way to gain exposure in Lawrence. Travis Diesing, a junior from Papillion, Neb., says the Bottleneck was at least three-fourths packed for the semifinals.

Will the band perform next year and try to move up in the rankings? Chanay, true to form, says, “probably not.” He says Farmers’ Ball achieved what they wanted it to this year—build its audience in Lawrence and form friendships with other bands. “We’d rather leave the slot open next year for another young band trying to do the same,” he says. When the next competition comes around, Chanay says the band hopes to be on tour.

The most challenging part of competing, Chaney says, was “having extremely disparate sounds go up against each other to be judged.” He says the band didn’t expect to make it to the finals and that they felt extremely lucky to share the stage with equally deserving groups.

“The stakes are high when you’re dealing with a concentrated event that can literally launch a band’s career,” Johnson says. “We respect how much care we have to pay to the process throughout.”

Margaret Hair, a graduate student from Greensboro, North Carolina, is a full time staff member and program coordinator for the SUA-KJHK Live Music Committee. In simple terms, she explains there are five steps to the process, which begins with bands submitting their music to KJHK.org. She says about 40 students spent a Saturday listening to all of the submissions and voting on every band.

From there, online voting begins. People are able to listen to music from the top 16 bands and vote for their favorites. The top eight bands then move on to perform in the semifinals — which took place on Saturday, April 18. Each of the eight bands plays a 20-minute set and the audience votes for their favorite at the end of the night. The four bands with the most votes advance to the finals show.

For the finals, each band plays a 30-minute set and audience members again vote for their favorites at the end of the night. No Cave, a hard-hitting fusion of a rock and jam band, won the first place prize of $2,000. Via Luna, an instrumental group with electric-indie flair, won the second most votes and prize of $1,000. Toughies came in fourth, winning the prize of $250.

Maybe Not says it plans to use its cash prize of $500 for promotional t-shirts and making CDS of its two EPs. Aside from the participating bands’ increased publicity, KJHK largely benefits from this event as well.

“Having the event every year means we can try to catch bands as they form and grow,” Hair says. “It’s also a big boost to the station, in that it gives us access to a huge set of local music every year, and establishes connections with dozens of local acts.”

Farmers’ Ball is a collaboration of every area, not only within the station, but also including the live music partners at SUA. Hair says while it’s rewarding to see the various areas work together to produce the event, it takes a lot of work to get to the finish line.

“There are challenges to navigating the year-long campaign of encouraging bands to submit music and then working through all the voting rounds,” she says. “But the end result — a big, buoyant local music extravaganza — is easily worth the work.”

Photos courtesy of KJHK Staff. View more live photos from Farmer’s Ball here, or check out kjhk.org

Hear more of Maybe Not on Bandcamp.

Concerts From The Couch

5.20.2015

By Hannah Pierangelo

Abandon Kansas concerts from the couch

“It’s magical out here.”

Jeremy Spring speaks in passing, but he’s right. There’s something special in the air tonight. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s decently warm for the first weekend in April. Maybe it’s the fairy lights setting the mood. Maybe it’s the lawn chairs casually arranged in the backyard of a home in west Wichita. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m attending an intimate living room concert and it’s not actually in a living room.

Spring, vocalist and guitarist for Abandon Kansas, who played the 14th show on their national living room tour in the band’s hometown, Wichita, laughs off the comment. But there is a little magic out tonight.

Abandon Kansas embarked on their tour in the middle of March. They wrapped up a total of 46 shows in the cozy homes of their fans last weekend, playing almost every single day for the majority of the spring. It’s the band’s sixth living room tour and clearly a hit with their fans.

Playing music in living rooms is not a new concept by any means, but it is flourishing again. Google “house concert” and tons of entries show up. Most stories on the subject describe a growing trend of artists playing in homes, though none can cite any data to support the claim. However, with so many people taking note, it’s clear that house shows might be everything but trending.

Live performance in private space may be a tale as old as time, but this type of intimate event was most popular in 1920s New York. With the modern communication available in social media and event planning apps, it’s easier now more than ever to host concerts in unique spaces like homes and backyards.

Tonight the band plays in a backyard instead of a living room, which Spring says is unusual. But the house is familiar—Spring recalls helping friend and previous Abandon Kansas drummer Brian Scheideman renovate and flip the house. Scheidman still owns the house, and the hosts for the evening have rented the space from him for the last five years.

The band take their makeshift stage, a grassy place beneath a swing-less swing set adorned with fairy lights, just after 9 p.m. The sun now fully set and a crackling bonfire lit to keep the guests toasty on the still chilly spring night, Abandon Kansas croon out their new songs, carving their electric indie-rock in the dark.

“There are a lot more loose moments, a lot more mistakes,” Spring says. “We don’t play to metronome like we do onstage. There’s not a ton of lights and all this jazz. It’s just right there, raw. It’s very exposed. People are sitting on the floor right next to us. It’s the real deal.”

If you’re a concert fanatic like I am, then a private show limited to 40 people, including the band members, is a dream come true. I’d expect this level of up-close-and-personal time from a VIP all-access pass, complete with bodyguards and maybe even red velvet rope. It’d probably cost a fortune.

For this exclusive evening with the band and the first play of their brand new record Alligator, I paid $10. That’s a Chipotle burrito if you add tax and guacamole. That’s the cost of the Moleskine notebook I used to take notes at the show.

“House shows have always been around,” Spring says. He thinks they’ll always be there, too. “They just kinda come and go. But to do a full tour of house shows, I think that’s kind of unique. I haven’t seen a ton of bands doing that.”

