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When Colleges Sang

The Story of Singing in American College Life

J. Lloyd Winstead

Publication Year: 2013

When Colleges Sang is an illustrated history of the rich culture of college singing from the earliest days of the American republic to the present.
Before fraternity songs, alma maters, and the rahs of college fight songs became commonplace, students sang. Students in the earliest American colleges created their own literary melodies that they shared with their classmates. As J. Lloyd Winstead documents in When Colleges Sang, college singing expanded in conjunction with the growth of the nation and the American higher education system.
While it was often simply an entertaining pastime, singing had other subtle and not-so-subtle effects. Singing indoctrinated students into the life of formal and informal student organizations as well as encouraged them to conform to college rituals and celebrations. University faculty used songs to reinforce the religious practices and ceremonial observances that their universities supported. Students used singing for more social purposes: students sang to praise their peer’s achievements (and underachievements), mock the faculty, and provide humor. In extreme circumstances, they sang to intimidate classmates and faculty, and to defy college authorities. Singing was, and is, an intrinsic part of campus culture.
When Colleges Sang explores the dynamics that inspired collegiate singing and the development of singing traditions from the earliest days of the American college. Winstead explores this tradition’s tenuous beginnings in the Puritan era and follows its progress into the present. Using historical documents provided by various universities, When Colleges Sang follows the unique applications and influences of song that persisted in various forms. This original and significant contribution to the literature of higher education sheds light on how college singing traditions have evolved through the generations and have continued to remain culturally relevant even today.

Published by: The University of Alabama Press


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-vi

List of Illustrations

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pp. vii-x

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pp. xi-xii

In 1956, Frederick Rudolph wrote in his preface to Mark Hopkins and the Log, Williams College, 1836–1872, “The United States is a nation of small colleges. Nowhere else in the world is the countryside so generously sprinkled with liberal arts institutions of a thousand students, a few hundred more or less. ...

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pp. 1-4

Student life in the twenty-first century enjoys much from which to choose when it comes to extracurricular activities. From numerous student groups and social activities to the increasingly diverse backgrounds and experiences of students themselves, undergraduates of today have a full academic and cultural world—institutionally constructed, ...

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1. College Singing amid the Puritan Culture, 1636–1700

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pp. 5-20

There was singing in American colleges. And despite the powerful cultural stereotypes of the Puritan founders as humorless, pleasure-hating religious zealots who opposed all forms of human enjoyment, Puritans sang. Seventeenth-century Harvard College existed in and was part of a sea of Puritan culture during most of that century, ...

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2. Sacred and Secular College Singing, 1700–1800

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pp. 21-49

Many factors contributed to the growth of singing during the early years of the American colonies, and colleges incorporated a number of these elements as part of collegiate rituals. Singing in college kept pace with the larger singing trends in colonial America during the eighteenth century, reaping the benefits of singing from both religious and secular contexts and variations in between. ...

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3. Singing in Student Organizations, 1800–1850

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pp. 50-80

American musical directions began shifting prior to the beginning of the nineteenth century. American colleges played a key role in this shift through the performance and imitation of artistic music as well as the casual or popular music of the day that grew from public interests and the influence of new immigrants. ...

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4. The First College Songbooks, 1850–1890

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pp. 81-115

College song publishing in the mid-nineteenth century emerged in concert with broader changes in American society. Between the 1820s and 1850s, technological innovations in the publishing industry allowed for significant strides in papermaking and printing. Publishers and composers produced sheet music in greater numbers ...

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5. College Singing at the Turn of the Century, 1890–1910

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pp. 116-152

A small number of students attended college at the end of the nineteenth century, yet college life captivated the attention of the general public. As the noted higher education historian John R. Thelin observed, editors and journalists in the 1890s paid greater attention to the unique character of college campuses. ...

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6. Warring, Roaring, and Scoring, 1910–1930

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pp. 153-180

At Brown University in 1913 the entire faculty and student body met Brown President William H. P. Faunce as he stepped off the train returning from a recent trip to the Orient. “The Students paraded with a band, through the streets and up the hill to the college,” the Christian Science Monitor reported, “singing and cheering.”1 ...

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7. Sounds of College Life, 1930–1950

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pp. 181-210

Grantland Rice, an early twentieth-century American sportswriter affectionately known as the “Dean of American Sports Writers,” was nationally syndicated during the 1930s. Known for his flowing prose, Rice began one of his college football columns with the heading “Any Old College Song”: ...

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8. Singing Traditions, 1950–Present

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pp. 211-236

During the second half of the twentieth century, popular songs in the United States diversified into a broad array of styles and choices. From folk, pop, jazz, country music, rockabilly, gospel, rhythm and blues in the 1950s and 1960s, to the addition of rock and roll, punk, disco, electronic, and hip-hop in the following decades, ...

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Epilogue: A Rich Early History of College Singing

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pp. 237-258

While singing always existed on American college campuses and reflected the singing habits of American society, students made singing a unique component of undergraduate life. From the influence of psalm singing, as evidenced by Samuel Sewall, to the confirmation of secular ballads in students’ commonplace books, ...

Note on Sources

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pp. 259-264


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pp. 265-304


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pp. 305-320


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pp. 321-336

Index of Songs

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pp. 337-340

E-ISBN-13: 9780817386658
E-ISBN-10: 0817386653
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817317904
Print-ISBN-10: 0817317902

Page Count: 352
Illustrations: 45 illustrations
Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 851972517
MUSE Marc Record: Download for When Colleges Sang

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Music in universities and colleges -- United States.
  • Singing -- United States.
  • Vocal groups -- United States.
  • Students' songs -- United States -- History and criticism.
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