NEW UH PAC TARGETS LEGISLATORS

by Tanya Eiserer

Daily Cougar Staff

Although UH experienced an enrollment loss, the system administration leadership said at Thursday's legislative briefing that they it has taken on the task of convincing state legislators not to cut UH's state appropriations.

Part of the legislative plan includes the utilization of a political action committee called the Friends of the University of Houston. With a budget of $55,000, PAC organizers plan to donate to 65 state legislative candidates and to two statewide candidates.

Because formula funding depends on the number of student credit hours taken, UH stands to suffer financial cuts because enrollments are down by 1738 students, and student credit hours are down by 15,000. In 30 years of formula funding history, the total number of student credit hours has always determined the level of funding a university is allocated.

At the legislative briefing to faculty, students and administrators, a four-member panel composed of UH President James H. Pickering, Chancellor Alexander Schilt, Board of Regents Chairwoman Beth Morian and Vice Chancellor for Governmental Relations Grover Campbell laid out UH's legislative agenda and strategy for convincing state legislators not to decrease UH's state appropriations.

In the last legislative session, UH lost $8.5 million in state-appropriated funding. Out of the $8.5 million loss, $6.6 million was due to falling enrollments.

"We went into the last session with a lot of baggage – enrollment decreases, formula changes and doctoral caps," Pickering said. Recently, formula funding has focused on allocating more money to schools with higher rates of undergraduate students rather than graduate students. Unfortunately, UH gets the short end of the deal because it has a larger amount of graduate students.

Still, in the final analysis, UH ranked first ahead of other universities in special line-item funding, Pickering added. Special line items are expenditures that go to a specific project or activity, like the Health Law and Policy Institute and the Small Business Development Center.

Pickering added that the Houston delegation of state legislators played a crucial role in keeping the funding cuts down in the last legislative session. He said they would once again play an integral role in helping the university.

Even with enrollment losses, Schilt said he hoped the Legislature would focus on the importance of UH's role in solving urban problems in the Houston community. He added that if legislators understand UH's role, they will not cut appropriations.

In fact, the UH System Legislative Agenda says all legislative strategies center around the premise that the four system universities are of critical importance to Houston and Texas.

Schilt and Pickering called Houston a city at risk due to the high percentage of high school dropouts, crime rates and the lack of opportunity among the minority population.

"We will try to make the point that we are important to solving the public school problems. For Houston to reach its potential, we must have an educated work force and become a place where knowledge is applied," Schilt said. "Some legislators won't find it an easy thing to set aside 30 years of history. Until Houston is not a city at risk, we have to keep doing nontraditional things. They can't cut our budget by that amount and ask us to continue to be Houston's partner."

Without major intervention into those urban problems, university administrators said enrollments in Houston will continue to decline because the university will not have a large-enough pool of high school students eligible to attend. Pickering pointed to UH's already existing partnerships with high schools like Yates as examples of where the university has intervened to help keep students in school and help them attend college.

Pickering, though, evaded a question about how receptive state legislators have been to that argument thus far.

As part of the legislative agenda, officials are also trying to make a case in Austin for level funding, which means the state would provide the necessary funding for expenditures required by law.

For true level funding, Schilt said the state needs to fund the UH System at $302 million to account for such things as federal mandates, unfunded salary increases, inflation, holds harmless and rider reductions. A hold harmless is like a temporary loan the state can choose to take back in the next session.

In the last session, the

Legislature appropriated $277 million for the UH System, which is unlikely to get more than $277 million because state agencies have been instructed not to ask for more money.

Some faculty members said they fear UH is focusing on the wrong message and forgetting about the institution's dedication to research. Robert Palmer, a Cullen professor of history and law, said Schilt's experience as president of UH-Downtown tends to make him more understanding of urban issues rather than research issues.

"We must keep in mind that we are not HCC and UH-Downtown," Palmer said. Both institutions have open enrollments and are not major research institutions. He did not, however, see a conflict between Schilt and Pickering, but added that Schilt's background was not based at a research university.

Pickering sought to allay those concerns by proclaiming his continued support for the university's research mission. Administration officials also pointed out that UH's research endowment reached almost $60 million this year and that UH's monetary commitment to research has not declined.

