University of Missouri-St. Louis | St. Louis Public Radio

University of Missouri-St. Louis

Darwin Aquino grew up in the Dominican Republic playing the violin before becoming a conductor and composer.
August Jennewein | University of Missouri-St. Louis

For about a year, Darwin Aquino has been serving as conductor of the orchestras at both the University of Missouri-St. Louis and Washington University. And on Tuesday evening, the two groups under his direction rehearsed together for the first time ever. Final preparations are underway for their distinctive concert this Sunday, where they’ll combine musical forces to present music from several popular video games, films and more.

“It’s the music that we hear every day, and especially our young people,” he said during Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air. “They are hearing that music while they play the video games or they see a movie. So that’s why we decided for this very special event [to] put two university orchestras together … playing the music of today.”

Maria Ellis leads a rehearsal on Jan. 22 in UMSL's Music Building.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Growing up in north St. Louis County, where she was leading choirs by the time she was 12 years old, Maria Ellis remembers thinking about St. Louis Children’s Choirs as “the ultimate vocal group.” But as her alma mater, the University of Missouri-St. Louis, notes in a recent UMSL Daily story about Ellis’ journey, Ellis couldn’t afford to join the SLCC program as a child.

She did participate in one of the organization’s community honor choirs, and now she’s come full circle, having landed a position as SLCC’s community engagement manager several years ago. But shortly after starting that job, she realized the north St. Louis County honor choir she’d so enjoyed as a child was no more. Now, in 2020, it’s coming back, thanks to Ellis.

Dozens of children in grades three through six are now gathering for regular rehearsals on UMSL’s campus — a place that was pivotal for Ellis’ own musical journey.

Lucy Grimshaw, Sha-Lai Williams and Courtney McDermott
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

University of Missouri-St. Louis sophomore Lucy Grimshaw grew up learning about Martin Luther King Jr. and the fraught times that shaped his life and death. But none of those lessons stuck with her quite like what she experienced last spring while touring places associated with key events of the civil rights movement.

As she visited sites such as Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church, where four young girls were killed in a racist bombing, and Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge, where law enforcement officers brutally attacked black protesters on a day later known as Bloody Sunday, Grimshaw and fellow UMSL students reflected each evening on what they were seeing and learning.

They did so under the guidance of UMSL School of Social Work faculty members Courtney McDermott and Sha-Lai Williams, who co-taught the trip as part of a Pierre Laclede Honors College course offered to students coming from various academic and ethnic backgrounds.

An infrared photograph of an ancient Egyptian female mummy with tattoos on her neck.
Anne Austin

Five years ago, archaeologist Anne Austin stood in an ancient Egyptian tomb, staring at strange markings on the neck of a mummified woman. 

She placed a scanning device over the mummy to cast infrared light, an invisible light often used to detect heat. Almost like magic, several tattoos revealed themselves, Austin said. 

Since then, Austin has used infrared photography to study tattoos on seven Egyptian mummies.