Interview With Dr. James Berdahl
- TAPE 0
- Version 1.0
- Dr. James Berdahl, Director, California Marching Band, 19-19--
- Michelle Gluck, ’85
- Date of Interview:
- June 14, 1986
- Michelle Gluck
- Date of Transcription:
- January 5, 1987 (Part 1)
- June 5-6, 1992 (Part 2)
- Ida (Mrs. James) Berdahl
- [This transcription now contains the COMPLETE text of the interview]
- [NOTE: Following editorial notes are attributed as thus:
- Tim Castro - TOC]
MG: Tell me, friend, where is the microphone on this thing?
JB: There was one very touchy time, evidently, that I had forgotten about, just before or while we were on the campaign to go to Brussels, a big project. I don’t know if you saw that or not, but I wrote a letter to the Ex-Comm saying that, no more, I was going to having nothing more to do with any Brussels trip. It was because of the way they had handled me. [Chuckle.] It looks rather childish now, when I think of it, but what happened, evidently, was that all the other four members of the Ex-Comm had ganged up on me. I don’t even know, now, what the issue was.
IB: Would you like some more coffee?
JB: Yes, please.
What the issue was, it was something that they, anyway, I came into a stacked deck. It wasn’t fair, you know. It was all cut and dried, the voting, and I didn’t even have a chance, and I just said, that’s just not fair. I believe in student power, but when it gets out of hand like that then I draw the line. I said, there will be no Brussels trip as far as I’m concerned, I’m not going to have any part of it and that’s the end of it.
MG: Was this in ’57 or ’58?
JB: ’58. Spring of ’58, April. That’s pretty close, it was in April. We had peanuts, you know, for money at that time. The issue was, perhaps it was that I was urging them to concentrate on their studies and forget it, because there were guys that were flunking out, and everything else, it was terrible. Anyway, that’s past and we went! you know, miracles . . .
MG: Miracles do happen.
JB: Anyway, I’m ahead of myself.
(Arrangement of tape machines ensued.]
JB: It’s nice to have you here today, Michelle.
MG: Why, thank you, Dr. Berdahl.
JB: I’ve been thinking a good deal about our talk, and I don’t know whether I’m really well prepared or not. I’ll do the best I can.
MG: Well, that’s what we want, just to hear what you’ve got to say.
JB: I suppose we ought to tell what the date is, on this tape.
MG: It’s the fourteenth of June --
JB: Flag Day.
MG: Flag Day, nineteen eighty-six.
MG: Here in beautiful downtown San Leandro.
JB: [Chuckle] Beautiful downtown San Leandro, Mission Bay Mobile Home Park.
MG: Which, incidentally, is very nice.
JB: I’m glad you said that, because we like it very, very much. In fact, if we had time, I’d like to show you around because we live kind of like in a country club. It doesn’t sound right for a mobile home park, but it really is nice. We have the pool, and the jacuzzi, and the saunas, and a clubhouse, and a lot of activities that we take part in. It’s a nice life for us here. We get back to Berkeley usually every week, to touch my roots.
MG: I guess we can start with the fundaments. We’re trying to find anything we can of the history of the Band before 1923, when it was the ROTC Band. Our material on that subject is very sketchy, and we don’t know if the ROTC has anything better. We haven’t checked there yet.
JB: I don’t know what kind of records the ROTC might have. All I have pre 1923, of course I wasn’t here then, is what I remember, mostly from Chris Tellefsen. And also, what I learned through my own connection with the ROTC. You know I was the ROTC Band director as a graduate student in 1939-40.
MG: I didn’t know that.
JB: Yeah, it was my last year in Berkeley before I went back East. So, I did know something about it then. There was, sort of, a closer relationship between all the bands, as I gather. In 1923 -- and I don’t think I need to fill you in on that, I think you have enough material on the ASUC Band that I don’t need to. But pre - 1923, as I understand it, the University of California Band was ROTC. That’s where there was a band.