A vocal member of the Coalition for Excellence, Kent Tedin, chairman of the Political Science Department, asked why UH hasn't hired major league lobbyists to take its case to Austin.

The Coalition for Excellence is a group of almost 50 distinguished faculty members who are complaining that the university's efforts in Austin are fundamentally flawed.

Richard Murray, a political science professor known for his expertise in politics, was asked by the regents to prepare a report on UH's lobbying activities. Murray concluded in that report that UH's efforts in Austin are seriously flawed, and he suggested that a lobbying group would be more successful.

Morian fired back by saying faculty members and other UH supporters could have more impact with legislators than a high-powered lobbying group. She said Texas universities have not traditionally hired lobbying firms. The university cannot legally lobby the state for funds, so a lobbying group would have to be paid for by private funds.

Pickering said the briefings were in direct response to the criticisms leveled at the university by faculty members and the media. Administration officials said they hoped the briefings would help assuage faculty and student concerns about UH's efforts in Austin.

Pickering said the battle will be tough because higher education ranks behind other priorities like prisons and public education. The Legislature, because of federal mandates, must spend a majority of the predicted new revenue on those federal mandates. Still, the news out of Austin remains positive with the news that additional funds can be carried over from fiscal year 1994.

"I never thought my principal competitor (for funding) would be the state prison system," Schilt said.

Morian asked the UH community to support the PAC, but warned them not to use state time or UH stationery. Additionally, the four panelists asked for a concerted effort by faculty, staff and students to raise the awareness of state legislators about UH's funding needs by letter-writing and involvement in the political process.

 

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JOB MARKET LOOKING UP FOR GRADS

Co-op programs, internships provide edge

by Jennifer Smith

Daily Cougar Staff

The job outlook for college graduates is looking up this year, the state comptroller's office has reported.

In addition, the College Placement Council, a national association that tracks employment trends, is predicting that 1994 entry-level hiring will increase nationwide about 6 percent over last year.

What does that mean to UH's graduates? Possibly a great deal, experts say. The Texas economy's growth has outpaced the nation's for five years; this year, Texas has reached an all-time high of 7.7 million employed residents.

However, the type of jobs available is not all-encompassing. There is a good job market out there, but a graduate's chosen field and degree can make a great deal of difference as to whether the person gets hired.

According to the College Placement Council, the hot careers to enter include health care, financial services, sales and computer-related occupations.

No matter what your major, a job won't just fall into your lap. According to Texas placement counselors, preparation is paramount. On-campus interviews with recruiting companies

significantly increase your odds of getting a good job soon after graduation, as do co-op or intern programs.

The Career Planning and Placement Center's aggressive business-contact program has yielded abundant fruit. It hosted 398 employers last year, up 19 percent from the year before. The employers conducted 5,698 interviews.

David Small, director of career planning and placement, said that currently, about 78 percent of UH graduates find jobs within three months of graduation.

 

 

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WOMEN STILL TRAILING MEN IN HARD SCIENCE

 

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Eichhorn offered no specific reasons or opinions as to why the majority of women do not choose to study engineering.

"I'm not a sociologist," he said.

by Rachel Elizabeth Woods

News Reporter

The number of females taking the General Record Examination has increased more than the number of males taking the test, according to a report produced by the Educational Testing Service.

In the report, titled "Trends & Profiles: Statistics about General Test Examinees by Sex and Ethnicity," statistics showed that while the number of females taking the GRE rose 112 percent since 1983, women still are not choosing to pursue studies in the hard sciences, like engineering or natural sciences.

Service-oriented fields like nursing, social work and education continue to be chosen by the majority of females as fields of study.

Charlotte Kuh, executive director of the GRE, said the problem of women typically choosing service-oriented fields has to do with traditional gender roles.

"It is just a biological tradition; it is what women have done. The patterns of women choosing social science fields are persistent," Kuh said. "We have tried to get women into hard-science fields, but we have not been successful."

Kuh said one of the reasons women don't choose hard-science fields is because those programs often demand long, extended hours that could cause problems for women with children.

"Graduate work in fields like engineering requires many lab hours, and this sometimes conflicts with family life," she said.

The ETS report also found that among GRE test-takers in 1992, only 18 percent of females majored in engineering, a hard-science field.

