When Brubeck Played Pomona
When the great jazz composer and pianist Dave Brubeck died on Dec. 5, 2012, a day short of his 92nd birthday, some members of the Class of 1957 reminisced about their having sponsored a concert by the Brubeck quartet in Little Bridges 58 years earlier.
This was mainly the doing of our classmate Marvin Nathan, who was a big fan of Brubeck and had gotten to know the members of the quartet the summer after our freshman year, in 1954, when the musicians had a three-month gig at Zardi’s in Hollywood. Nathan went to the club nightly during the vacation and returned to college full of enthusiasm for the new style of jazz played by Brubeck. Marvin recounts: “That Christmas I gave the four of them their first matching set of ties, handkerchiefs and cuff links, which, I think, they wore at the Pomona concert.” He made the arrangements directly with Brubeck, and a committee of the Class of ’57 was formed to produce the concert. Brubeck was the first to play college dates, lifting jazz out of smoke-filled clubs. Those were simpler times: no agent or manager or record company was intermediary. We just asked Brubeck, and later, for another concert sponsored by the class, Andre Previn; they said yes, turned up with their sidemen and played and got paid.
But paying the musicians required a paying audience. Steve Glass ’57 and subsequently professor of classics at Pitzer College, recalls that early ticket sales for the Brubeck concert were going slowly. His classmate and future wife Sandy was in charge of publicity and she was worried. In those days, West Coast/Cool Jazz was a relatively arcane phenomenon. Then, shortly before the concert, the Nov. 8, 1954 issue of Time magazine had Dave Brubeck on the cover, only the second jazz musician to be so featured (after Louis Armstrong), and the place was packed.
For the program I drew caricatures of the musicians: Brubeck (piano), Paul Desmond (alto sax), Bob Bates (bass) and Joe Dodge (drums). Marvin Nathan wrote the notes. Reflecting on the concert, he writes: “We caught the group at its acme, in the wake of the remarkable recordings of Jazz at Storyville and Jazz at Oberlin, which, for my money, are the two greatest albums Dave and Paul ever did.”
Marvin left Pomona after two years to study jazz saxophone at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music but decided the instrument should be left to the likes of John Coltrane and instead became a humanities professor. All of us amateur promoters remained jazz aficionados. Why, just this morning I refolded my fedora into a pork-pie hat and set off looking the hepcat I wished to be.
—Andrew Hoyem ’57
San Francisco, Calif.
Save Pomona’s LGBT History
Watching the results of the November election, I couldn’t help but notice the sea change that has occurred in attitudes toward LGBT people. I wish someone at PCM would document highlights of the LGBT community at Pomona over the last 40 years or so before that history gets lost.
When I chaired the Gay Student Union/Lesbian and Gay Student Union (we changed our name during my term) in the ’80s, we understood that we were the second oldest gay student organization in the country (after Columbia University), and the oldest on the West Coast. I think this is another area where Pomona has had enormous social influence and I’ve yet to see it documented. We lost a lot of our history with AIDS; it makes sense to me that with marriage equality on the march, Pomona takes its proper credit.
—Paul David Wadler ’83
More Shocking Pranks Revealed!
We read in the fall issue (“A Carefully Calculated Caper”) about the 1975 prank that replaced Chopin with Zappa on Big Bridges. That prank may have eclipsed our homecoming caper in Frary a decade earlier, but we think it is time for our prank to be revealed, especially since Pat Mulcahy ’66 is now retired from coaching.
It was the night before the homecoming football game with Oxy. We don’t know whose idea it was, but someone hid in a china cabinet in Frary at closing time and opened the back door to the rest of us after hours. Frank White ’66 helped Mulcahy rappel down a wall from the “Orozco” room in Clark to Frary’s locked utility courtyard below, though we can’t remember why that was necessary. Then we stole a huge Oxy Tiger from a float that was built somewhere on campus for the game the next day. We carried the tiger undetected across campus and through the very loud front doors of Frary. We set up four or six of the large dining tables on the Frary stage below Prometheus as one very large table, fluffing up the Oxy Tiger and putting it on the table as if it were the meal. Then we got the formal dinnerware and cutlery out (from locked cabinets?) and set up place settings and chairs around the table. The Oxy Tiger was served for the Sagehens’ dinner.
The next morning at breakfast, nothing was said. The students seemed to think it was an authorized set up. Dean Batchelder (we think) walked around the dining hall looking suspiciously at everyone. The dining hall czar seemed very put out that her best dishes had been violated, but no one in authority sent out a search party or even asked about it. It was hard for us to feign surprise and not to brag about our exploits. So as far as we know, it has remained a secret since. We were only foot soldiers, though. Do others remember who planned this? Does anyone have photos?
—Gary Thompson ’66, Excelsior, Minn.
& Frank White ’66, Colorado Springs, Colo.
The intriguing account of the Zappa prank reminded me of a campus adventure in which I was involved. Our escapade did not rival the artistic complexity of Zappa, but perhaps it was a bit more physically challenging. In spring of 1962, during my freshman year, I was a struggling scholar, mostly overwhelmed by the demands of all my classes, and also a social recluse. I was acquainted mainly with my own sponsor group in (then all-male) Clark Hall, and also with the cross-country and track teams. For reasons I can’t recall, I decided to run for sophomore class president.