MG: Was that the only one?
JB: Perhaps there was some concert band. Maybe the ROTC Band became a concert band, then, too, I don’t quite know. But there was music going on at Cal before that, and some very fine directors. A man by the name of Glenn Haydon, who became a very well-known professor at the University of North Carolina and chairman of that department, a fine theoretician, wrote many textbooks.
MG: How do you spell that?
JB: I think it’s H-a-y-d-e-n. I think. Glenn Hayden. It might have been H-a-y-d-o-n. [The correct spelling is Glen Haydon. - TOC] But, he was a graduate of Berkeley. He was a student at Berkeley, and was one of the top students, I suppose, and then he got jobs. He was an ROTC director before then. I was very pleased when I met him, many years later when I was at a convention on the Chapel Hill campus of the University of North Carolina. I met Mr. Haydon there at the time, although in his later, latest years. We visited about our common experiences being band directors in the ROTC, and also about various professors.
[Another director) was an important man, and I’m sorry I don’t get his name, but I’ll get in touch with you if I can remember. [Note: see transcript of 6/28/86.] He directed the Oakland Municipal Band, at Lake Merritt. He had been an Army bandmaster and retired and then came into the Oakland public schools. And he also, around 1916, 1918, he was the ROTC Band director, a man I admired very much. His name escapes me right now.
All I do know is that in the music department there was a man, a Belgian, who some of the people that I play with over at the Bohemian Club tell me about; what a great musician he was.
It didn’t have anything to do with football. It was very informal; whatever music they had at football games I don’t know of until the stadium was built.
MG: The music department still tries to have nothing to do with football.
JB: Well, at that time, it was more closely connected. My immediate predecessor, Charles Cushing, of course, was a member of the music department, and the director of the concert band and the marching band. In fact, those relationships were very strong. He believed in the Band very much. He had strong ideas on what the Band should play, even on the field; he was more restrictive. [It] should play California songs or marches, and none of this pop stuff, it wasn’t very good with him. But, you know, it was a different era. When I came in, why, of course, I was trained by him, and I believed in a lot of those things, but I also believed in a student activity band. It had to be more in tune, not only with the students in the Band, but also your public and your student public, contemporary students. After all, a director is bound to be a college generation separated. So, sometimes, I would conduct some pieces that I choked a little bit about, but with my main emphasis then to play it well, no matter what. And, realizing that it is entertainment, and we’re not trying to be a concert hall out there.
Although, I wanted it to be as close to concert hall caliber performance and style as we could possibly make it with the time factor, and the outdoor conditions. And I still think that it’s possible to play in tune, and play well, and to pay attention to detail, in music as well as marching. But, that’s another subject. Mr. Cushing was a real scholarly gentleman, but he loved football, and he loved the football band, and he loved Cal. He had his own style, and he was rather restrictive.
Of course, the Band was a real good band, they played well. But, there was a sudden influx of Big Ten that we’d never had before. The first Rose Bowl agreement came right after the war. Otherwise, Big Ten was back there, and we were back here; sometimes there was an inter-section football game, but no bands ever traveled. But with the Rose Bowl agreement, they did travel.
Now, I’m getting ahead of myself again. Let’s get back.
MG: Well, don’t worry too much about that, by the way.
JB: Just ramble?
MG: Yeah; the more conversational it is, the better. It’s my job to sort it out later.
JB: Yeah; all right.
The whole change in Cal Band style came with the juxtaposition of Big Ten and Pacific Coast. They were more . . . from long time back, had been music department faculty, scholarship, situation. And we didn’t -- we grooved in the old Benjamin Ide Wheeler idea of student activity. The ASUC has been perverted many times --
JB: -- but I think the idea is still great, and hopefully, it’s still a viable thing. That students should be in control, major control, of their own extracurricular activities. Uncensored, particularly, by faculty or some adult supervisor. The idea being that if you throw responsibility, and give it to students, they will shoulder it. I think the Band has been a great example of this. There are other areas in the ASUC that were very irresponsible. Sometimes in the political side, and sometimes in the Daily Cal and things like that. But even there, it came back, up and down.