The report found that every male, racial and ethnic group showed a mix of engineering or natural sciences as one of its top choices for study in 1992. Females' top choices were in the social science areas. The report showed that this characteristic among female GRE takers has not changed from profiles presented in 1982.

Roger Eichhorn, dean of the Cullen College of Engineering, explained that the number of women majoring in engineering "increased from nothing to 25 percent nationwide in the early '70s, then dropped to 20 percent and stayed there.

"Expensive schools have about 40 percent women in their programs," Eichhorn said, adding that those schools, like Stanford University, can afford expensive recruiting programs designed specifically toward women that UH cannot.

"(Female underrepresentation) is not a problem exclusive to UH. Other colleges report low representation, also," Eichhorn said.

He said compared with other institutions with engineering programs on the same level as UH's, the number of women enrolled in the engineering program at UH is consistent with the national average of about 18 percent.

Eichhorn said the fact that more men major in engineering than women is just a fact and has always been that way. He offered no specific reasons or opinions as to why the majority of women do not choose to study engineering.

"I'm not a sociologist," he said.

Charles Dalton, associate dean for Graduate Studies and Research in the Engineering College, said, "Women have been intimidated by science and math. Traditionally, women have not been encouraged by families and schools (to pursue science and math fields). I think that is a mistake. Women have an equal capacity to study (math and science). They have not been allowed to do that."

Dalton said part of the problem is that "the average man will try engineering, but the average woman will not. That's what we have seen."

Dalton added that the UH engineering program has "very smart women" enrolled in undergraduate and graduate programs.

"We have very good women. We are very pleased with the women we have in the program. They are just as good as the guys," Dalton said.

Eichhorn said the college encourages its own students to do graduate work, but one of the reasons they don't heavily recruit women is because they have so few graduate students in their program to begin with.

"They are heavily recruited (at the undergraduate level) by industry not to go to graduate school," Eichhorn said.

Dalton said the College of Engineering does have fellowships and scholarships directed toward bringing good, qualified female students into the school.

Dana Merkle, vice president of the UH Society of Women Engineers, said she doesn't believe the engineering school tries to recruit more women.

"I don't know if they (women) are intimidated by math and science, or maybe just the stigma of it being a man's world and not a woman's world," she said.

She added that the problem has to do with culture and the environment in which women live.

Merkle said to help combat the problem, SWE sponsors programs designed to encourage young women in high school to pursue engineering.

"We try to show a lot of young girls that they can do math and engineering and science and

physics, that they can be strong in that and like that."

Merkle added she would like to see the engineering school create more programs to get high school females interested in engineering.

 

 

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CYSP PROVIDES CAREER OPPORTUNITIES FOR STUDENTS

by Ivana Segvic

Daily Cougar Staff

With the wide spectrum of jobs in the world, students who attain degrees in certain majors are often not certain which field to enter. They find themselves pounding the pavement and looking for work, while trying to put their diploma to its appropriate use.

The UH Graduate School of Social Work has constructed a program that guides students through courses to set them up for satisfying careers and aids them in finding a career focus.

The Center for Youth Service Professionals is the UH affiliate of American Humanics, a national nonprofit organization that prepares undergraduate students of all majors for careers in youth and human service organizations.

A few years ago, Laura Willis and Bill Land were two UH students attaining degrees, but not knowing exactly what to do with them. By becoming involved with CYSP and AH, they found a way to use their talents by helping others and finding goals and jobs for themselves.

Bill Land was the typical college student – unsure of exactly what he wanted to do with his life. He changed his major from industrial arts to history, then to psychology.

"I always knew I wanted to work with kids. I wanted to teach. But then last semester I enrolled in Margaret O'Donnell's sociology class, Introduction to Social Work. She started talking about CYSP and I became interested. Just like everybody, I thought you couldn't make money in a nonprofit organization," he said.

From changing majors and the fear and uncertainty of finding work in today's job market, Land became one of the many success stories in the CYSP program. Through the internship he received at Junior Achievement, Land was hired as public relations and special events manager. At Junior Achievement, he found a job that he feels is truly tailored for him. "It excited me because I know that there are a lot of people who graduate and spend a long time looking for a job. This is such a neat organization, and it's nice to be affiliated with it. This is where I want to be," he said. "AH and CYSP showed me the broad spectrum of opportunities out there. I hope that's what they can do for everybody. They steer you in the right course, and help you become more organized."