                    KEEP IN TOUCH
Abandon Kansas
Website: abandonkansaslovesyou.com
Twitter: @AbandonKansas
Facebook: /abandonkansas
Soundcloud: /abandonkansas

The Golden Age of the House Concert

The living room concert dates back to the Harlem Renaissance, which spanned from the early 1920s to mid 1930s in New York and cultivated African-American art, literature and culture. Residents of Harlem experienced both rent and wage discrimination and faced exorbitant costs of living during the time. The 50-block district emerged as a slum by definition of its living conditions. During the early part of the decade, it’s estimated that nearly 200,000 blacks migrated to the neighborhood, with up to 7,000 people inhabiting a single block. The residents began to host Saturday night parties in their small apartments, enlivened with good music and “refreshments,” as alcohol was prohibited at the time, and invited friends to pay at the door for a good time. Friends were happy to oblige, well aware of the living conditions they shared, and the cost of the rent party typically amounted to less than entry to Harlem’s popular clubs.

Langston Hughes writes in his autobiography The Big Sea: “The Saturday night rent parties that I attended were often more amusing than any night club, in small apartments where God knows who lives . . . but where the piano would often be augmented by a guitar, or an odd cornet, or somebody with a pair of drums walking in off the street. And where awful bootleg whiskey and good fried fish or steaming chitterling were sold at very low prices. And the dancing and singing and impromptu entertaining went on until dawn came in at the windows.”

Professor Jacob Dorman of the History and American Studies departments at KU says that soul food and music were a large part of rent parties. Upright pianos were prominent fixtures in the small living spaces and players innovated the “Harlem stride piano” method of playing, which allowed the player to create a bigger sound and cut through the noise of the party.

“One reason why rent parties are so important is that they illustrate that the way most people lived in Harlem was not the way white visitors experienced Harlem,” Dorman says. Popular Harlem venues like The Cotton Club were white owned and only admitted white guests. Other clubs allowed blacks if they passed a paper bag test, meaning that their skin had to be lighter than the color of a brown paper bag.

“What this meant was that ordinary working class people had to find their own entertainment and make their own fun, and they did so in small cabarets and bars and in these occasional rent parties that might start late and go all night,” Dorman says. “So rent parties, with their music, soul food, and opportunity for sociability among black working class people, illustrate one powerful way that people were able to put their cultures and their bodies to work for their own pleasure, even if they worked low paying jobs or were not allowed into Harlem’s more famous commercialized leisure spaces.”

Though the repeal of Prohibition and The Great Depression effectively ended the rent party in the early 1930s, the Facebook invitation for the Abandon Kansas show tonight boasts a cheap ticket and a BYOB attitude, ringing in the house concert once again. The living room show isn’t a formal event—it’s just an opportunity for a good time and good music, same as in Roaring 20s Harlem.

“Most people aren’t brave enough to go out to a house show so it’s like, just the hardcore fans come out and the people that really want to know what’s going on,” Spring says. “That gives us a chance to get some real hang time with the people who really know who Abandon Kansas is ‘cause [these shows are] not highly publicized.”

The band promoted this tour the way they promote all of their tours—through social media. But for first time, Abandon Kansas tried organizing the national tour by offering the option to host as a perk for donating to their crowdfunding campaign last year.

Spring says it’s been hard to put out a new record. It’s been four years since their last full-length, Ad Astra Per Aspera. The title comes from the Kansas state motto “To the stars through difficulty.” Spring says there was plenty of difficulty to get the new music released. The band left their record deal at Gotee Records and instead opted for an independent approach. Teaming up with post-hardcore band Emery and their new label Bad Christian, Abandon Kansas were able to set up an IndieGoGo and raise $15,000 to fund their third full length, Alligator.

A Siren Song of Social Media

Abandon Kansas concerts from the couch

Social media and online event planners have been crucial to the renaissance of the living room show. The concert-tracking smartphone app Bandsintown, used by 250,000 artists and more than 16 million concert goers, just announced a new analytics feature in February that allows artists to view their best markets at a glance.

“We are living in an age where data is becoming increasingly accessible and in music, analytics are critical to decision making,” says Leah Taylor, the director of communications at Bandsintown.

“Bandsintown Analytics shows where the highest concentrations of concert-goers are worldwide,” Taylor says. “The purpose of the tool is to help artists understand where it would be wise to book shows—from a house party to a stadium.”

Crowdfunding is another method, and one of the newer ways for musicians to raise money and connect with fans. Backers donate money to the cause, usually a new record or tour, and gain rewards in return. Abandon Kansas, like many artists of late, endeavored to crowdfund for a new album and a living room tour to get back to playing for their fans. Spring emphasizes that it’s not charity, but more like paying in advance. Backers got a copy of the album, tickets to the living room tour, and for $300 upfront, the option to host the band in home.

Tonight’s hosts, Allison and Molly, have hosted a house show before with a handful of local Wichita acts at their last home, a duplex shared with their best friends on the other side of the dividing wall. They pitched the few hundred bucks to have Abandon Kansas play in their new place in west Wichita.

“We like doing it,” host Allison McElroy says. “We both love music and I’ve listened to Abandon Kansas since high school.

Once the band met their crowdfunding goal and the living room tour became a reality, the band and the hosts began promoting primarily through social media.

Spring finds that Facebook is the most successful for the band, though they also try to post frequently on Twitter and Instagram, and keep up with podcasts. He says the word of mouth is still the best way to get people interested in the show.

