Mail Room

May 3rd, 2007

Surprised by Joy

Thank you for Selma Moss-Ward’s excellent story about five student musicians (“Quintet,” March/April), which embodies, like so much else in this issue, the theme of passion. Even more than marveling at the students’ skill and devotion, I congratulate their dedicating all these hours to doing what they love, not for a grade, maybe not for a job, but in response to inner, consuming desires, regardless of concentration or career. How happy for Brown, and how fortunate for them.

Please allow a happy reminiscence or two from fifty years ago. I signed up for the Chapel Choir in my sophomore year (there were no tryouts) and remained a member until graduation. We rehearsed with Professor Bill Dineen on Monday afternoons and performed for the next three days at noon chapels—captive audiences back then—either improving from sheer repetition or deteriorating from overconfidence as the week closed. We heard the same chapel talks repeated three times and sang many kinds of anthems, some of which we succeeded in forgetting.

Whatever our skills, we took part for the fun and the fellowship, without credits and without reward, apart from a fall evening concert trip out to Danielson, Connecticut, and a small bronze key given to us in our senior year. What were the other benefits? Getting a performance really right now and then. Joining fellow students in an enterprise of no utilitarian or practical value. Being able to return refreshed to required classes. And over time, in unexpected situations, realizing that the music you hadn’t meant to memorize had somehow stuck with you, singing in the depths of your heart and awakening echoes in your memory.

So doing music, voluntarily and with something I came to realize was joy, is something Brown helped give me, and it’s a delight to be reminded by the BAM that this activity flourishes on campus even today.

Caleb R. Woodhouse ’54
Suffield, Conn.

As a graduate of the Music Department, I heartily enjoyed “Quintet.” I was thrilled to see the virtues of the department getting the coverage they deserve, especially because two of the students profiled are friends of mine. At Brown, I concentrated both in music and in modern culture and media, and this spring I am finishing my master’s in orchestral conducting. I went to Brown specifically for the music department’s expert blend of scholarship and performance, as well as its willingness to help students take on such leadership roles as conducting at an age much younger than is allowed at most universities and conservatories.

Musical theater, jazz, chamber music, electronic music, symphonic music, and many types of non-Western music thrive at Brown in an exceptional environment filled with incredibly intelligent musicians playing for the love of the art with no job placement in mind. As a career musician, I found that a singularly exciting environment in which to learn and grow.

I have been to countless festivals and workshops, played countless gigs, and conducted several different orchestras. I unequivocally look on my time working with various Brown ensembles as the most artistically fulfilling I have yet known.

Jaemi Loeb ’03
Greensboro, N.C.

“Quintet” brought me back to my undergraduate days trying to advance my musical education as a pianist and singer. After having graduated from Mannes School of Mu-sic’s preparatory division, I had hoped to find a nourishing environment at Orwig for someone like me, someone who didn’t plan to concentrate in music but who did want to continue his musical studies.

I was clearly told by the department chair that preferential treatment was given to music majors in resources as well as in the opportunity to study with the finest music teachers and professors. It was bad enough that I missed my own conservatory, but Brown certainly did not have a welcoming approach to the non-major student.

The campus facilities and opportunities for musical expression were really not much better. I remember with horror that the pianos all around Keeney Quad, where I lived, and at nearby Wriston Quad were regularly out of tune and in various states of disrepair. In one instance, the hammers had been pulled out of a piano in Harkness House and glue had been thrown on the keys. True, I could practice at Orwig, but only in the time slots that were not used by music concentrators.

I did end up finding my own way, purchasing a Fender Rhodes and producing concerts at Sayles and Alumnae halls, and at weekly Cafe Nights at my fraternity. All of this activity was pretty much without the music department’s knowledge. I will always remember how, late at night after studying in Wilson Hall, I would sometimes walk through the security doors at Sayles Hall and play the concert grand for the security staffers I had befriended. Some of the them would sit and listen in the dimly lit hall as I went through my scales and pieces. I will forever be grateful to them for those short hours of pure joy.

I have bittersweet memories of my time at Brown—mostly good ones, really—but one of the great sadnesses is that it wasn’t really a place to nurture a musician like me. I perform jazz regularly in Manhattan now, but it has been years since I have played classical music with anything close to the level I attained before Brown. I miss it deeply, and I do attribute that change of direction in my life to the lack of resources available then at Brown.

I hope that Ms. Moss-Ward’s article is an indication that things have improved for the musical student at Brown.