MG: Something like a pendulum, it swings back and forth.
JB: Yeah. But the idea is still good, and it’s been proven now many times to me, in the Band. As much as there were times, of course, as an older person, and having my own ideas, and some kind of a generation gap perhaps too, that I would have preferred things that our students didn’t prefer. Our disagreements were never large disagreements. I made it a point, I think, not to nit-pick over small things. You know, I was going to be there next year, and some of the students would be graduated, and if I didn’t win today, maybe I might tomorrow. The idea was, if I thought some point was a major thing that was important to me, and I thought, important to the University, and to the idea of the Cal Band as I knew it, then I would really make an effort to convince. Even if it was not quite overwhelming. Usually, when I saved my fire for something that I thought was very important, the students were very considerate and thought that it must be something worth listening to, if I felt that strongly about it. I had very few times that we had any real big disagreements. Usually, when we did have, it was usually about a tour, or some big, big project that everybody was pretty excited about, and I was probably just as much at fault as the students if we ever had any falling out like the one I just mentioned to you.
MG: Since we don’t have tours anymore, that problem doesn’t tend to crop up very often. [Ironic chuckle]
JB: [Chuckle] Well, maybe you’re just as well off, I don’t know.
MG: We’re not sure, either.
JB: Because, it’s an awful thing to go through, the raising of those big funds. You have to question in your own mind, sometimes. Is this justified? Is it worth our time and effort, and is it really worth it? In the end we say, yes it was worth it, when we did it, like the Osaka Expo. It was really a wonderful thing, and I think we did some good for the University.
And, in 1965, summer, seven months [sic] all across the country and back. I think that was important to the University. It was one year after the big Free Speech issue came up, and there were a lot of misconceptions about Berkeley students. We certainly didn’t make enough of a dent to erase that completely, but wherever we did go, we made an impression that Berkeley students were not something to be afraid of, they were just regular students. We really did a lot for it. I just wish we could have been on television or something, where millions would have seen us instead of the thousands that did see us. But it did do some good, and I was proud of that.
Not that we were going out to show that the Band was some military conservative bunch, no! they were just as varied in their beliefs as any other segment of the student body.
MG: But they were more mainstream than radical.
JB: Well, they were more pro-University, they didn’t want to do -- no matter how they might have agreed or disagreed on the political issues at the time. They were not the type of students, maybe a few, but not the type that would do anything that would tear the University down in pursuing whatever the thing was. And that’s where we disagreed. I was, you know, in my earliest days in Berkeley, now that we’re talking politics a little bit, as related to other students. In the early fifties, that was the day of the conservative, this is the height of McCarthyism. And, although we didn’t get that, we had no more -- except one incident that you may have heard about. But the Band was pretty much, I would say, came out of Republican families. Not that that’s bad, but I mean, they were more conservative.
MG: That’s different from the way it is today.
JB: And there were about two or three students that I can remember, and I, were Adli Stevensen Democrats, you know. And we were much the minority, the liberals, you see. I’ve always been oriented politically, more on that -- I was a Franklin Roosevelt New Dealer, and I guess that’s where I grew up, and I followed that concept. But you know, from 1964 on, when everybody was tearing the University apart, I became pretty conservative. Not that I had changed my ideas, I don’t think. But everybody else had caught up to me and gone way past, farther than I drew the line, when it became injurious to the University’s interests. I think where we went wrong was when that famous Rule 17 was taken out. Rule 17 was the rule to cut the campus orders of all politics and all issues stopped. It was going to school, beyond there, and you couldn’t sit out on the Plaza. It seems almost impossible to imagine that now, the way the plazas are full. But it did keep the University peaceful, and there was no rule against outside. And from time immemorial, when I was an undergraduate, Sather Gate Soapbox was wide open. We had the peace-nicks, and the anti-war, absolutely, in ’38-’39, before we got into the war. America Firsters and everything else, form one end of the spectrum to the other. But it was not allowed inside,, and if we had been able to maintain that, I think we would never have had the problems that we did. I guess it had to come, and it was a different era, altogether.