KU grad Ryan McGee recalls hosting a living room concert here in Lawrence in 1995, pre-dating the ease of instant online communication.

McGee hosted the small folk act Catfish Keith in his house on Mississippi Street, which has since been torn down for the parking garage. He remembers putting posters around campus and trying to entice as many friends as possible with the promise of a keg. Without even e-mail, McGee says he called the phone number on the back of the band’s CD to figure out how to book him.

“At the time, that’s all you could do—hang up posters and talk to people,” McGee says. “I would have had a much bigger reach on Facebook, or even gone beyond my social circle with something like Twitter.”

McGee remembers the living room packed with people of all social circles—friends, strangers, even a few professors.

Though it’s been 20 years, McGee has thought about hosting another living room show.

“It lives on in memory the way a traditional concert might not,” McGee says. “The best part is the feeling of being responsible for the event around you, bringing all the people to enjoy music.”

David Bazan, solo artist and the man behind indie-rock band Pedro the Lion, is another musician finding success in living room tours. He began touring in homes in 2009 before the official release of his debut full-length solo record, Curse Your Branches.

In an interview with Consequence of Sound, Bazan explained his start by asking himself, “What do I need to do to play songs and have people pay me money?”

“That’s what it comes down to,” Bazan says. “I genuinely love playing my music. I’m going to do it for the rest of my life. How can I do it to make the money to provide for my family and have it make sense? I said: house shows. If I can’t play anywhere else, I’ll play living room shows. That’s really how it all started.”

Bazan says he couldn’t do his living room tours without social media. Initially, the tour was just an email list of potential hosts that eventually grew to be his successful national tours today.

In the beginning, Bazan says he got “a lot of whisperings about making a bad career move.” Most musicians follows a traditional tour and release cycle that expects new material release about every two years, filled with touring in between.

“The thing is, though, people undersell how these shows connect with the fans,” Bazan says. “There’s no hype, no promotion, no gimmick. If I wanted to tour 100 to 150 days a year and put out a record every two years, I could do that.”

Beyond the cycle, Bazan says he loves to play house shows and get the chance to connect with his fans. “These 50-person living shows feel way more meaningful, even more meaningful than 300-person club shows,” he says.

Cash for Chorus

Just as Harlem rent parties emerged to cover the rising cost of living in New York, Spring says he began doing living room tours out of necessity.

“The touring scene is tough,” Spring says. “It got to the point where we’d play a bar and you know maybe a couple hundred people come out, but then we’d leave with a few hundred bucks either way.”

Spring breaks it down for me. In traditional touring, there are a lot of middle men. Typically bands give up around a third of the ticket price to the booking agent, manager and venue. With the living room tour, fans get a cheaper ticket at only $10, and the band gets the whole pie.

“Really, we’re not like buying new cars,” Spring says. “We’re just putting gas in the tank and making sure everybody gets fed and ordering more CDs and just keeping the business going.”

Another perk with playing in the living rooms of dedicated fans—the band gets a free meal and a place to spend the night. Spring says the living room tours are definitely the most financially successful tours for Abandon Kansas. Though he prefers to plug in and play loud, Spring likes to take on the living room tour once a year.

Spring sums up the living room tour best: “I think it just became survival. The music business changed. The way we download music’s changed. So the way we tour has to change.”

 

Alligator is available now on iTunes. Stream it here.

Photos courtesy of Abandon Kansas. 

Heard on the Hill

5.04.2015

Heard on the Hill graphic

The SOTH spies are at it again and have continued listening to professors, students and campus randos for the funniest, weirdest and most out of context quotes. Each week we’ll be posting a compilation of the best ones. If you’d like to contribute to Heard on the Hill, email your overheard quips to styleonthehill@gmail.com.

  • Student: “So the guy is standing butt ass naked in the street, his pecker in one hand and nothing but air and opportunity between him and this cop.”

  • Guy: *sits in the Gynecology waiting room at Watkins and looks around* “I think I might be in the wrong place.”

  • Girl 1: “No one deserves the death penalty.”
    Girl 2: “Yea, except Theon Greyjoy.”

  • Girls standing in line to get into bar: “I mean we all have boyfriends, so why are we even here?”

  • Guy: “So much stuff gets caught in my mustache.”
    Girl: “Flavor savers.”

  • Student: “I’m holding off on drinking water so I don’t dilute my alcohol content.”

Vaping: Healthy or Habit-forming?

4.30.2015

By Ashleigh Lee

IMG_2288

I am at the Granada and I can barely see anything through the foggy air. A few lights at the bar illuminate the smoke clouds that begin to rise. A group of under-aged kids stand next to me, the “X’s” drawn deeply on the back of their hands with a black marker. Another cloud of smoke surrounds us but it’s not smoke; it’s vapor from an e-cigarette.

My introduction to the vaping community comes from my brother. He won’t tell me if he smokes cigarettes, but he openly vapes around our family and me. He will do it in the car or while walking on the street. I began to wonder if he did it to quit smoking or if he wanted to do it because it was the popular thing to do. This sparked my curiosity about the culture that surrounds vaping and e-cigarette culture. Last summer I took a research assistant position with Dr. Yvonnes Chen of the journalism school monitoring the tobacco marketing on American Indian Reservations. As our research continued we decided to branch out and study e-cigarette use.

According to the Center for Disease Control, an estimated 42.1 million adults are smoking cigarettes in the United States. That’s nearly 19 of 100 adults 18-24 year olds. But since the FDA does not regulate e-cigarettes, there is little information about who is using them, why they are using them and their long-term health effects.