Joseph Bachana ’86
New York City

More, Please

Kudos for an inspiring story about Fritz Pollard ’19, Brown’s only National Football League Hall of Famer and a symbol of Brown’s dedication to tolerance, opportunity, versatility, and self-worth (“Fritz’s Fame,” March/April). But, gee whiz, couldn’t you have told us how Fritz got to Brown in the first place?

Mike Gross ’64
Santa Fe, N.Mex.

Authors Stephen Eschenbach and Brett Hoover reply: Fritz Pollard was a bit of an academic vagabond. He first set his sights on Northwestern (his sister went there) and even worked out with that school’s football team, but was rejected by the admission office. He then followed his brother Leslie to Dartmouth but left for Bowdoin and then Harvard (briefly) before matriculating at Brown.

I wonder whether Mike Gross is alluding to stories that Pollard “went to the highest bidder,” meaning he went to the school that would pay his way. While I don’t think Pollard would have refused such largesse, how does one explain his suit-pressing service and other feverish moneymaking activities while at Brown? If someone was paying his way, he would have been much less likely to run a business while attending school.

Shrink Wrapped

As a pediatrician treating many troubled teens in western Massachusetts, I was intrigued by “Close to Home,” by David Marcus ’82 (March/April). In my large group practice I see many children who have faced the challenges of poverty, homelessness, abuse, family violence, and psychiatric disorders. While the work is discouraging at times, I am constantly inspired by the courage of so many of these children and families in the midst of adversity.

I especially liked Marcus’s “tips from the trenches,” such as knowing your kids’ friends well (even if they may complain about it), listening to your kids, helping them develop a passion, and encouraging them to join in community service. In my work teaching children self-hypnosis, I’ve learned it’s especially important to avoid such labels as anorexic or asthmatic, and to identify kids by their strengths and their uniqueness as human beings.

I empathize with Marcus’s writing this important work while facing a midlife crisis, a marital breakup, and the diagnosis of his own attention deficit disorder, while getting used to living in the San Francisco of the Northeast. There are so many therapists around here that his ADD could not have possibly gone undiagnosed!

David Gottsegen ’77
Belchertown, Mass.

A Marine’s Death

Thank you, William H. McCall ’40, for your letter about Dimi Gavriel ’97, who died in Iraq in November (“Culture’s Cost,” Mail Room, March/April). None of us likes war, but for a man so brave, who gave up so much, one would imagine that Brown would send at least one administration representative to either his funeral in Massachusetts or his burial at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C. Anything done at Commencement this May is a little late, and shows the University’s desire to tug at the heartstrings of our rich alumni rather than a desire to do the right thing at the right time.

Patrick Clark ’79
Cranston, R.I.

When one considers the malvolios of the far right, one realizes that one needs constantly to stand in their faces and shout, “Go shake thy ears!”

I rather liked the letter from William H. McCall ’40 because of its reference to Thermopylae, although I question what it is we’re supposed to compare Thermopylae to—certainly not to Iraq.

If one agrees with Gore Vidal that American democracy concluded two weeks after 9/11, one probably also thinks that any president should be impeached for leading America into war using fake reasons—especially if, with all his resources, he can’t see through the falsity.

It’s sad when a U.S. Marine and Brown graduate dies in war, sadder yet and monstrous when it’s a silly war.

John Escher ’61
Winston-Salem, N.C.

The article about Dimi Gavriel ’97 left the most important questions unanswered. Yes, he made the ultimate sacrifice, but for what?

Did he believe in a link between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden and want to avenge the deaths of friends in the World Trade Center? Did he believe Hussein had weapons of mass destruction?

Many Americans suspected at the time of the invasion that there was no solid evidence of WMD in Iraq, no immediate threat posed to us or our allies, and no important link between Iraq and Al Qaeda. These suspicions were all too correct. It’s now clear to all but the most rabid Republicans that the main reason the Bush administration invaded Iraq was to secure access to the oil reserves in Iraq and to topple a weakened tyrant and install a government favorable to U.S. interests.

More than 1,500 U.S. soldiers and countless Iraqi civilians have died, and we have flattened whole cities to “save” them. Our military has been caught both participating in and outsourcing torture. Our international reputation is in tatters. Osama bin Laden remains at large and has more ready recruits than ever. The country that harbored him, Afghanistan, is an opium factory run by warlords after our hit-and-run invasion. Even if the warring ethnic groups within Iraq manage to stitch together some semblance of a democracy, it is far from certain that it will be favorable to U.S. interests.

When I think of the ultimate sacrifice of people like Gavriel, I have another unanswered question: where is the movement to impeach George W. Bush?

