Take Five with Rebecca Turner ’87

Rebecca Turner ’87 is a country-folk-rock singer-songwriter who lives in Maplewood, N.J. A child of ’70s FM radio and ’80s record stores, her musical allegiances have ranged from Emmylou Harris to Liz Phair, from Doris Day to Tom Petty, from Goldfrapp to The Go-Go’s. Turner has made three well-received albums: Land of My Baby (2005), Slowpokes (2009), and most recently, The New Wrong Way (2019).

At the College, Turner sang with the Glee Club, performed in the cappella trio The Baskets with fellow Glee Clubbers Sue Raffman ’87 and Rachel King ’88, and spent many an hour at the Postcrypt Coffeehouse and Furnald Folkfest.

In addition to her music, Turner is an e-commerce copywriter specializing in food and appliance brands; she and her husband, Scott Anthony, also run Storybook Sound, an audio mastering studio. During these last few months of COVID-19, she and Anthony produced an online variety show, Omniana.

What were you like when you arrived at Columbia?

I came to New York City from Los Angeles, where I had been kind of a sheltered kid, but I had just started going out to see a lot of live music. So when I got to New York, that’s all I wanted to do. Just a month or so in I found out R.E.M. was playing at Queens College (How did I know this with no internet? And how did I know where to go or how to get there?); I was going to go out by myself, at night, with hardly any experience taking the subway. My suitemates were worried about me and convinced one of the guys across the hall to go with me. (It was an amazing show. Here’s the setlist!)

What do you remember about your first-year living situation?

I was so terrified on my first day. Then I went into the suite on 13 Carman and saw a cool purple jacket on one of the beds, and somehow knew I was going to be OK. It belonged to my very kind and fun roommate. We had different circles of friends but were always there for each other and talked each other through many things. I still have a hilarious piece of paper from the pad that was tacked up by our phone, where my suitemates and I took messages for each other, along with a lot of editorializing about the callers.

What Core class or experience do you most remember, and why?

CC was hard for me, as I was essentially born an English major and had discussed a billion poems and novels, but I hadn’t read a lot of philosophy, sociology, economics and the like. I didn’t know what I was doing half the time. One of my CC papers — I think it was on Hegel — was so all over the place that my professor said to me, “If I didn’t know you better, I’d say you wrote this on drugs.” He did know me — I was and still am the least drug-taking person on Earth! Somehow I retained at least the gist of most of that class. And I loved the lively, funny, intense discussions we had, and that I had in pretty much all my classes.

Did you have a favorite spot on campus, and what did you like about it?

My favorite spot is the Sundial. When we’d return from a Glee Club concert or trip, we’d congregate at the Sundial and exhaustedly belt out the school songs — we still do this at reunions. I have a lot of happy memories associated with it. Glee Club turned out to be one of the most formative and fun experiences of my life, musically and socially.

What, if anything, about your College experience would you do over?

As wonderful as college was for me — and even though I was in New York City — I still was pretty sheltered when I emerged. I had thrown myself so vigorously into everything I was interested in that I didn’t often leave myself open to experiences that might have been unusual or uncomfortable to me. If I had to do it over, I would expand my bubble more, maybe major in something else, experience more music I was unfamiliar with, perhaps even head toward a different career. Although, I’m pretty happy with how everything turned out!