States have been taking a stance on regulations such as what age you have to be to buy e-cigs and where they can be used. For example, Kansas only allows adults 18 and older to purchase the device and there is no statewide ban; but restaurants, bars and gambling facilities are exempted from any regulation.

An e-cigarette is a battery-powered device that heats up coils, then the liquid “juice” and is converted into a vapor form. They are relatively cheap; starter kits can range anywhere from $20 to $50, and liquid “juice” runs anywhere from $1 to $10 depending where you buy from. E-cig liquid is the most appealing part of the experience. There are flavors ranging from mint to give the illusion that you are smoking a menthol cigarette, to fruity flavors like strawberry and grape, to regular tobacco flavors and there are even flavors to taste like your favorite beverage like a piña colada or coffee. But the flavors and cheap prices are also appealing to the younger demographics.

Dr. Chen outlines three concerns that public health officials are facing with youth and e-cigs. “Adolescences’ brains are very sensitive to nicotine and since there are hundreds of flavors available that could easily make youth addicted to them.”

Chen also said the second concern comes from a recent study in Wales, children 10-11 years old who had used e-cigs expressed that they would want to try traditional cigarettes. The last concern is that once they try cigarettes, they will become addicted to them.

“In terms of research we know very little about e-cigs,” Chen says. “But we don’t know how children and adolescence are perceiving cigarettes. We know adults’ perceptions, but not youths yet.”

A literature review published in 2013 about electronic cigarettes and college students says that it might be because of the novelty of the product. “Sensation seeking is a personality trait resulting in the need for simulation, novel experiences and risk taking,” it says. Many times e-cigarettes come off as novelty with limited-edition flavors and packaging that entice users to want to buy the product since it might not be around much longer.

What we know about e-cigarettes is that they have helped people quit smoking. Many times former smokers find the need to keep their mouths and occupied stemming of the habit of smoking cigarettes. E-cigs help fill that void and are perceived as a better alternative. But e-cigs have not officially been recognized as a quitting device.

The new social experiment

To understand more about e-cigarettes for myself I went to The Vapors Edge E-Cig Shop at 1901 Mass St. The store is a local family owned and operated business by Robby Swonger. When I walked inside I saw two young girls and a guy hanging out in the store. One was working and the other two vaping and hanging out – none of them looking older than 18.

Swonger, a former nurse practitioner, smoked two packs of cigarettes a day for most of his life. He turned to e-cigs as a way to quit smoking and has never looked back. “I thought that if it worked for me, it could work for others,” he says.

But he does not encourage people to use it as an alternative to traditional cigarettes to nonsmokers since nicotine is still an addictive substance. He says that if a customer does not have a history with cigarettes, he will not sell them e-cigs.

“I do not encourage anyone who does not have a history of smoking to vape,” he says. “Why would you want to add that to your lungs?”

He says that main age range his store sees is 34-to-50 year olds who have quit smoking. Even though there are no studies supporting e-cigs as an official cigarette-quitting device, he does say that it has helped many, including himself, quit smoking. While the store may see a range of customers from 20 to 90, he says that he will not sell any products to anyone under 18. He doesn’t want to encourage anyone who is not smoking already to take up vaping.

Zack Lickteig, a sales associate at the store, says that he began smoking around the time he was 13, dipping by the time he was 15 and now at 19 has been tobacco free since he started vaping about a year ago.

He believes in the social influence that vaping has created. “It’s a very social thing, it’s like the hookah culture,” Lickteig says. “The vaping community has been rising and rising so much. There are vape clubs, conventions, lounges and it has been helping people quit.”

But he also believes that the price and the variety of flavors are also causing popularity amongst the younger consumers. Currently, the FDA has banned the use of flavors as marketing tools in many cities and counties across the Untied States since it might attract younger audiences and entices them to use the product.

Kyndra Willis hangs out in the store with Lickteig and another friend. At 18, Willis also says that she uses vaping to help her quit smoking. She started smoking cigarettes when she was 14 and vaping two years ago. She believes that people start vaping because of acceptance. “I think mostly for people around our age it’s mostly for popularity,” she says. “For most people it is, but for people like me, it’s to help stay calm and not smoke cigarettes.”

Willis says that when she gets stressed she will turn to vaping. It’s an easy way for her to just sit back, relax and have a few minutes to herself with her e-cig. She does not believe in the vaping for approval.

And neither does Swonger. He does not like the idea that people would use the product for popularity. “I would hate to see e-cigs labeled as a popularity thing,” he says. “If it turns out that way, that’s how we’re going to get the FDA involved.”

Vaping anywhere

All though vaping is allowed in restaurants, gambling facilities and bars, both Swonger and Lickteig believe that there is a level of respect that comes with it. Since the e-cig does not get hot enough to combust, the vapor has not shown any evidence of carcinogen being produced, making it as far as we know to be safe to breathe second hand.

But even though you can vape while enjoying a meal or a cocktail, that does not mean it is socially acceptable to pull out an e-cig and start vaping while you have a drink or eat your dinner. There is still the stigma that comes with smoking in public places. People have the image of cigarettes creating of clouds of smoke, filling the air with the thick smell that clings to your clothes and hair, believing it to also apply to e-cigs. But since e-cigs do not produce smoke, and the vapor flavors may create a subtle scent, it does not produce a smoke cloud or a foul smell.

Swonger says that vapers should be reverent when vaping in public spaces. “It’s not a cigarette and it does not have any smoke or carcinogens,” he says. “But I don’t vape in restaurants or on planes. It’s just a respect thing and we all need to respect each other.

