MTSU Jazz Artist Series Tackles ‘Leaving Home’

Members of MTSU's jazz and dance faculties collaborated for

Photo and story by Jarron Parker / Contributing Writer

MTSU’s School of Music students collaborated to create a jazz and dance program to illustrate the adversities of leaving home Thursday night at Hinton Hall. It’s a great watch for parents who tend to get wrapped up in worrying about what they’re going to do when the kids have left the home, rather than thinking of things from their point of view.

Since spring of 2016, professors Don Aliquo, Jamey Simmons and Marsha Barsky wanted to create a show that recreated the process of moving from one’s safe space to the ventures of a new life. According to Simmons, the inspiration for the theme was “to find a focus for the piece that was universal in nature.” The series featured an octet that brought “Leaving Home” to life, a concept that most traditional college students can relate to. Stages of oppression, the struggle to escape, friends and enemies and liberation are all represented throughout eight songs and accompanying dances. The series conveyed a stellar and universal message.

The overture “I Wish I Knew (How It Feels to Be Free)”, performed by the jazz octet, was upbeat and mimicked one’s first exciting taste of freedom in the initial stages of “Leaving Home.” Those high hopes were soon confronted with adversity when the dance octet joined for the performance of “Enemy Antagonist,” which illustrated what it’s like to encounter one’s first enemy on the journey of leaving home. “New Life” showcased the idea of learning from one’s mistakes as the dancers attempted to break free from an imagined room that had trapped them in a stage of life.

The result of “New Life” was entering a new room of safety and growth. “Friendship” brought the dancers together. “The Prophet” made one dancer the “seer,” and her fellow dancers physically held her back through a dance technique called “flocking.” The technique was representative of the struggles found in leaving behind those who are more harmful than helpful. “Internal Struggle and Initial Escape” coincided with “Final Conflict” as stages in one’s life when personal struggles force growth and a turning point. Self-acceptance was sparked and created in the previous stages and finally took form in the finale, “Freedom/Discovery.”

The trio of professors wanted to “artistically reach anyone,” as Simmons says, “We all understand the struggle for freedom in leaving home on some level.” People who face these struggles could identify with each scenario in the program on a personal level.

The Jazz Artist Series met its goal of depicting life transitions through expected and unexpected obstacles. Such obstacles lead to overcoming and creating a new safe space, and the presentation of that was aesthetically and artistically immaculate. The performance also resonated with audience members who are on journeys similar to those represented. This difficult journey from “home” to independence is one on which college students often embark, and the series did an amazing job of showing how one may navigate through this change. The School of Music married dance and jazz to produce an incredible display of “Leaving Home”, and it came full circle by representing life, freedom and the discovery of one’s true self.

To contact Lifestyles Editor Marissa Gaston email

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