CYSP allows students to become a part of the nonprofit community. It gives students, who may have only seen one route in their majors of history, journalism or psychology, a new direction. Instead of talking about what a community needs, CYSP students help make a difference by interacting with young people and taking part in molding the future of a community.

CYSP prepares students with an academic program that includes courses in accounting, marketing, public relations, human resources and fund development among others. By taking these courses and becoming an active member, they work toward being certified through American Humanics. From there, the opportunities and possibilities are endless.

Laura Willis is a senior psychology major and became involved with CYSP for the same reasons as Land. "I took the Introduction to Social Work class and became a part of CYSP. It is the best thing that has ever happened to me. It gave me experience while still in school and I have the chance to meet people and contacts, who, without CYSP, I would never have met. It gave me leadership skills, focused my goals and gave me an opportunity," she said.

Willis is the camp administrator at Campfire Boys and Girls, where she helps with getting the children more involved in community service, trying to target new programs and being a leader of her own group of camp-fire boys and girls.

"I always wanted to work with kids, and CYSP gave me the chance to make a difference in a child's life. I found myself sitting in a room and I said to myself, 'Wow, I can't believe that I am a part of this.' I wouldn't be where I am now if it wasn't for CYSP," she said.

"I want to be executive director of a nonprofit organization -- definitely a youth-oriented one. CYSP is very career-oriented and no matter what field you go into, you can use these skills in anything you do," she said.

O'Donnell, project manager for CYSP, said it helps find a goal and direction in the lives of students involved with the program.

"The most important aspect of the program is the students' enthusiasm about a new career. They have a focus. They find something that fits with something they want to do – help kids. I've seen these students change before my eyes from students to professionals," she said.

"CYSP has truly changed my life. I hope other students will take the time to find out about it and see if they have overlooked a position that could turn into a life-long career," Land said.

Anyone interested in learning more about the CYSP program may contact Margaret O'Donnell at 743-8137.

 

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FIRE PREVENTION WEEK UNDER WAY

Cutline: This steam fire engine, which uses coal-fired boiling water, was built in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1892. It is currently on display at the Houston Fire Museum and is on loan from the San Antonio Museum Association.

Photo by: Tricia Garcia

by Marlene Yarborough

Daily Cougar Staff

It's Fire Prevention Week, an event that has been celebrated for over 50 years, said Jay Evans, president of the Houston Fire Museum Inc.

The week-long event was kicked off Saturday with a festival at the Houston Fire Museum, located at 2403 Milam, south of downtown.

All 66 fire departments in Houston are hosting open houses until Saturday. The event includes fire prevention parades and school displays.

Also, the Houston Fire Fighters' Calendar will be on sale for its fourth year. It pictures firefighters throughout the Houston area. All proceeds from the calendar are donated to the HFD Children's Burn Center.

"Last year, the calendar brought in a total of $300,000. It has brought in approximately $500,000 in the past four years," said Tom McDonald, executive director of HFMI.

The fire museum will have experienced firefighters presenting a fire-safety program including a brief video, educational program and demonstrations, McDonald said.

Literature from the museum can be taken home. Members of the museum are permitted to borrow educational items from its library.

The museum was formerly Houston Fire Department Station No. 7. It was open from 1899 to 1969. In 1981 it was restored and opened as a museum in 1982, Evans said.

Originally, two horse-drawn fire vehicles, one still on display, a steam engine and a hose wagon were housed there. They were replaced eventually with motorized apparatus.

Items in the museum's collection include fire helmets from the 19th century to present; American and foreign fire marks; firefighter uniforms; caps and badges; and various emergency organizations' shoulder patches.

McDonald said two of the most popular attractions at the museum are the "Young American 7" and the "Hot Stuff" gift shop.

The "Young American 7" is a small classroom where children are taught fire safety. "Children can don genuine firefighter protective clothing and see themselves in a mirror," McDonald said. "They can also learn how to test smoke detectors."

The museum building is in both the National and State Historical Registers and is open Tuesdays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Admission to the museum is free during Fire Prevention Week.