The future of e-cigarettes

Swonger says that he says does not want vaping to be taken as a fad and it still be taken seriously and should only be used by people who have a history smoking.

Swonger says that if it does become a certified nicotine replacement device it would become a pharmaceutical tool then, which is what the vaping industry is trying to avoid because the FDA would then become involved.

Currently, the FDA does not regulate cigars, pipe tobacco, gels and wastepipe tobacco, but that might all soon change. The FDA has talked about extending the deeming period, which started April 2014, to get more time to understand the product.

Chen also says that more research needs to be done in order to determine how harmful e-cigarettes actually are. She says that if people are able to see how the youth perceive the culture of these products, it could help us understand how it could effect nicotine addiction in adolescents.

For right now all anyone can do is wait to see if further research can determine whether or not e-cigs are just as harmful as cigarettes or if they could actually be good nicotine replacement tools.

Edited by Katie Gilbaugh

Lawrence’s Leatherbound Gems

4.27.2015

By Emily Brown

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As I walked through the stacks of the Kenneth Spencer Research Library, I inhaled the scent of musty, old books, and I struggled with the urge to trail my fingers across the bindings. I passed books written in foreign languages, some from the early eleventh century and onwards. The books were wrapped in leather and crumbling paper, and some stood taller than the size of a small child. I was book drunk.

The Kenneth Spencer Research library houses the University’s collections of rare books, manuscripts and archives. Built in the 1960s with a donation by Helen Spencer as a memorial to her husband Kenneth Spencer, the library is open to the public and students. The library is the perfect place to indulge one’s curiosity in the sensory experience of old books and manuscripts.

The library has three main collections students can explore: the University Archives, the Kansas Collection and the Special Collections. The University Archives tells the story of KU through department records, administration records, game footage and photographs. The Kansas Collection, covering the territorial period to the present, focuses on everyday people and their experiences in Kansas. The Special Collections covers everything beyond Kansas, from the antiquity to the present.

These collections do not only illustrate history, but the origins of books, too. Many of the older books predate printing, showcasing the beautiful crafting of a handmade book.

“It is kind of surprising and wonderful that anybody, but especially students, can really access some of these things — really amazing things from across the world that you can get to without having to leave campus” says Caitlin Donnelly, head of public services.

Unlike the other libraries on campus, the collection materials remain in the building due to the rarity and delicate condition of some of the objects. You can request to see certain materials in the Marilyn Stokstad Reading Room. The books are kept in the stacks, where only student workers and staff members are allowed.

While students aren’t allowed behind the stacks like I was, they can travel down the North Gallery, where only a glass wall separates the viewers from some of the oldest pieces in the Special Collections.

Ashley Hutchison, a student worker who is majoring in Mechanical Engineering, finds requests in the stacks and brings them to patrons in the reading room. Before handing the pieces over to students, she arranges the items with book supports or book weights, ensuring the artifacts are kept in the best condition possible.

One of her favorite pieces is a first edition of Sir Isaac Newton’s personal journals, kept in the Spencer’s vaults with other rare first editions. “It is possibly the greatest thing for my little nerd self,” she says.

Hutchinson encourages students to visit the Spencer library because she believes it is an amazing resource that is not being utilized enough by undergraduate researchers and fellow book lovers.

If a student needs a primary document or original source, the Spencer library is the place to find it. The library owns some of the rarest volumes and materials in the world. The librarians of the Kenneth Spencer Research Library let Style on the Hill in on ten of the library’s hidden gems — pieces that you can see for yourself anytime.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Book of Hours, France (ca. 1470)

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This handmade book of hours was created in France. A book of hours included prayers that people would say at different hours of the day. The Latin text is illustrated with paint and gold leaf and is surrounded by vines, flowers, and birds. “This is one of our real treasures,” says Karen Cook, special collections librarian.

Maps in Ptolemy’s Geographiae manuscript, Italy (printed in 1508)

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Claudius Ptolemy, a genius mathematician and geographer, lived in Alexandria circa AD 100-160. His writing survived in the Middle East, and in the 1300s was brought back to Europe. This particular manuscript, printed in Rome in 1508, includes longitudes and latitudes of different places in the world. At the end of the book, the Europeans were able to reconstruct his maps using those numbers. The map is of the old style — the belief that the world was flat and ended beyond India. While geographers were aware of the existence of the New World in 1508, they did not wish to change Ptolemy’s traditional map.

Fetes Données a Versailles en 1664-1666

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This is a set of more than 40 volumes that record the life of the French Court, a half century or so before the French Revolution. The book includes engraved illustrations that showcase Versailles in all its glory. Ceremonial marches, plays, exotic animals, and fireworks are all displayed on the grounds of the French palace.  “I actually went to Versailles for the first time about five years ago, and this is what it looks like,” says Cook. “I could see how they could turn something like that into a stage.”

Sumerian Cuneiform Tablets (ca 2112-529 BC)

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These tablets date from the beginnings of writing — the type of script people wrote in was called cuneiform. They used sticks with a triangular point at the end to write in wet clay. This collection is mostly everyday, business-related documents. The smaller tablet is a receipt for a dead lamb. Another is a legal record of an execution of two brothers who had killed their father.

Scrapbook of Florence Harkrader

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This is a student’s personal scrapbook; she was at the University from 1916-1919. She helped roll bandages for the American Red Cross during World War I. Her scrapbook also included homemade party invitations, dance cards and sports programs. “I like the student scrapbooks because they are always different. Most of them are from the early 20th century, and there are photographs of the students themselves, programs of plays and athletic events” says Rebecca Schulte, University archives librarian.