JB: Well, we’re not talking about the Band. In relationship, what I meant to say was that, at one time, it was just a few of us on the liberal side, and the rest of the Band was pretty much like the mainstream in America was at the time; came out of families that cut their hair short, and looked nice, and we didn’t allow any women in the Band, that wouldn’t have been quite the right thing. Things have changed, and I think, in many respects, for the better.
MG: [Involuntary chuckle]
JB: That’s one of the best things that ever happened.
MG: Well. I have to admit, I’m glad you agree with that.
JB: No, I do agree with it, but I’ll have to admit, kind of sheepishly, that I preferred it, until it did happen, at that time I would have preferred to keep it all male. But, there was no way we could, so I said, let’s not fight it, let’s join it. It really -as I’ve said many times, it should have been done twenty-five years earlier. We would have been better off. There are still some of the alumni boys who don’t accept it.
MG: I know -- I was on the all-female Ex-Comm, remember?
JB: [Chuckle] Yes.
MG: We heard a lot about it then.
JB: Yeah. But when you look back, you can see, mistakes were made. But there again, we were part of a -- it was the bigger conferences, like the Pac-10 or whatever our Pacific Coast conference was called -- they were all-male bands. And the Big Ten. It was all male. And your larger conferences were pretty much that. That is, your state colleges, and of course the high schools, why, of course, they had women, and then when they came to the University they couldn’t play in the marching band, and that was not fair. But I said, well, fine, you can play in the Concert Band, we’d love to have you there.
MG: You wouldn’t get any flute players otherwise.
JB: [Laughs] But, things do change, and we did. But we didn’t change until the federal government insisted.
MG: Title IX was thrown at you?
JB: Yeah. Was it Title IX, was that the one? And told the president and the chancellor, you will do this, or they’d grab, you know -- just imagine! The Band couldn’t stand in the way of all those federal grants, and that was the threat. And Ohio State was the famous, all-male -- one of the great Big Ten marching bands, Ohio State and Cal were the last to go down. Their band was holding out, too.
MG: I didn’t realize that it had to do with federal money. I thought it was pushed through the ASUC, at least that’s what the myth says.
JB: Who says that?
MG: The common myth is that it had to do with an ASUC resolution.
JB: There could have been an ASUC resolution too, my memory is not clear about that. We would have fought ASUC resolutions, that wouldn’t have meant too much to us. I remember that the way the Band operated, we fought for budgets, we fought against people who wanted to do away with the Band, every other year, you know. And we always won, or came out pretty good. It was an edict from the Chancellor. The Chancellor said, “you will”. and it must be done.
MG: I see. I didn’t realize that.
JB: So, you know, we listen to chancellors.
MG: We don’t have much choice.
JB: They’ve saved our skins, many times. We had administrative people who were really for the Band, and tried to keep hands off as far as running it, but they realized that the Band was important to the University and they didn’t ever want to see it fall apart. But this was one issue where the Chancellor had no alternative. Even if he had felt personally different, which I don’t know; he wouldn’t ever commit himself. But it had to be done.
MG: What made you reluctant to have that change?
JB: What was that?
MG: I said, what made you reluctant to have the change?
JB: Oh, I guess, just the tradition. I was still -- you know, I grew up in Cal Band as a student, and in my earliest years as director. I guess -- you see, my daughter was a clarinet player, and she just missed it. She came in just before this change came, and she played in my concert band but couldn’t play in the marching band, and she loved marching in the Berkeley High Band. But we didn’t ever argue about it, she just accepted that that’s the way things were, but she would have liked to, I know.