 

 

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COOGS HOLD IT DOWN

Defense nets Aggies nil in 1st and 3rd

by Jason Paul Ramírez

Daily Cougar Staff

R.C. Slocum was glad to get out of town.

"I was glad to get the game over with and get it behind us," Slocum said following his Texas A&M Aggies' (5-0, 2-0 Southwest Conference) "slim" 38-7 victory over the Houston Cougars (0-5, 0-1 SWC) Saturday night in the Astrodome before 40,184 fans.

"It's one of those games coaches dread," Slocum said. "There was so much talk about things like the betting line and how big the score was going to be."

The 38-7 victory was much closer than the score may have indicated thanks to a ferocious job of smash-mouth football sustained for over three quarters by the Houston defense.

Before the Aggies eventually broke loose for 21 fourth-quarter points, A&M (a 39-point favorite) led just 17-0 after the third-period gun sounded, gaining only 104 yards on the ground and 209 yards through the air.

"17-0 doesn't sound like much when you say it fast, but (A&M) did basically what they wanted to do," said Houston head coach Kim Helton.

What the Aggies had wanted to do was work on their passing game. However, quarterback Corey Pullig was sacked three times while completing just 21-of-37 passes with an interception. Pullig was also hit hard several other times due to immense blitzing pressure.

"Houston's defense played hard and they've got some talented players over there," Slocum said. "I knew that coming in."

Cougar senior left defensive tackle Mike Meux thought differently, however.

"You could see that A&M was overconfident," said Meux, who contributed one of the Houston sacks. "I'm sure they thought it was going to be an easy night.

"But their offense is simple. They will try to run. If you stop it, they will go through the air. And we were playing good defense with very few breakdowns and mistakes most of tonight."

The Cougars did eventually surrender 405 yards of total offense to the Aggies, but held the unit in check in both the first and third periods, during which A&M mustered just 116 yards of combined production.

"We came out flat and made some mistakes," said Aggie receiver Ryan Matthews, who caught six balls for 74 yards. "It took us awhile to get on track."

 

 

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OFFENSE BREAKS STRING OF ZEROES

by Jason Paul Ramírez

Daily Cougar Staff

Though the Houston Cougars managed to avoid a third consecutive shutout, there is no doubt the offensive unit is still having problems moving the football.

Houston (0-5, 0-1 Southwest Conference) was only able to net 213 yards of total offense in Saturday night's 38-7 loss to the Texas A&M Aggies (5-0, 2-0 SWC) in the Astrodome.

Senior quarterback Clay Helton, making his first-ever collegiate start, completed just seven of 17 pass attempts for 53 yards, with an interception. Helton was also sacked twice before he was finally relieved of his duties in favor of backup Chad O'Shea with 11:08 left in the fourth quarter.

"I need to be able to take care of the football better whenever I take my butt out (on the field)," Helton said.

With the Aggies leading 17-0 near the end of the third period, Helton and the Cougars looked as if they were on the move, as Houston drove to A&M's 10-yard-line for a first down following a 10-yard run by running back Jermaine Williams.

However, on third-and-six from the Aggie seven, Helton couldn't come up with the football snap cleanly and the Aggies recovered the bobble, killing the rally.

"I was trying to go to (receiver) Dan Adams on a fade call," Helton said. "But when I went back to pass, I noticed I didn't have the football."

Had the Cougars punched the score into the end zone, it could have cut the score to 17-7 with a quarter-plus left to play against a team ranked No. 10 in the nation and a 39-point favorite.

"Our kids hung in there," Houston head coach Kim Helton said. "Our team is getting better, but Texas A&M just dominated us tonight."

A little remorse for the tough evening suffered by Clay Helton, coach Helton's son?

"I'll let his momma worry about that," coach Helton answered. "Being a good quarterback is a matter of time. Against a great team like A&M, you have to be able to put (the football) in the right place when you throw it. And you need to do a better job at blocking (for) the passer."

Houston was more successful with its running game. Williams' 10-yard scamper in the third was just one of his 25 carries for 93 yards. One of those carries in the first quarter went for 35 yards.

"I wouldn't say we're relieved (at just avoiding another shutout)," Cougar receiver Ron Peters said. "It's just one positive aspect of an otherwise disappointing performance."