John Gould Sketch (ca. 1801)

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These birds, roughly drawn and colored with blues, pinks, and greens, were produced by John Gould. Gould was a London publisher who specialized in books about exotic birds. This is a sketch done by one of his professional artists who did the illustrations for his books. The faint sketches and lines are Gould’s corrections to the illustration. 

Creative outlets for college students

4.23.2015

By Emily Brown

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As I checked into the front desk at the Lawrence Arts Center, a performer with sparkly-grey face makeup and feathers in his hair popped into the office. Upstairs, racks of shiny outfits stood in the hallway as two women used a garment steamer to dewrinkle fabric. The women were putting final touches on glittery costumes — the Lawrence Arts Center’s School of Dance was preparing for an important performance the upcoming weekend. A group of returning potters listened to a faculty member in the ceramics studio, and original art hung on the walls of the visual arts studios.

The community arts center has numerous opportunities for students to learn, perform, and create. Style on the Hill wanted to check out the best options for college students.

The Lawrence Arts Center, one of the top three art centers in the nation, focuses on three things: exhibitions, performance, and education. The building is located downtown, a perfect location for students looking for a hobby outside of their major or for supplemental art education.

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While performances and exhibitions occur regularly, the education part of the arts center permeates the entire building, Margaret Morris, the chief program officer, says.

There are dozens upon dozens of classes for students to try out, and the topics range from printmaking to Irish dance. There are classes for beginners and for more advanced learners.

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Students can take classes in ceramics, digital media and photography, textile arts, drawing and painting, jewelry and metals, paper and book arts and writing. The Lawrence Arts Center School of Dance offers classes in tap, jazz, hip hop, and other dance mediums.

Olivia Hernandez, a KU student majoring in Fine Arts, began working at the Lawrence Arts Center in 2010 as an art model. After modeling for an art class, she saw a sign advertising for volunteers. She started volunteering as a way to give back to the place she loved, and in 2014, she was hired as the dance program coordinator.

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Throughout the years, she has taken numerous classes at the Lawrence Arts Center, including Adult Ballet, Adult Modern dance and Imaginative Drawing. She says the arts center is a great place to receive a diverse range of teaching and instruction.

“If you are lucky enough to have a resource like the arts center, that offers great faculty and great financial aid, to a poor college student, there is nothing better,” she says.

Susan Tate, CEO of the Lawrence Arts Center, says the classes are perfect for students.

“It is not very expensive to take a class at the art center,” she says. “A student who is a business student might not have time in their schedule to take ceramics at KU, but might be able to come here and take ceramics. It is not the same commitment as taking a University class, nor is it the same expense.”

The cost can depend on the length of time the class meets and the medium. Classes can be as cheap as $80 (Adobe Illustrator) or as high as $273 (Ballet VI & VII).

The faculty teaching the classes have Masters Degrees in their area of teaching, and because the Lawrence Arts Center has a partnership with KU, many of KU’s faculty also teach at the arts center.

“What I really like is there is a real quality to the faculty,” Hernandez says. “Everybody has a strong background in what they are teaching. It is really, really enriching.”

The Lawrence Arts Center has numerous other opportunities for students to learn or engage in art. To learn more about what classes are held, or some of the upcoming performances, check out their website at http://lawrenceartscenter.org/.

 

Married before graduation: trends, fears, and successes

4.21.2015

By Katie Gilbaugh

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Two 15-year-olds sneak out of their homes at midnight to meet at a park in Derby, Kansas. They talk until 3 a.m., but the boy can only replay his script over and over in his head until he finally blurts it out. “Do you want to go out with me?” She smiles and says, “yes.”

Four years later, the couple, now college students, decides to spend their Christmas gift money on a trip to Houston, Texas. They are wandering in a nature center and notice a wide, open clearing. The boy asks to take a picture, and once again nervously plays his script over and over in his head. As the camera shutter snaps, he gets down on his knee and finally blurts it out. “Will you marry me?” Again, she smiles and says, “yes.”

Seniors Trevor Prater and Aurora Yager have been married for eight months, but have been together for nearly six years. They don’t give off the vibe of a young married couple. They don’t hold hands and touch each other incessantly. The only sign that they are married are the rings on their hands and their eye contact. It seems as if every time either one of them spoke or told a story, they looked lovingly at each other.

“I think that maybe some people want to get married young, but I think with us that wasn’t the case,” Prater said. “It’s just because we happened to meet each other so early that we ended up getting married.”

Saying “yes” to dating as a 15-year-old isn’t unusual, but sending out wedding invitations before senior year of college is something of a rarity. Prater and Yager, both 21 years old, are unusual, especially when compared to the average marrying age in the US. In 2013, the average age that a man married was 29, for a woman, 26.

According to a 2014 survey by the Pew Research Center, just 26 percent of people ages 18-32 are married. This statistic follows the declining trend of young people choosing marriage. In 1997, 36 percent of 18–32-year-olds were married; in 1980, it was 48 percent.

Dr. Randy Moredock says there’s a consistent trend of couples reaching their senior year and struggling to make a decision about whether to continue in the committed relationship. Moredock has experience with college students, having worked as a counselor at Brockport State College of New York for 25 years. He is now working as a therapist in Lawrence. He is a clinical member of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy and has counseled couples of every age.

“I think a lot of people don’t think about it in terms of a focused activity—a ‘love will conquer all’ type of thing,” Moredock said. “I’m a die-hard romantic myself, I’ll be honest, but love does not conquer all. It gets pretty lonely if you haven’t seen your significant other in a month or something like that.”