What made me reluctant? I guess the change, and also, I think, my regard -maybe this is old-fashioned -- but the Cal Band -- I couldn’t imagine girls on those trips with us. I cringed, and my ears got red, even, and I’m a fellow, and I’ve been around a lot. Men of college age are not the best social graces when they get together. And I worried that they wouldn’t conform. Especially in the first change, when there was just a few, that they would try to embarrass a girl right out of the Band. And I think they came close to that, too. There were certain hard-line guys that would do that.
MG: Oh, I think you’re right, they didn’t conform. I don’t think that’s changed much at all.
JB: But then, what I’ve learned, too, is that, after all, you girls weren’t born yesterday, you grew up in high school, with the times, and there’s not much that you hadn’t heard before, too. I was overly protective, or something. That was part of my attitude.
MG: Well, that’s probably a legitimate concern, at least then.
JB: It was a thing that 1, well, that kind of a thing. I realize a certain kind of boisterous humor that can be a little bit “raunchy”, is not all bad.
MG: A lot of women like that, too.
JB: Yeah, young people want to have fun and blow off steam, and there’s nothing -- I’m certainly not a prude. But sometimes, it just gets a little bit much. I stopped riding the busses purely for that reason. I just could not take that ride down. So, then I started to fly. And, particularly when it became a formality. You know, we have all kinds of people in the Band. Some come from different homes. and different kind of bringing up, and I didn’t want to have any student ever drop the Band because he couldn’t accept some of that jocularity. I think the Band should be for everybody, and if it stayed within bounds, we could have kept some people who dropped out. Now, maybe some of the guys though they were being prudish, but no, they were some very nice students.
And so, I tried to discourage things when they got out of hand. But I was getting to be in a position that I didn’t want to be in. I didn’t want to be a disciplinarian, and a papa-san. That was not my role. I was a musical director, and one member of the Executive Committee that could argue about points, and on this subject I did argue. Not too strong, but I tried to calm things down a little bit.
Particularly what I objected to, and I hope it’s been taken care of, I don’t know, is when -- You know, songs and stories, that’s in a folk tradition, to me. If it’s good enough, and funny enough, to be retold, or a song to be re- sung, and you can remember the words to it, fine. But you don’t make a poopsheet out of it and say, now, here are the songs, you will sing it, to a freshman coming on the bus. I think, just for practical purposes, those things are very dangerous to have lying around. And who gets the brunt of that, if somebody writes to President Sprout or Chancellor Heynes or somebody, of some scurrilous literature that the Cal Band left on a high school field after a Friday night performance before a game, some year? And that’s happened. And then, it comes down to the Chancellor to me, and why? why do you do this?
MG: They’re a little more careful about it now.
JB: Well, I would hope so. I hope they don’t -- If it can’t be remembered without being printed, I don’t think it should be printed! Why?!
MG: Well, there’s some logic to that.
JB: There’s a folk tradition here, and if it dies, it dies. School songs that are popular will always live; some songs from way back have died out because nobody knew the words anymore, or didn’t remember. The Cal Band helps to preserve the good ones, but there are many things that die out, and this is in the folk music tradition. And I think that’s where it belongs. I think to formalize it, that’s not correct.
So I just keep saying that, and hope, some year, it will catch on.
MG: Well, if we can go back for a minute, to the transition in 1923. We have a lot of documentation of how this was done, some of the things Chris Tellefsen did and so on, but what I don’t really know is, what inspired him to do it? Why did he make the change?
JB: Well, Chris Tellefsen was an employee of the ASUC, and over the years had many different kinds of jobs. I don’t recall, right now, exactly what his position was at that time. For a long time, he had to do with caps and gowns, I know, but he didn’t have that job yet, in 1923. But he worked for the ASUC in various capacities. He was, at this time, 1923 -- was Eshelman Hall built yet? I think it must have been. Or, no, no -- maybe not. At any rate, when I came into the Band, in ’37, why, Eshelman Hall -- the old Eshelman Hall, which is called Moses Hall now, I think?
