Have you ever heard a song and it brought you back to that one middle school dance that took place in Oct. 2010? One song and you could remember the smells, sights and words of that (likely cringeworthy) middle school night? Some of the strongest memories people have are tied to songs, movies and shows, and our time in college is no different — although, hopefully less cringe-worthy than those middle school moments.
Through the years, events like Party on the Green and Springfest have created lasting memories for students at Wooster. The small campus of Wooster has seen some big-name artists come and perform over the years. Some performers came for the big music festivals, and some simply came to campus like any other act — just because they wanted to. Performers ranging from comedians to poets to singers all have made appearances at Wooster and created life-long memories for students.
It could be said that poet Robert Frost took the road less traveled when he came to Wooster in the early ’60s and spoke in McGaw Chapel. In fact, Frost was also present at the dedication of Andrews Library in 1962 and received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Wooster. The ’60s also brought the Dave Brubeck Quartet to campus. The quartet played in Ebert Hall, which was still functioning as a gym at the time. Discussing their visit, Alumnus Douglas Hole ’63 stated that he remembered “Brubeck’s drummer, Joe Morello, pounding nails in the basketball floor. Coach Munson was really upset.” Hole also commented that the performance had a great impact on him as “Paul Desmond [another member of the quartet] was my favorite sax player and his tone and technique I tried to emulate.”
The ’70s saw Nina Simone, Jose Feliciano, Sly and the Family Stone, Chicago and Charlie Daniels as some of the most memorable performances. Today, some of these artists can still be heard on campus with their most popular songs; “Feliz Navidad” by Feliciano, “Saturday in the Park” by Chicago and “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” by Daniels being the three most commonly known. Looking at them as a whole, this collection of artists shows a commitment to great diversity in musical styles and cultures brought to campus during that time.
While college may feel like a circus, the ’80s truly brought one to campus — or at least an act. The Flying Karamazov Brothers juggling comedians. They were in good company with fellow comedian Yakov Smirnoff and two artists with deep Ohio roots, the Michael Stanley Band and Donnie Iris. Wooster also increased the jazz presence on campus with the Count Basie Orchestra, Lionel Hampton and Doc Severinsen performing as well. Wooster said “bye-bye (Miss American Pie)” to the ’80s with classic acts Don McLean and the Alvin Ailey dancers.
In the ’90s, Wooster continued to feature a range of performers, with comedians Carrot Top, Jeff Dunham and Steven Wright, along with alternative-pop artists such as The Hooters, They Might be Giants and Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Discussing the popularity of the performers, on Sep. 24, 1993 an article in the Voice by Jennifer Campana said that, “looking back on Party on the Green, They Might Be Giants and their opening band Pere Ubu were literally a smashing success. The crowd went wild in the narrow little tent on the Quad, pushing and shoving themselves as close to the stage as they could possibly get.”
So why, you may be asking, does Wooster no longer bring in the same type of famous artists? The answer lies in the ways in which the music business has changed. It is not a lack of effort on Wooster’s part, but rather in the fact that big-name artists no longer go on college tours. In the world of Spotify and YouTube, artists do not need to perform in person in order to gain popularity, but in days past, when you could not hear a song until you bought the record or tape, it was imperative for artists to tour in order to gain fame. That also being said, some of these big-name artists came to Wooster early on in their career. So, if you hope to be able to say “I saw them when,” attending performances at the College could likely be your ticket in