Members of the UMSL community have until Sept. 28 to cast their votes in alma mater competition

by | Sep 18, 2023

A group of faculty members, students and one alum from the Department of Music helped select the three finalists from 39 submissions.
UMSL orchestra performs in front of the commencement stage

Members of the UMSL community can cast their votes for one of three finalists in the competition for the university’s new alma mater, which will debut at fall commencement on Dec. 16. (Photo by August Jennewein)

Voting is now open in the competition to choose the new alma mater for the University of Missouri–St. Louis.

Members of the UMSL community can listen to the three finalists by visiting and may cast their vote for their favorite up to once daily between now and Sept. 28.

There were 39 submissions of original music written to accompany new lyrics, titled “Red and Gold,” created earlier this year by faculty members Jim Henry from the Department of Music and Lynn Staley from the Department of English. The submissions came in from composers around the world since the competition kicked off on May 10.

“I was very impressed,” said Susan Elliott, assistant vice chancellor for external and donor relations and co-chair of the 60th Anniversary Planning Committee. “But we should not be surprised because we know that UMSL has a global reach.”

A group of four faculty members from the Department of Music helped trim the list of submissions to six semifinalists. They then solicited the input of two current music students and one alum, as well as Staley, to help arrive at the group of three finalists.

The entire selection process has been blind.

“We were all impressed by the number of submissions and with the thoughtfulness that went into the compositions,” said Professor Joanna Mendoza, who chairs the Department of Music. “We were not only looking for a good tune but one that works well technically and musically with the words. It’s not easy to do, but I think the composers really rose to the challenge.”

People can hear proof of that when they listen to junior music major Rita Schien and 2021 graduate Keegan Eich sing recorded duets of the lyrics set with each of the finalists before casting their votes.

“As a choral singer, I was listening for music that would be singable and memorable,” Staley said. “I want people to leave our events humming this song, and I want many in our community to sing it from memory.”

The voting tallies will be incorporated into an UMSL community panel that will select the university’s new alma mater. The song will then debut at fall commencement on Dec. 16.

The winning composer will receive a $1,000 honorarium.

The new composition will replace the university’s first alma mater, “Heart of Missouri,” written and composed by John Francis Dill and Diane Ceccarini in 1995. It is hoped it will instill pride among students, faculty, staff and alumni and better capture the spirit and aspirations of UMSL as a metropolitan college campus serving the community today, and for years into the future.

Steve Walentik

Steve Walentik