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"The Good Old Song"
Virginia Glee Club, Virginia Women’s Chorus, and University Singers. A Virginia Choral Showcase. 2000. CR419o

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Virginiana:  Good Old Songs

In a letter written to Peter Carr in September 1814, Thomas Jefferson expressed his clear intention to integrate music study into the curriculum for the new university. He envisioned that music theory would be combined in a department with Civil Architecture, Gardening, Painting and Sculpture. In the 1820s, the University's Board of Visitors approved music instruction on Grounds. However, in the absence of funds to erect a music building, classes and lessons took place in the Rotunda.

In 1919, Paul McIntire agreed to fund a school of music history and appreciation, based on similar programs at Yale, Princeton, and Harvard. By 1950, the curriculum included history, theory, composition, choral singing, orchestra, and instrumental instruction. Studies in the history of jazz, ethnic music, and electronic music appeared in the 1970s, and the Virginia Center for Computer Music was established in 1988. This center supports work in computer sound generation and related topics. Currently, the Music Department includes eleven full-time academic faculty and over 50 music majors. It sponsors over 80 concerts and lectures each year.


Programme of the Opening Concert. University of Virginia. Banjo, Mandolin and Guitar and Glee Clubs. [Charlottesville]: C.M. Brand, Printer, 1891.

The Virginia Glee Club, the first musical organization at the University, was founded in 1871 when a group of students rooming in Cabell House banded together into a singing group.




Henshaw, Nevil G., and Jesse B. Hull. Vocal Score of "The Visiting Girl." [Charlottesville: n.p., ca. 1920].

Gift of Frank Craddock

In this 1920 musical play, the ghost of Thomas Jefferson visits the University of Virginia, where "he is alternately amused, dazed, and angry at the many changes about him."



Craighill, Edward A. "The Good Old Song." In A. Frederick Wilson's Songs of the University of Virginia. New York: Hinds, Noble & Eldredge, 1906.

Gift of Henry Peterson





"Good Old Song" Musical Key Chain. University of Virginia souvenirs. 1999.

Purchased with the Minor Fund





Songs of the University of Virginia. LP. RCA Victor, n.d.




Photograph of Guy Lombardo's band at the University of Virginia Final Dances. Charlottesville, 1941.

For many years a fixture at New Year's Eve celebrations, Guy Lombardo is unforgettably linked with the melody "Auld Lang Syne" (better known to Hoos as "The Good Old Song"). Lombardo's association with the song dates back to a 1930 Easters dance in Memorial Gymnasium, when students sang their lyrics to his band's rendition of the piece. By the time Lombardo left, he'd grown so attached to the song and the University that not only did he promise to return to play for graduation that year but he also adopted the "The Good Old Song" as his signature melody.




Thompson, Randall. The Testament of Freedom: A Setting of Four Passages from the Writings of Thomas Jefferson. Boston: E.C. Schirmer Music Co., 1944. From the Books of John Lloyd Newcomb, Second President of the University of Virginia.

Chairman of the Music Department Randall Thompson wrote The Testament of Freedom to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Thomas Jefferson's birth. Using Jefferson's own writings, Thompson affirmed the concepts of life and liberty during the height of World War II. The piece premiered on April 13, 1943, sung by the Glee Club under the direction of Stephen Tuttle, with the composer at the piano. CBS broadcast the performance, and the Office of War Information taped the program for troops overseas.




Photograph of Duke Ellington by Ed Roseberry. University of Virginia, Charlottesville, 1961.

Courtesy of Ed Roseberry




During the struggles surrounding desegregation in the 1950s and 1960s, the University nonetheless was host to African-American performers. Chuck Berry, Ike Turner, Dizzy Gillespie, Erroll Garner, Bud Powell, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Ray Charles, Bo Diddley, the Four Tops, the Temptations, the Platters, and many others appeared on stage, despite Senator Harry Byrd's Massive Resistance movement. Although the graduate schools had admitted African-American students since 1950, desegregation in the undergraduate schools of the University did not occur until 1968.



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