October 23, 2019

A History of MSM’s
Mascot Manny

How Manhattan School of Music’s beloved polar bear mascot came to be

MSM’s Manny is a polar bear of many talents. Not only is there Multi-instrumentalist Manny, but also Studious Student Manny, Construction Manny, Newspaper Manny, New Year’s Eve Manny, and Halloween Manny. There is This-Site-Uses-Cookies Manny and Closed-Because-of-Bad-Weather Manny. There are Manny stickers and T-shirts and scrunchies and tote bags and flash drives and more.

It feels to many of us at MSM that the intrepid mascot has been with us for a long time, but Manny was in fact “born” just three years ago, an initiative of the 2016 MSM student body and the MSM departments of Admissions, Student Affairs, and Media and Communications.

The driving forces behind Manny’s creation

“For many years there was a real wish among students and Amy Anderson, then MSM’s Dean of Enrollment Management, to have an official mascot,” recalls Melanie Dorsey, Director of Student Engagement at MSM.  “But we all wondered, would a mascot work for an institution of our size, one that doesn’t have a football team?”

The Student Council in 2016 came up with a list of more than a dozen animals that it thought might fit the bill.

The choices were eventually narrowed down to the options of a macaw, orca, or polar bear. MSM President Jim Gandre cast the deciding vote.

How Manny’s ‘look’ came to be

MSM’s Office of Media and Communications then stepped in, and MSM’s Manager of Graphic Design at the time, Sandra Seminara, was tasked with bringing Manny to life, working closely with MSM Director of Design Erin Houlihan.

“Sandra did extensive research, pulled illustrations, and came up with a few styles for Manny, and he was born very simply, actually,” Erin remembers. “The response from the beginning has been overwhelmingly positive.”

(Excerpts below from Sandra’s design presentation)

Today, the legacy of Manny, as well as new incarnations, are overseen by MSM Graphic Design Associate Sasha Ross Becker, who in the past year and a half has come up with more than 50 versions of the mascot, including Bubble Tea Manny, and Irish bag-pipe-playing Manny. She is even working on a Manny textile design.

“What I love about working with Manny is being able to use my background in fashion design,” Sasha says. “And I think what resonates with everyone is that Manny is light-hearted and fun in addition to being musical. He helps us all take our mind off of our stresses.”

“Manny has come a long way since the beginning — it’s all been a really big success that has surprised us. We’re really fond of Manny.”

MSM Director of Design

Katie Copland, who manages the MSM Campus Store, is especially aware of Manny’s popularity with MSM students. She has trouble keeping Manny stickers and plush Manny keychains in stock.

“I think Manny has been a nice community-builder and identifier for MSM,” says Katie. “People love Manny as our mascot because a polar bear is strong and regal, and the cartoon representation of him is also cute and lovable!”

Manny’s future

“People know Manny, and the designs have brought a real freshness to our outreach and student communications,” says Melanie Dorsey of Student Affairs. “People really love him.”

“Manny has come a long way since the beginning,” says Erin Houlihan. “It’s all been a really big success that has surprised us. We’re really fond of Manny.”

The Manny Octet in Greenfield Hall

Manny #FastFacts

  • The first iteration of Manny was Piano-playing Manny
  • The fastest selling Manny item in the Campus Store was the Manny Ugly Holiday Sweater
  • Manny has a strong Canadian bloodline (60% of the world’s polar bear population is found in Canada)