My support was concentrated mainly within my own sponsor group. The notion emerged that my candidacy would be enhanced by a placard at the top of Smith Tower. Two members of my group, our junior class sponsor Rich Kettler ’62 and Mike Freid ’67, were enterprising climbers and welcomed the challenge.
In the wee hours of morning, we carried two desks from our rooms to the base of the tower. The desks permitted access to the tiled sides of the tower which would allow a climber foot and hand holds to the top. The plan was that Mike and Rich would climb on opposite sides, joined for safety, by a rope around the tower. This arrangement quickly proved awkward; the intrepid pair discarded the rope and climbed separately to the top, carrying the campaign signs, while the rest of us held our collective breath.
Less than half an hour after they disappeared over the edge at the top, the climbers emerged, to our great relief, from the door at the bottom. The next morning the poster announcing “Plumb for Sophomore Class President” was visible at the top of Smith Tower.
The signs atop the tower and the open door at the bottom were not ignored by the administration. The co-conspirators and I were summoned to a stern but un-punitive reprimand. Despite the unique publicity on my behalf, Steve Schaffran was elected sophomore class president. He later distinguished himself by leaving Pomona to join the then-nascent Peace Corps, then returning to Pomona after his Peace Corps service to earn a Rhodes Scholarship.
—Jim Plumb ’65
Redwood Valley, Calif.
I recall the night, when I was a freshman, that our group (The Vultures) at the east end of Walker Hall, upstairs, swapped the rooms of our two senior live-in “counselors” while they were out carousing. We used Polaroids and changed every item exactly, including switching the doors, which may be out of sequence to this day, and the telephone connections. The two seniors came back a bit blurry and looked around, saying to a few unlikely witnesses, “Didn’t I used to live over …? Oh, hell, forget it.” They went to bed that way and as far as I know it stayed.
—John Shannon ’65
I’m writing in reference to Mark Kendall’s article “D.B. and That Number.” I know little or nothing about math other than being able to balance my checkbook on occasion, but I do know a little about English grammar. You began the first sentence in the next-to-last paragraph of your very interesting article about Professor Donald Bentley by saying, “Me and D.B., we cover a lot of ground.” This is a very common mistake which I too often hear from kids and teenagers. When referring to oneself as the subject of a sentence, the right pronoun to use is the word “I,” and it should always come second (or last) in a compound subject. My dad, who was a 1926 graduate of Yale, was a stickler for proper English and I just want to pass his heritage along.
—Barbara Brainard Ainge ’57
St. George, Utah
Mourning a Man of Action
Last September my good friend Ted Smith ’63 died in the Montana mountains that he loved, just six weeks after my wife Cheryl ’65 and I visited him, his brother Roger ’64 and Roger’s wife Libby on Flathead Lake. Over the almost 50 years since we were at Pomona together, Ted had become a close friend. Our lives intertwined, often by coincidence and often to my benefit.
In 1970, on my first visit to Indonesia as a UNESCO consultant on education planning I made a courtesy call on the Ford Foundation office in Jakarta. When Ted walked into the room you may imagine how surprised both of us were to run into someone from Pomona. My surprise turned to astonishment when I found out that
Roger, a fellow Nappie, was also in Indonesia for a few months. Three years later, I was teaching at a state college in Vermont when Ted called me out of the blue from the Ford Foundation in New York to ask if I’d like to move to Surabaya, Indonesia, to establish the Ministry of Education and Culture’s first provincial education planning unit. Shortly after our move to East Java in 1974 with two small children we adopted our third child, Nathan Hadianto, from an orphanage in Surabaya. The next year Ted, now back in the Ford Foundation’s Indonesia office, contacted us to help arrange for Roger and Libby to adopt a child from the same place. Ted came to check out the orphanage, and Libby followed to pick up Theo, named after his uncle Ted.
After I retired and Ted was visiting us in Vermont in 2007, we were riding up a chairlift at Jay Peak when I told him of my application for a job leading a new initiative at the Hewlett Foundation. After months with no follow-up from the headhunter, I was disappointed. When I mentioned the name of the headhunter whom I’d written Ted said “I know him. I’ll call him on Monday.” Monday afternoon I got a call from the headhunter, and soon I had started three exciting and rewarding years of work that I had not expected.
From the testimonies to Ted that I’ve seen since his death, I know that he quietly supported many other people and groups besides me in his career in conservation and the environment. I attribute Ted’s interest in and concern for others, wonderfully leavened by chance in my case, to be due to values that were strengthened by the knowledge, ways of looking at the world and responsibility for those around us that our Pomona education encouraged.
Ted bore his added riches in trust for mankind, and I miss him.
—Ward Heneveld ’64
Enosburg Falls, Vt.
I noted the death of Gil Plourde ’66 with melancholy. In September 1962, Gil walked into my room and noted that the music to which I was listening was his mother’s favorite and it must mean that I had good taste. That acknowledgement early in our freshman year has remained with me for 50 years, and each time I hear d’Indy’s Symphony on a French Mountain Air, I remember Gil.
—Tully Wiedman ’66