So what’s causing the decline in marriage rates since the 1960s? Moredock has a few theories—first that the high divorce rate is instilling a fear of marriage in younger generations.

“They may come from a family history of multiple divorces so there are a lot of factors impeding on them to get married,” Moredock said.

Maybe it’s not a lack of desire to be married, but rather a lack of finances. Sixty-nine percent of unmarried milennials said they’d like to get married; they’re just waiting for economic stability before making the leap to lifelong monogamy.

Moredock’s second theory is focused on how the function of marriage has changed.

“I think it comes down to, that the role expectation has changed so much over the years,” Dr. Moredock said. “There is no longer an expectation that the wife will move for the husband’s career and so there’s a lot of great stuff going on. I see it as ultimately a positive but it can be a real stressor.”

In 2013, an economist and MIT grad student published a report that says the economic value of marriage for women has been reduced. Because more women are getting an education, making money and exercising control over fertility choices, they simply don’t need the economic support of a husband.

Yager’s only mention of difficulty in marrying young was when she discussed their careers. Yager, a social welfare major, is applying for grad schools while Prater, a chemical engineer, begins working in Kansas City.

“That is something hard when you’re in a serious relationship with someone, because it’s like, how do we make this work?” Yager said. “How do we support ourselves while getting our immediate goals done? It’s a little more complicated in planning, but it works out.”

Kathy and Mark Schulte faced a similar complication when they got married in 1986. Kathy had just finished her junior year at the University of Kansas and Mark was three years older, already graduated, and working in Kansas City.

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“It just made sense for us,” Kathy Schulte said. “I never doubted the decision for a minute. It’s not like we were rushed into it; for our situation it made a lot of sense. A lot of it was plain: we wanted to be together, and if we weren’t married then we weren’t together.”

In August they celebrated their 28th wedding anniversary.

She remembers having to switch colleges for a semester her senior year because of her husband’s job. She then transferred back to KU, then moved to Wichita and finished her degree in personnel administration as a guest student at WSU. For any couple wanting to get married while in college, Schulte strongly believes in the importance of finishing school.

“Marriage should be a partnership and I want my kids to feel like an equal partner in the marriage,” she said. “If they would choose to get married in college, I want them to feel confident in themselves and feel confident in their ability to provide for themselves and their families.”

Whether getting married in 2014 or 1986, both couples and Moredock emphasized the importance of communication. However, Kathy Schulte put it best.

“I think the best gift you can give your kids is a successful marriage so you have to make sure you’re still talking, still communicating and that you don’t grow apart,” Schulte said. “If you’re expecting every day, every year to be wonderful that’s just not realistic. There will be times when your spouse annoys the hell out of you, but you have to have that staying power, remember that you’re not perfect either, and have that gumption.”

For myself and for many unmarried college seniors, the thought of marriage is one that can instill annoyance and even fear. However, couples like Mark and Kathy or Aurora and Trevor might just be the examples the pessimistic Gen-X needs when approaching marriage.

“You’re rolling the dice at this point,” Dr. Moredock said. “You like this person and fit well with this person, do you want to change the course of your life to be with this person? It’s pretty spooky.”

Dressing to impress: a how to guide for landing the job

4.20.2015

By Ashleigh Lee

It’s the night before a big interview and you are getting everything in order for tomorrow. Your resume is polished and printed. Your alarm is set, even though you won’t be able to sleep a wink. The only thing left to do is to figure out what to wear. You check the email again for the dress code– business casual. What does that even mean?

Kelsey Ploeger an assistant director at the University Career Center helps students with mock interviews, resumes and topical workshops. Ploeger helps break the differences between business professional and business casual. “Business professional is most normal for interviews, unless indicated otherwise,” Ploeger says. “Usually for women it’s plain colors, a blazer, pants, skirt and a blouse, and for men it’s nice slacks and a blazer.”

Business casual is less common, but allows for adding more personality to the outfit. “Here women can wear a casual dress or skirt without a blazer but maybe a cardigan or a sweater,” Ploeger says. “Men can wear slacks and a sweater as well.”

Ashley DeMond, a recruiter for Netsmart Technologies, recommends not being too bold in your clothing choices. “It’s more important to let your personality come out when you answer the questions during the interview than in the way that you dress,” DeMond says.

She says that it’s better to err on the conservative side and to always look sharp. “A lot of times people will come in and their shirts will be wrinkly or the shoes look worn,” she says.

One piece of advice that DeMond offers is to be comfortable in what you do end up wearing. You will appear more confident and know what exactly what you will feel good in.

Caitlin Uyemura, a senior in chemical engineering from Osage City, will begin working at Chevron Phillips Chemical in Houston after graduation as a stream process engineer.

“Engineering is pretty boring,” Uyemura says. “It’s usually frowned upon to be out the box.”

Uyemura interviewed for a summer internship at Chevron and kept her outfit simple. “For that interview I kept it pretty basic in business formal,” Uyemura says. “I wore dress pants, a blouse and low pumps.”

Uyemura’s advice to anyone going up for a big interview is to be overdressed than to be underdressed.

“More likely than not, a company is not going to not hire you for being overdressed,” she says.

Except maybe if you’re interviewing at Google. Kendal Harland a senior in computer science from Olathe, will be working for Google as a software engineer after graduation. He says that the recruiters told him specifically not to dress up for the interview.

“There were no specific requirements on what I couldn’t wear, as long as I just didn’t show up looking like a bum,” Harland says.

