Unsung Moments in Kenyon History

Web Extra: Some Further Notes

Historical notes, that is. Benjamin Locke, the Robert A. Oden Jr. Professor of Music, discusses the origins and evolution of Sing. Kelley Wilder '03, remembers the day her class saved the ritual. More...

The time: late August 1989. The place: Peirce Hall, opening dinner for the new students. The shocker: a dean's announcement that First-Year Sing would be canceled, because the tradition had turned into a boorish hazing ritual, with upperclassmen jeering the first-years as they tried their shaky voices on "The Thrill" and other Kenyon songs.

The Sing would survive, thanks to the fledgling Class of 1993, which had gotten wind of the impending action and plotted a revolt. But when the announcement came, there was a moment of nervous silence. Who would speak up?

Choral director Ben Locke, who had led a Sing rehearsal at the dinner, recalls that one of the new students, Kelley Wilder, "stood up on a table, defying the authority of all the faculty and deans in attendance," and proclaimed that her class was not going to let the tradition die. "The entire class roared its support and followed her across Ransom Green and triumphantly took ownership of their Sing," wrote Locke, who happily conducted.

Wilder is more modest. In the moment of indecision, when nobody moved, "I did stand up on the table and sort of signal that now we'd do our Sing ... I think I just said, 'Well, shall we go outside now?' or something equally lame."

In retrospect, "unsung" isn't the best word to enshrine this melodic moment, just as "lame" doesn't do justice to Wilder, who would go on to become one of the College's greatest distance runners. (Wilder Track is named in her honor.) No matter. Sing lives on—and has since become a bit more civilized, if not entirely tame.

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