Picking an Alumni Song

Absurdist A Cappella

This time we discuss how to pick an alumni song.

Setting the Stage: So you’re trying to build a sense of tradition on your group—bridges between different generations of performers, singing under a common banner. Sounds simple enough. But, when you begin to explore this situation a little more deeply, you start to realize the level of nuance and complications inherent to it.

Song Selection: You can’t just pick any song for your alumni song. Remember, you’re representing your group, its history and its future. You have to pick a song that won’t diminish over time. It should be something suitably connected to memory and personal histories. It should project an image of progress—a song with room for development so new twists and turns can come in, demonstrating how your group has advanced.

We’re going to let readers of this column in on a little secret—the ideal alumni song is none other than Nickelback’s “Photograph.” Think about it: you want a song that won’t diminish over time—no one liked this song in the first place! It’s awful! There’s no room for it to grow less popular. Better yet, it’s all about superficial celebration of memories—no need to for deep interpretation to make sense of this one. Lastly, this song not only demonstrates how far a group has come—it shows how far we have come as a civilization. If you build a tradition around this song, decades from now your fans can think back to a time when humanity was so primitive that a subsection of the population actually thought Nickelback was good.

Setting: Where possible, you should perform your alumni song in a traditional place for your group—the space where you’ve most often performed, or where the group first performed. If you have the opportunity to decorate, consider stringing up photos of group members past and present to a really literal visual presentation of the song. Speaking of visual presentation…

Choreography: Choreography is big for an alumni song like this. By choreographing this sort of song out the wazoo, there’s the chance continue that choreography year after year. Years from now, picture the different generations of your group getting together, from the white-haired golden-oldies, to the middle-agers, to the recent alumni, to the fresh-faced first year members all, all grapevining, juking, and jiving in synch. Now that’s how you build a moment.

Other Notes: Your group may not be so keen on the idea of an alumni song right now, much less sharing the stage with the old fogies who come back to campus over alumni weekend. Keep in mind that every current member will one day be an alum, though, and someone’s got to start the traditions for there to be anything to come back to. And if that doesn’t help put things in perspective, remind your current cohorts that some alumni may have deep pockets and CD recording costs don’t always cover themselves. I’m just saying.