Peters caught the lone touchdown, a 39-yard pass from O'Shea with 9:43 left in the game.

O'Shea finished with 5-of-8 for 75 yards and the score.

 

 

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UH NETTERS PERFECT IN SWC AFTER BACK-TO-BACK SHUTOUTS

by Hiren Patel

Daily Cougar Staff

The Cougar volleyball team did it twice this weekend. Houston won both of its matches, pitching two shutouts en route to defeating Illinois-Chicago and Rice 3-0.

In Saturday's matchup against crosstown rival Rice (5-11, 0-4 in the Southwest Conference), the Cougars (9-3, 4-0) were guided to victory by the inspired play of senior hitter Carla Maul.

"Excellent," Houston head coach Bill Walton said of Maul's performance. "She's playing great defense.

"Her play has been up recently because I think her legs are feeling better."

Maul had her best all-around match against Rice with a match-high 12 kills and a .391 hitting percentage. The defensive specialist also had two block assists and one service ace.

Against UIC (5-11), Maul played in two of the three games while adding five kills, nine digs and a .308 hitting percentage.

The true hustle of Maul could be seen on one particular play. In the third game against the Owls, with Houston leading 8-3, the Plainwell, Mich., native dove early for one of her game-high seven digs, but managed to crawl for the ball a few feet away from her.

That particular play brought cries of "Da plane, da plane" from the sidelines, referring to Maul's midget-like stature on the play.

"These last couple of matches, she's (Maul) come on real strong," teammate Lilly Denoon-Chester added. "Defensively, she's playing the best right now."

In the Flames (5-11) matchup, the Cougars put together their most consistent all-around game.

"Our defense tonight was awesome," Walton said. "We blocked and dug everything, not allowing any balls to hit the floor."

Not only did Houston play superior defense, but the team also had its best offensive game, as the Cougars hit for an incredible .451 percentage. In all, eight players hit .300 or better for Houston.

"Usually, we tend to break down, but these last couple of matches, we have shown that we can overcome that," Denoon-Chester said.

As usual, Denoon-Chester put on a show for the fans by leading the Cougars with a game-high 14 kills and seven digs against UIC, while hitting .524. The Owls somehow managed to hold the SWC Player of the Year and All-America candidate to 11 kills, four digs and a hitting percentage of .333.

"We didn't stop her (Denoon-Chester) and neither did we stop anyone else," UIC head coach Don August said. "We couldn't score a point because their defense was outstanding."

Susan Morris, a sophomore outside hitter who led the Flames with 4.1 kills per game and a .263 hitting percentage, was held in check as she had 10 kills and hit only .111.

Sophomore setter Sami Sawyer orchestrated the Cougar offense with her 44 assists against UIC and 35 against Rice. She added six kills while hitting .857 against the Flames and four kills on her way to hitting .571 vs. the Owls.

Christi Dreier made immediate impacts in the limited time she saw for the Cougars. The senior hitter hit .300 while putting up four kills and six digs against UIC and had a perfect 1.000 hitting percentage while adding three kills and three digs against Rice.

In winning both of the matches as shutouts, the Cougars provided themselves with the rest they both needed and deserved. Houston was coming off a five-game match against Texas Tech and didn't practice for either of its opponents.

"I think it was good for us to win against them so fast because it gave our team a lot of confidence," Maul said.

The Cougars, holding onto a six-match winning streak, will take their undefeated SWC record against Texas A&M (7-6, 2-2) Wednesday night in Hofheinz Pavilion at 7:30 p.m.

 

 

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KINGWOOD BOY PLAYS THE BLUES

Chris Masterson and his band play every Wednesday night at The Big Easy Social and Pleasure Club at 5731 Kirby Drive.

Photo courtesy of Chris Masterson

by Lisa Mahfouz

Contributing Writer

Imagine leaving high school at 15, forming a band at 16 and composing songs for your first CD at 17. Houston blues guitarist/singer Chris Masterson of The Chris Masterson Band did just that.

"Not your classic white boy," Masterson describes his music as "swingin' jump blues." It's a fast-paced, toe-tappin', finger snappin' rhythm that makes any music lover lose the blues. Tunes like Tiny Grimes' "Hey Now Let's Have Some Fun Tonight" leap into your feet, and you can't hold back from cuttin' loose on the dance floor.

