The room was alive with pure excitement and wonder over the show that was about to start. Ticket collectors were stationed, in full costume of whatever show they were from of course, to make sure everyone took the correct seats. The Jones Performing Arts Center is adorned with bright red seats and silky grey carpet that give it a Broadway feel.
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Xylo bands were distributed to each waiting audience member who was confused yet delighted all at once. The room slowly dimmed and the loud noises slowly faded into murmurs that fizzled into nothingness. Ouachita Baptist was kicking off their homecoming weekend with the most anticipated completion on campus, Tiger Toons.
Located about an hour and a half from Conway sits a renowned private college in Arkadelphia, Ouachita Baptist University. OBU claims that for over 130 years they have been committed to encouraging a love of God and a love of learning within their students. Ouachita is an Arkansas Baptist State Convention affiliated campus, however you do not have to be a part of a religious group to attend the campus. The University has a vast amount of events to entertain students of all kinds. Such events include Tiger Toons, Tiger Serve Day, social clubs, intramurals, and hanging out in the updated Student Center.
Mrs. Greer attended OBU about 20 years ago and completed a political science degree with plans at the time to attend law school. She now is a stay at home mom of three and currently has a son enrolled on the campus. Mrs. Greer a petite, average height, and physically fit woman with a defined runner’s physique greeted me at her door with a warm and inviting hello. Her blond hair was held loosely in a tousled ponytail and she was adorned in athletic clothing due to her recent training run. Despite the post training outfit, there was a strong scent of perfume that wafted behind her. As I sat down at the kitchen table she apologized profusely for the mess her other three children had caused. A few cuties and other miscellaneous cups decorated the counters. I asked her what she thought of her overall experience at Ouachita. She was noticeably nervous and was wringing her hands throughout the entirety of her response to this question. She claimed that overall her experience was fantastic and then nervously added The class sizes allow you to -uh- I guess the word I’m looking for is be seen. You can’t really hide in a class of 20 or less. She described the professors as being friendly and very approachable, which makes sense due to OBU’s Student-Faculty Ratio being 13:1, compared to that of the University of Arkansas which is 19:1. Mrs. Greer elaborated on how the professors work with the students in the case of a dear family friend who had an emergency appendix removal the first week of class. The faculty of OBU did not penalize the student for the class time missed and communicated ways of catching back up in their studies. At this point Mrs. Greer became more relaxed and smiled warmly across the table.
Being a private college, Ouachita is almost fully funded by the tuition of students and receives little to no Federal subsidies. In order to offer scholarships to returning juniors and seniors a foundation known as the Ouachita Student Foundation, OSF for short, was created. The scholarships are for junior and senior students only and are selected by a blind committee. In order to fund those scholarships, events like Tiger Toons and Track and Field day are hosted. All of the proceeds from those events go directly into the scholarship funds. Out of all the events hosted Tiger Toons is the largest and earns the most money each year. This years Toons brought in about $150,000. OSF took a risk with addition of Xylo bands which they were able to buy to rent. according to Ms.Tucker. For every band that was returned, OSF received a credit back. Ms. Tucker explained it by claiming say each band was $10, if returned they would gain $5 back. Every Xyloband was returned for the 2018 Tunes.
Tiger Toons is a musical competition brought together by a select group of hosts and by social clubs on campus. The hosts are the most important part of Toons and are essentially the stars of the show. In order to be a host you do not have to be a music major, however you do have to go through a multi- tiered audition process. The first audition is a group audition consisting of all different voice parts in order to see how the person sings with harmony. The next portion is a dance because the show consists of both singing and dancing. The dance will be learned on the spot and then judged by the quickness and correctness of learning. After that students will take a vocal pop quiz, aka they sing a random song and add choreography. The next, and final, round is a group audition again however, this time it is a cappella. Overall to be a host you must be a strong vocal performer and be a skilled dancer. The other performers of Toons are the Ouachita Social clubs. They are called social clubs because Ouachita does not endorse Sororities and Fraternities, each group on campus can only be found at OBU. For the 2018 Tiger Toons there were 10 performance groups, 8 were social clubs and the remaining two were Campus Life and Student Life which both do not require membership and cater specifically to freshman who waited a year before picking a social club but still wanted to be a part of Toons. Each group must pick a theme, pick three of four songs, and then change the lyrics to fit the theme. They are adorned with costumes and learn a full dance routine along with the music. Students only receive 3 weeks to rehearse for the event and the guidelines are very strict. In regards to the 2018 show, rehersal began on September 3rd. The Vice President of OSF Selby Tucker was a participant of Toons herself. She explained that each group is only allotted a maximum of 15 hours per week and a practice log must be turned in with the exact amount of hours. Ms. Tucker is a member of EEE on campus and said that the EEE’s used all 15 hours each week. Practice hours are up to the discretion of the clubs as well as the days of rehearsal. Some groups practiced Monday- Friday, while groups like the Tri-Chi’s only practiced Friday nights because they had shorter practice schedules. The EEE’s are a very competitive club , which payed off because the group won all the awards offered the night I attended Toons, but other clubs such as the Beta Beta’s choose not to use all the allotted hours per week as pointed out by Ms. Tucker. The place of rehearsal also depends on the club and the size of the club. Many clubs, like the EEE’s, use church fellowship halls to accomodate their 135 members. Each winning team is awarded a cash reward and most turn around and donate the winnings back to OSF. Tiger Toons has been going on for 40 years as of the 2018 show. Mrs. Greer was a participant of Tiger Toons her sophomore year through the Baptist Student Union now formally known as Student Life. When asked about what surprised or frustrated her she removed eye contact and began looking around the room as if her answer was hidden in the kitchen cabinets. After an awkward pause she claimed that it surprised her how quickly friendships were made in those 3 weeks and how large the program was at the time. As we got to her frustrations she began touching her hair frequently as if nervous to share her opinion. She anxiously explained, I guess my main frustration would be the long grueling hours of rehearsals because I was a straight A student who participated in a work study 15 hours a week for the Office of Applicant Affairs. Tiger Toons is specific to Ouachita Baptist however similar events exists at other colleges. For example Baylor host Baylor Sings and Harding University has a similar event as well. The 2017 Tiger Toons won the CASE Outstanding Student Advancement Program Award this year on February 24. OBU beat out other big name schools such as University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University.
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