Traditionally speaking, colleges and universities allow for students and faculty to unite in many ways that are not just sharing a campus. Every school has its own traditions, expressions, and songs. At the end of each commencement around the country, melodies of ‘alma mater’ tunes ring out. Campus sporting events are home to hundreds and thousands, singing fight songs in unison. Music, specifically collegiate music, can be a powerful tool in uniting all students around a campus – a powerful tool which Boston University has failed to grasp.
I dare you. Find someone who can tell you the name of Boston University’s fight song without a Google search (bonus points if you can find someone who can sing it to you). As a pep band member, one of my first orders of business was learning how to play and sing our university’s fight song. (I won’t even reference it by name – go ahead, figure it out!) After numerous performances, I learned that hardly anyone else besides the band knew the lyrics to our fight song. Sure, everyone clapped, and most people could recognize the tune, but who would have thought there are words? Solidification of this fact happened quite recently – a few weeks ago, the BU Men’s Ice Hockey team packed up and headed to St. Paul for the NCAA Tournament. The BU Hockey twitter account tweeted a video of the band playing them off. As the band begins to sing the lyrics, one of the hockey interns is audibly heard asking “Wait…there are words to this song?”
One might ask – why don’t we teach our fight song at Orientation sessions, like most other universities around the country? To this, I can give you no concrete answer. Many others, including myself have hinted at it and brought up discussion over it, but with no success. May it forever be renamed “That Tune that the Band Plays After BU Scores.”
Our fight song is just one page of our songbook, mind you! Don’t even get me started on our Alma Mater. That tune you heard at Matriculation? That song that you will hear at Commencement and not know what to do? Those lyrics you were handed? It will all be over before you know it. Thousands of students before you in the history books of BU surely sung the same song which you will probably choose to ignore. Alma maters, which have the power to bring students and alumni to tears at other universities have no effect here.
I recently came across a Boston University Song Book from 1949. The red tattered cover and faded yellow pages contain 27 pages of sheet music and lyrics to Boston University’s forgotten songs. Surprisingly enough, this was before our current fight song was used – that’s right, there is an older BU fight song! Will we ever hear it again? “Cheer For Alma Mater,” “Old B.U.,” “The Walls of Boston University” – all written specifically for Boston University, have surely not been heard in quite some time. The School of Education and the College of Liberal Arts (now CAS) have their own hymns – each specific to their college. This remarkable glimpse into the past sheds light on the absence of such traditional collegiate music in our campus today.
These are the forgotten songs of Boston University – may we someday hear them again, and unite as a university to sing them – to bring people together, and to make our voices heard. Until then, they lay dormant, waiting to be heard again.
Featured Photo Credit: Arman Sanentz