Masterson, this prodigy blues guitarist, at age 17, is the "master" of blues-jam ceremonies every Wednesday night at The Big Easy Social and Pleasure Club at 5731 Kirby Drive. He channels his God-given talent through his electric guitar as his lightnin'-bolt fingers "shock" the strings of his hollow-body Gibson 295. A natural-born musician, Masterson's unfaltering determination possesses him to express his soul through music.

Obstacles are invisible to this "master of soul" blues guitarist. Legally blind, Masterson does not drive. His close-knit network of family, friends and loyal followers accompany him on road trips back and forth from Kingwood. Surrounded by love and support, Masterson excels to speeds no car could reach. Truly, his driving force is music.

He classifies himself as a "swing-jump blues" guitarist. He does not want to be compared with Stevie Ray Vaughn, but says, "Stevie laid a lot of groundwork for blues music." Although his version of the white man's woes adds a lick or two to Vaughn's low-down sound, Masterson appears as an angel, sent down to "sing the cries" of a new blues era.

Masterson was "born in captivity" in Lockport, La., a small town near Bayou LaFourche. With the birthplace of jazz close by, the spirits of blues must have cast their magical spell on this one-in-a-billion infant. His blues roots firmly planted, Marcie and Kirk Masterson, his parents, moved to Kingwood, the "livable forest." There they nurtured their son's inherent creative growth.

"My Dad had guitars all around the house," Masterson said. Artistically stimulated by legendary greats Benny Goodman, Count Basie and his "favorite electric blues guitar artist," T-Bone Walker, Masterson began playing the guitar when he was 9.

Making his debut in 1987 at The Westheimer Art Festival's Shawn Walter's Songwriters Showcase at 10, Master Chris finagled his way on stage and beat the tambourine with Lips-n-the Trips.

"When I turned around, Chris was on the steps about to go on stage," his mom said. "He was always campaigning for something as a child ... a new skateboard, etc. He knew more about reverse psychology than we did. Before I knew it, Chris was talking me into taking him to Houston for blues jams and shows almost every other night."

Aggressiveness is part of Masterson's charm. He grabbed the open "mike" at Dan Electro's Blues Jam when he was 15. "The host set's singer didn't show, so I played in his place." Masterson said Stevie Wilson, drums, and Denny "Cletus" Blakely, base, musically combined with Masterson to complete the set that night.

"We rehearsed a week later and it all clicked." Thus, "the present and best version of The Chris Masterson Band was formed," he said.

Sittin' in on blues jams at the Reddy Room, Paradox and Club Matinee was this master's homework. While other teenagers roamed the halls of Kingwood High, 14-year-old Masterson was a student of the blues.

When he courageously told his parents he wanted to drop out of high school to pursue his musical career full-time, they thought it was another one of his campaigns. Six weeks into his sophomore year at Kingwood High School, Masterson, with his parents' approval, dropped out of school.

"It was obvious," Marcie said of that decision. "The music just came out of his soul." Both of his parents devote all their energies to their son's success. Kirk Masterson, his father, even books the band's gigs.

A medley of musicians drift into The Big Easy every Wednesday night and sign up on the blues jam sheet. After his set, host Masterson carefully assembles the collage of bands. "Cletus Blakely, report to the stage," Masterson calls out in a commanding tone, like that of a father. "Chris pulls it off well," says Tom McLendon, owner of The Big Easy and Yeah You Right Records. "He professionally handles the variety of musicians that sit in on jam night."

When McLendon opened his "graduate schools to the blues" in February 1994, he added some seasoning to Houston's pre-packaged night life. "Today's music is driven by hype," he said, adding, "Substance in music is a detriment in the mass marketplace."

The blues is all about emotions and feeling, and people shy away from that, he said.

McLendon's genuine love for music and "passin' a good time" are evident in his "House of Mixology." Young, old, short, fat, black, white – everyone feels at home in The Big Easy. Stiff highballs, a virtuoso of beers, pool and darts; it's truly a friendly hang-out where the bartenders really know your name or at least know what you drink. Every Sunday night, you can fais-do do until your feet fall off with authentic Cajun/Zydeco bands. Wednesdays and Saturdays are reserved for the blues.