Laura Mosedale ’82

Lost at Sea

As a longtime member of the New Bedford Whaling Museum in New Bedford, Massachusetts, I must protest the sloppy editing of the review of the book about Robert Cushman Murphy ’11, Ambassador to the Penguins. A visit to the museum, which is just thirty-five miles east of campus, would reveal that it is not located in Connecticut, as the review erroneously states. My wife, a past president of the museum’s docent council, adds that you would also find there a great deal of information on the cruise of the Daisy described in the book and review.

Robert G Walker ’45
Destin, Fla.

Does Therapy Work?

With regard to Walter A. Brown’s Faculty P.O.V., “Was Freud Right?” (November/December), there is in fact much modern statistical evidence that psychological therapies are generally effective, and that this effectiveness is more than a placebo effect. My review of hundreds of clinical-outcome studies revealed that after some form of psychological therapy the average patient outperforms approximately 77 percent of those who receive no therapy on a measure of mental/behavioral health.

In studies that included a placebo group, the average patient outperforms those in the placebo group approximately 72 percent of the time. This suggests there might be some placebo effect at work, a conclusion also supported by studies that included both a control group and a placebo group. Such studies reveal that the average placebo participant outperforms approximately 67 percent of the control participants. Still, the numbers also suggest that, despite this placebo effect, the effect of therapy is significantly greater.

Those who want more detailed accounts can consult my 1996 article that quantitatively compared therapy, placebo, and control in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology and my 2005 book (co-authored with John J. Kim) on effect sizes. The vast literature on what is called “meta-analysis” of clinical outcome studies is also very informative.

I am not a clinician, so I have no professional stake in these matters. I am by training an experimental psychologist whose specialty is modern data analysis.

Robert J. Grissom ’60
Santa Cruz, Calif.

Demanding Excellence

I join Rebecca Hensler ’91 (“As Good As It Gets,” Mail Room, March/April) and Sarah McFarland Taylor ’90 (“CNN Never Had a Chance,” Obituaries, November/ December) in paying tribute to Professor Giles Milhaven.

I will never forget the written comment Professor Milhaven made on the first paper I submitted to him during my freshman year: “Your answer, although true, could not have been more vague, more superficial, or less enlightening.”

Devastated, I probably would have dropped the course had I not already “no-credited” Geology 5 the previous semester. So I soldiered on, taking a total of four courses with Professor Milhaven. I wasn’t even a religious studies concentrator.

He was the rare professor who ruthlessly demanded excellence from his students but who, at the same time, had a wonderfully expansive definition of what it meant to excel. His style was not for everyone; I had friends whom he infuriated. But for many of us, he brought out creative and analytical capabilities that we literally never knew we had.

I don’t remember the substance of everything I learned in all those Milhaven courses. But I think about him often. And I have kept every one of the papers I wrote for him—his comments and all.

Ty Alper ’95
Berkeley, Calif.

WBRU Reunion

Next February will mark the fortieth anniversary of WBRU’s first going on the air. A fairly large group of the station’s early pioneers is planning a reunion in Providence for June 24–26 of this year. It will be the first time many have seen each other since graduation, and we expect to share many memories and stories. Anyone interested in this reunion can e-mail me.

Les Blatt ’65
Maplewood, N.J.

Charlie’s Memory

Charles A. Baldwin II, or “Charlie” as we knew him, served as Brown’s chaplain from 1958 to 1990. He provided moral leadership, energy, and direction to an activist campus ministry—one shaped by individual conscience and social responsibility. Charlie was a leader in the civil rights movement, a founder of the Interfaith Health Care Ministries, a driving force behind Rhode Island’s first hospice program, and interim president of Tougaloo College. This remarkable legacy was captured eloquently in Stanley Aronson’s “One of the Righteous Few” (Obituaries, January/February 2003).

Inspired by the lesson of his life, we have undertaken a fund-raising campaign to endow two scholarships in Charlie’s memory: one for a Tougaloo graduate entering the Brown medical program and another for a Brown undergraduate with significant financial need. We have raised $350,000 from Charlie’s friends and admirers. Our goal is $500,000. We encourage anyone who’d like to contribute to send a check or pledge to the Baldwin Fund, c/o the Brown Development Office, Box 1893, Providence 02912. Please indicate to which scholarship your gift should be applied. Either of us would be happy to answer any questions.

David Bloom ’71
Hastings, N.Y.

Josh Posner ’71
Cambridge, Mass.

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May / June 2005