As fall draws to a close and the cold of winter sets in, it’s worth considering dropping in on a Memorial Union Student Organization (MUSO) meeting. The organization is filled with welcoming and warm people that are sure to brighten any dreary New Hampshire day.
MUSO is a student-run organization that is responsible for bringing a variety of small concerts, poetry events, lectures and movies to UNH at least once a week. Thanks to funding from the Student Activity Fee, MUSO is able to make every one of their events free for students.
However, it’s the people behind those events that really make the group stand out from the crowd.
“We’re our own little family of big weirdos,” MUSO Head Director Alexa Wheeler said.
A quick glance around the room at one of the weekly group meetings says a lot about the members. While a multitude of nose rings, dyed hair and glasses give what Wheeler describes as a “definite hip-kid vibe” to the group, more noticeable is how friendly and outgoing the members are. The meetings typically bring in about 25–30 people and, with most of those members showing up week after week, a tight-knit community of unique people has formed. Though the meetings are intended to be a time to discuss MUSO’s business, such as planning and discussing upcoming events, they’re also a time for friends to catch up and for new members to be brought into the fold.
“Being in an all-freshman dorm, I was like, ‘Wow, I don’t fit in at all,’” senior women’s studies and psychology major and MUSO Arts and Lectures Director Hollie Foster said.“When I realized that MUSO was all just people pretty similar to me I decided to keep coming.”
Foster has formed strong bonds with many people in MUSO due to their shared passion for inclusion that is core to the organization.
“We try to be inclusive, like how with music events we try to book more female artists and non gender-conforming people in order to bring light to those people in arts,” Foster said. “We’re kind of shedding light on oppressed minorities.”
Those values are central to what the organization believes in and many of their events are centered on those ideals.
For instance, the events that typically bring the biggest crowds are concerts, where the artists brought in frequently are either of or have a connection to people of under-represented genders. One of the most popular events that MUSO puts on is the annual Bratfest, a favorite of both Wheeler and Foster.
“It’s a festival for women, trans people, gender non-conformists and generally under-represented people in the music and arts industry,” Foster said.
Bratfest features bands, poets, local artists and vendors, as well as houses tables for UNH social groups that MUSO frequently collaborates with on events. Those groups include Alliance (an LGBTQ+ student group), the UNH women’s studies program, Trans UNH and the Center for Social Innovation and Enterprise.
Aside from Bratfest, most of the concerts that MUSO presents are punk and indie, though the group is always open to new suggestions. The meetings provide an opportunity for students to come and give their input on which artists they want to come perform at UNH.
MUSO members also pride themselves on their poetry events, which are regularly scheduled throughout the year.
“I know the MUB does some poetry events, but we do three a semester and usually every single one has a feature,” Wheeler said. “I don’t think anyone else really does that.”
The poetry events often have similar themes to the concerts and are open microphone, allowing students and the general public an opportunity to perform in front of a crowd. Their biggest poetry event is the International Poetry Night, where students from around the world are invited to perform.
Lectures are also a staple of MUSO’s, which bring interesting and unique speakers to UNH to inform students on a wide variety of topics, ranging from sexuality, to gender issues to aliens. MUSO is responsible for showing movies in the MUB theaters as well, and often organizes indie movies to be shown on the big screen.
For those who might be interested in joining the student organization, Foster stresses that there’s no pressure involved.
“Literally just show up to a meeting and you’re immediately welcome,” Foster said. “We’re trying to be open and let people know they can come whenever.”
While many members are very passionate about the themes incorporated within the group, there’s no requirement that new members have to be informed or fervent about issues with gender and sexuality. In fact, there really aren’t any requirements at all.
Wheeler, who is in her fourth year with MUSO, said, “We try not to make it too heavy of a commitment because we understand that school’s the most important thing… We just like when people help at events, set up or just help book events by figuring out collectively what we want to do.”
Those who might not be interested in joining are still encouraged to attend any MUSO events. Upcoming events include a concert on Nov. 19, an open mic night on Dec. 5 and a lecture titled “ALIENS with Stanton T. Friedman” on Dec. 8. For additional information on MUSO and upcoming events, the organization has a Facebook, Twitter and Wildcat Link page that are all updated regularly.