LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
The article on the history of Indian independence [“A
Short History of Midnight” by Professor Nicholas B. Dirks,
March 2003] was the most interesting article I've seen in CCT
in the 14 years since I graduated. I would welcome more articles
like it - informative, interesting and leaving the reader with a
taste for finding out more.
Ilana Sobel '89
Michael Seidel [CCT,
January 2003] is not the first professor of English at Columbia
to be an avid baseball (indeed, a Yankee!) fan. Fifty years ago,
Mark Van Doren often sprinkled analogies of literary heroes with
the particular mannerisms and idiosyncratic quirks of then-active
ballplayers, comparing them to protagonists out of Homer, Cervantes
and even Kafka. He would frequently begin his class with a concise
analysis of a particularly dramatic moment that occurred in the
Yankee game played the previous afternoon.
I was fortunate to have had Professor Van Doren conduct my pre-admission
interview, in the course of which our wide-ranging conversation
turned to an animated discussion about the relative merits of Duke
Snider, Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle, respective center fielders
for the Dodgers, Giants and Yankees. Imagine the impression that
made on a timorous high school senior hoping to squeak into Columbia
College. Revealing another winsome aspect of his multiculturalism,
on one occasion near semester's end, Van Doren suggested to a student
who had asked him how to best prepare for the Great Books course
final exam, that maybe the fellow should simply catch the double
feature playing down at the Nemo on 110th & B'way.
Michael D. Spett ’56
White Plains, N.Y.
Great issue [March, 2003]; CCT
is getting better and better. Adam Kushner '03's article
on a cappella groups was wonderful. My son went to SUNY Binghamton,
sang with that school's group, the Crosby's, and his experiences
tracked those reported by Kushner. There was one error that only
old-timers like me will note. Kushner writes, “In 1962, before
his storied career with Paul Simon . Art Garfunkel . ” Simon
and Garfunkel sang together in the late '50s while in high school
in Queens under the name of “Tom and Jerry” and had
a hit song, “Hey Schoolgirl.”
Allen Breslow '61
Old Bethpage, N.Y.
There is an apparent error in “Hitting
the High Notes,” by Adam B. Kushner '03, in the March
2003 edition of CCT. On page 23, Kushner writes, “In
1962, before his storied career with Paul Simon, and long before
inspiring Jubilation!, Art Garfunkel '65 joined the King's Men.”
I graduated from the College in 1961, was a member of the King's
Men, and knew Art as a fellow member for part of the time I was
there. Page 62 of the 1961 Columbian has a picture of six King's
Men; the fellow on the far left, with the blond crewcut, is Arthur
Garfunkel and is so identified in the listing above the picture.
He is also shown on the far right of the picture that appears at
the top of page 63 of the same issue.
Edward M. Kaplan
'61 Memphis, Tenn.
[Editor's note: Garfunkel graduated from the College in 1962.
CCT regrets the error.]
Enjoyed reading about a cappella
groups on campus, but I'd have hoped for something more about
the Notes and Keys. King's Men may well have been the first of these
groups, but the Goats and Fleas (as we sometimes referred to ourselves)
were certainly not far behind; I joined during my freshman year
(1951-52), and our years together were probably the highlight of
my undergraduate years. The Notes and Keys were then the heart of
the Glee Club, and I still enjoy looking at the reviews of one particular
concert of early music where the Times and Tribune
said that we were the best performers on the program. (Everyone
else was professional!) And we were far from our best that night.
Keep up the great work.
Stu Kaback '55
The statement that a cappella singing in the College began with
the King's Men in 1949 is not quite correct. Long before this date,
there existed as a part of the Columbia Glee Club both the Notes
and Keys, a 12-man singing group made up of members of the Glee
Club who selected their own repertoire and prepared their own music,
and the Blue Notes, a quartet that sang a lighter selection of pieces,
mostly barbershop. Both of these groups sang a cappella. They had
been established at least as early as the early days of the last
In fact, the Columbia Glee Club was founded in 1873. among other
notable accomplishments, a group of graduates got together in 1886
and founded the Columbia Graduate Glee Club in order to demonstrate
that there was life after college male voice choir singing. In fact,
this organization is presently in full operation. In 1894, the name
was changed to the University Glee Club of New York City, and men
from other institutions were admitted as singing members at that
time. (Some of our more tradition-directed members feel that the
admission of a group from Yale was an event not dissimilar to the
fall of the Roman Empire, but we live with these things.)
During the 1930s, the University Glee Club founded what is now
called the Intercollegiate Men's Chorus. This organization promotes
male chorus singing in colleges and secondary schools as well as
community choruses and has more than 100 members in the U. S. and
internationally. I mention this because it exemplifies the wide
ranging consequences of the efforts of 20 or so men from the Columbia
Glee Club in 1886.
During my years, the Columbia Glee Club consisted of about 45 members,
most of whom spent the entire four years in the club. We rehearsed
twice a week for about two hours in a temporary building that was
put up after World War II and finally torn down when the Business
School was built. We gave concerts throughout the Northeast, but
the height of the season came with two concerts in Town Hall during
December and May. These were considered major social events for
the College and usually all of the 1,598 seats in the Hall were
sold out. Our musical programs contained both a cappella and accompanied
pieces ranging from Renaissance to the mid-20th century. We were
also the repository of a group of Columbia songs which, I'm afraid,
are not often heard now.
The friendships we made in the Glee Club were, to say the least,
enduring. At the present time, six members of the class of 1957
are singing members of the University Glee Club. I mention their
names in hope that others who sang during that era under the direction
of J. Bailey "Oats" Harvey, who was himself a member of the University
Glee Club and remained so until his death several years ago, might
be inclined to get in touch: Philip Olick '57, Arthur Meyerson '57,
Larry Boes '57, Robert Klipstein '57, Jerry Finkel '57 and myself,
Paul Zola '57. We also had another member of our class in the club,
Gerald Weale '57, who resigned to become chairman of the Department
of Music Education at Boston University. A quick calculation will
demonstrate that these six men will have been singing together across
a 50-year period come the fall of 2003.
I applaud the wonderful work of the a cappella groups on campus
and wish them a long and harmonious tradition.
Paul A. Zola '57
New York City
past week, I received two magazines, Columbia College Today
and Sports Illustrated. Among other things, Columbia brags
that applications continue to rise and 14,562 have been received.
Also in CCT are several
letters commenting on Columbia's dismal performance in sports.
Sports Illustrated, in its "Go Figure" article, cited 21
Ivy League losses in basketball (14) and football (7) for Columbia,
the first Ivy teams to go winless in league play in both sports
in one academic year.
It seems to me that from 14,000+ applicants, we should be able
to find a few athletes who can represent Columbia well and win.
Mark Lyons '49
Mark Hoffman '76 frets unnecessarily about alumni pressuring the
College "to produce winning athletic teams" in CCT,
Jan. 2003. I agree with him that college sports should be fun,
and we should not obsess about winning. However, he argues a false
premise by saying that Columbia shouldn't emulate "huge state universities"
in recruiting athletes. No Columbia alumnus has made any such suggestion.
We have protested the drudgery of continual losing during the past
half century, and called for Columbia to be competitive with its
Ivy peers. This means attracting more of the talented student-athletes
who now choose other Ivy schools. There is no tinge of the football
or basketball "factory" in this type of petition. I see no reason
why our fine College should be a doormat for the rest of the Ivy
League (or for Lafayette, Lehigh, Bucknell, etc.). Where is it ordained
that Brown, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Penn, Princeton and Yale
can win, but Columbia must not?
Charles K. Sergis '55