Start up and tech companies are usually very causal and do not require employees to dress up while interviewing or even while working. Most employees can be seen wearing graphic tees and shorts or jeans.

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“For my interview I wore some nice brown boots and a button up shirt,” Harland says.

Harland recommends that people research what you should wear to the interview and the company by doing a Google search or talk to someone who already works there. He said that he saw what everyone was wearing when he visited.

“I think the only reason why I didn’t wear a suit and tie was because I looked at what people wore to those types of interviews,” he says. “It never hurts to do a bit of research.”

If you need help with your resume or searching for a job, contact The University Career Center http://career.ku.edu/appointments or call 785-864-3624.

The Man Who DJs Your Night Out

4.14.2015

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By Lyndsey Havens

“Everyone will go crazy if you play this one song, I swear,” an unidentifiable club-goer says to the man behind the plexiglass. The request will go unanswered though, as they often do. DJ Savy already has 90 percent of his songs selected.

DJ Savy has two main “crates” or playlists that he uses, both which have well over 500 songs in them. One is called “General White Person Bar;” the other is “Club Goin’ Up.”

“Part of being a good DJ is knowing your music,” says DJ Savy, more commonly known as Josh Savitt, a Kansas alum from Hopkins, Minn. “How to react to a crowd and how to best play your music — in the right way and the right order — to receive the best reactions from the crowd or audience. DJs who play only music they like suck, and DJs who don’t know when to play the right songs suck.”

Intermixed within his playlist is what can only be described as a verbal logo—an automated voice that says “DJ SAVY” blares through the surround sound speaker system in the bar as one song fades into the next. Lights flash, drinks clink and above all else, people are dancing.

Savitt, 24, graduated from the University in 2014 with a degree in social welfare. Halfway through his final year in graduate school he decided to attempt to make a living off his passion. He also has been solely DJing as a means to support himself since May.

“It’s addicting,” Savitt says. He seems uncertain as to why exactly he is so passionate about DJing, but says he enjoys being his own boss, having the power to choose where and when he gigs.

Most weekends are set in stone for Savitt ­— he DJs at Tonic on Thursdays and the Cave on Saturdays. On Fridays he rotates among various places such as Power & Light, Westport or “random Kansas City bars.” He says if DJing doesn’t work out, he will get a “real job like everyone else.”

But until then, he is perfectly content—and tonight, he takes on Tonic.

The small size of the dance floor fools the eye, making it appear to be full even though the current crowd doesn’t nearly exceed capacity. Then again, it is only 11:30 p.m. DJ Savy has at least another two hours to go.

Savitt’s parents bought him his first two turntables and a mixer in 2006. He was 16 at the time. He says he has always loved rap and hip-hop music, and appreciates artists such as Atmosphere, Brother Ali and Doomtree/P.O.S that all hail from Minneapolis.

There may be no apparent connection between a degree in social work and a career in entertainment, but Savitt says the two “commonly share positive human relationships and working with others to obtain a set of goals.” He says a DJ must learn to create the “right atmosphere,” one that motivates people to buy drinks and spend money. This essentially creates a positive relationship with the owner, manager, bartenders and patrons of the bar or club. Savitt appears to be accomplishing this particular goal tonight, considering each of the four available bars within Tonic is busy.

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Being a DJ creates an unusual juxtaposition by combining a night out with work. Savitt says he often sees friends out enjoying themselves while he is DJing, and while some fall victim to annoying antics such as requesting a song or attempting to engage in conversation, he says his friends “know it’s time for me to do my thing and not be distracted, and they respect that.” Though he says others sometimes fail to understand that his work “requires complete attention.”

Occasionally though, his attention is strained when out of the ordinary things occur. Savitt says when he was recently DJing in Lawrence, “I won’t say where,” he says, he remembers talking with a customer who had apparently “been drinking all day.” Savitt says later that night, as he was packing up, the same man was found sleeping in the bathroom. “I got a good kick out of that one,” Savitt says.

The perks of being a DJ often outweigh the distractions though. Savitt says he can’t believe he gets paid to “spin records for hundreds of people” while also receiving free food, drinks and anything else he may need from the bar, club or venue.

A common misconception about being a DJ is that you get booked based on skill and appeal, Savitt says, but in reality, “the shittiest DJ could be DJing at a venue or bar” because of something as simple as having the right equipment or being friends with the booker.

“I’ve been around long enough and gained enough respect from the people in the industry that I’ve been able to secure steady, weekly gigs,” Savitt says.

One person he has gained the respect, and friendship, of is local singer-songwriter Brian Lockwood, a fifth year Communications major at the University from Vernon Hills, Ill. Lockwood says he met Savitt early in his college career. They have remained close friends ever since.

“I knew him as the guy to talk to about booking shows or really making any kind of moves in Lawrence,” Lockwood says. “He was just always putting cool events on that everyone I knew went to.”

As of lately, a usual day for Savitt is fairly formatted. He says he wakes up around 10 a.m. after coming home between 2-4 a.m. He first does some “normal day stuff,” which he didn’t specify, and then he reviews and critiques his set list from the previous night.

Savitt says his ultimate goal is to become a national touring DJ “playing gigs in different clubs and states every weekend.” The job does come with its fair share of challenges, such as carrying gear, getting gigs, staying focused for over five hours, and, of course, “making money while spinning records.” But for Savitt, such tasks are trivial.

Lockwood says Savitt is in a different position than most other DJs. “This is not what he has to do, this is what he loves to do,” Lockwood says. “And that true passion can be seen in every set.”

 

Edited by Erika Reals

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