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Columbia College Today May 2003
Cover Story
Rushdie: In
    His Own Words
Five Alumni Honored
    at John Jay Dinner
Twists and Turns
    in a Liberal Arts
Michael Kahn ’61:
    All the World’s
    a Stage

    Turns 100

Love in Lerner


Alumni Profiles





This Issue





Midnight's Children

CCT March 2003 Cover
Midnight's Children

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
Jerusalem, Israel

Baseball Fan

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.

High Notes

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
Cranford, N.J.

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 century.

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


Go Columbia Lions!This 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
Lakeland, Fla.

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
Calabasas, Calif.




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