The individuality of The Chris Masterson Band fits right in at this down-home place. "No cover" at The Big Easy not only means free admission to experience live music, but is an expression of the soul, not a product, McLendon says. The bands that play here are a true reflection of this philosophy.

"Masterson is a young and upcoming monster," McLendon said. "He has a support group that makes it easier for his talent to flower."

Masterson and his band's new "swingin' jump" twist to traditional blues music ignites a flame under Houston's smoldering audiences. If you can take the "heat," get over to The Big Easy and start cookin' with The Chris Masterson Band.

 

 

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STEREOTYPES DON'T FIT

UH opera season to have comic, classic productions

by Ivana Segvic

Daily Cougar Staff

The opera season is in high gear again. However, opera lovers do not have to spend hundreds of dollars on tickets or even leave campus.

The UH Opera Theater has its own performances, ranging in price from $3 to $5, to bring in the magic and even comedy in opera.

"It's not people singing with horns on their heads. Opera is more than Wagner," said Jane Brewer, a UH Listening to Music class TA and a publicity volunteer for the UH Opera Theater.

Brewer said the Houston Grand Opera is the only other group in the area that does more operas than UH. The UH season consists of three operas, the first of which will be on Nov. 4 and 5, <I>Ariadni auf Naxos<P> by Richard Strauss. The German opera will be performed in German; however, subtitles will be provided.

"If you don't know what is going on, you can read it. But a lot of the time, you can understand what is going on through the action and the music," Brewer said.

<I>Ariadni<P> is a play within a play that is performed in two acts. It is set in the 17th century and deals with an argument over who performs better between serious and comic performers. A nobleman orders the two groups to perform together.

"It is very tongue-and-cheek. It's a good opera to go to because it is so funny. Also, it is unusual for a college to do this opera since it is so difficult to sing. We didn't have anyone who was old enough or mature enough to sing the high notes of the role of Bacchus, so John Jennings, who is not a UH student, will be singing that role. Otherwise, all of the roles are usually sung by students," Brewer said.

The operas are usually sung by graduate students, but anyone can try out. Brewer says it is rare for someone who is not a music major to make the audition, and many times, even the music majors do not succeed.

<I>La Cenerentola<P>, by Gioacchino Rossini, is the second opera of the season, scheduled for Feb. 17 and 18. This Italian opera is the story of <I>Cinderella<P>, minus the magic.

"This one is also really funny. It has a lot of role changes, where the prince and servant switch roles and the stepfather has to taste 30 barrels of wine. You can imagine how he is after all that wine. It's a very comic, and an adult version of <I>Cinderella<P>," Brewer said.

<I>The Tales of Hoffman<P>, by Jaques Offenbach, will be the last opera of the season, scheduled for April 21 and 22 at Miller Outdoor Theater. The UH Opera Theater has been invited by the city of Houston to perform all of its April operas at Miller Outdoor Theater.

<I>Hoffman<P> is a French opera filled with magic, fantasy and love. Singing is the main theme that propels this love story.

"The girl who Hoffman is in love with actually sings herself to death," Brewer said.

Students should give opera a chance, Brewer said. "When I tell the story of an opera, people always say it sounds like a soap opera. Well, where do you think the name came from? In soap operas, dramatic things happen, but not a lot of action. Opera is just the opposite. Some dramatic situations occur, but it is all done with action. They are very visual.

"Also, the live-theater experience is so magnificent because you have a connection with the performers. The performer is responding to you. It's not like the movies, where everything is programmed. In opera, you have music expressing what the character is feeling. You can control the performer; if you don't laugh, he works harder to make you laugh," Brewer said.

The opera performers never get paid for their hard work and time spent in rehearsals. However, the practice and experience they receive at UH leads to greater successes.

"A lot of our singers end up at the Met. This year in <I>Operalia '94<P>, hosted by Placido Domingo, one of our former students, Bruce Fallor, competed as one of the 10 best new opera singers. He won a prize of $25,000," she said.

The UH Opera Theater also has well-known composers like Carlyle Floyd and Robert Nelson. These renowned composers, along with the many talented UH singers, help make UH Opera a great asset to the campus.

"The University of Houston Opera Theater is the best-kept secret on campus," Brewer said.

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