MG: I think so.
JB: Yeah. And there’s a court there. What, it’s Stevens Hall, and Moses Hall.
MG: And the court in between.
JB: Yeah, there’s a court there. You come down some steps, and Room 5 of the old Eshelman Hall, which is now Moses Hall, was the band room. It was not a rehearsal area at all, and there were no offices or anything. It was just one big locker room. And there was a ping-pong table, and the manager had a locker. And he threw all of his stuff and whatever records he had, was in the locker, and everybody had a locker. And it was a hangout, you see. In between classes, and at noontime, the guys would sit out on the little porch there, to that Room 5. And we had some very good Dixieland jazz players. They’d sit out there, and also later, when I came back as a director.
So it was a real home on the campus. You know, for a big University, being in the Band, and it still does that function, I think, is that you can identify right away, you don’t feel like a lost soul in this 30,000 group. You’ve got friends right away, and that’s what the Band does, it did at that time.
So -- this was before they were in Eshelman, do I don’t know where the Band’s quarters were. I suppose, ROTC, it was where the ROTC was at the time, It was the Men’s Gym when I had the ROTC Band, that’s where the ROTC still is, down near Callahan Hall, and the Men’s Gym.
MG: Ah, they don’t have Callahan at the moment, but they do have offices at Harmon.
JB: Yeah, okay.
MG: I guess Callahan’s going to be rebuilt, but I’m not sure when. Right now they have temporary, mobile units there.
JB: Well, at any rate, with the stadium coming up in 1923, I suppose that was the stimulus, and how Chris, where he got the idea, or who got the idea and designated Chris as an ASUC employee to do something about it, I don’t really know.
There’s a lot of -- Chris deserves an awful lot of credit. believe me. I don’t want to take away a bit of what he did for the Band at that time. But this gets to be a little bit legendary, and there’s a lot of myths that get encrusted on, and being the founder of the Band and all that, I’m not too sure. The Band was there already, and it was a question of, with the new stadium, they wanted a band for football games, and so. the point was that it was going to be an ASUC activity separated from ROTC, but I’m sure, as I’m sitting here, that it was practically duplicate personnel. It was just that, when they went up there and played in the stadium, they weren’t going to march around in military uniform, you see.
MG: At least not real military uniforms.
JB: Yeah. ROTC-type. And they wanted to divorce from that. So, uniforms were needed, and that’s where Chris came in. In his jobs in the ASUC, with the ASUC Store or something, he knew how to scrounge around and find things like that. And he acquired the first uniforms. And at the first performance, as I understand it, perhaps you know about this, from the records, than I do, it was in the Fall of ’23 at the Big Game, wasn’t it?
MG: I think so. How long after that did there continue to be an ROTC Band?
JB: ROTC bands continued until early Kennedy, President Kennedy’s administration, when things were getting real -- already getting problems in Indochina. Madame Nhu was a big name then. Her husband was an official in the regime, at the time in Vietnam.
President Kennedy was already getting worried about the situation there, and we were having so-called “advisors” there, and there was controversy about this, of course.
And Madame Nhu was quite a glamorous lady, who was visiting, trying to get support for supporting the regime there. We were very little involved, militarily, just a few advisors. But it was a big stir, at the time, and there were protests, you know, in the city, and there were some protests going on already, and also about compulsory ROTC.
We took for granted the Morrel [sp?] Act, that came in Lincoln’s administration, or right after him. It was a Land Grant college. All the Land Grant colleges were required by the Morrel Act to have ROTC, and I think they interpreted it as being compulsory for all underclassmen, you know, freshmen and sophomores, to take ROTC. Then the upper division ROTC was that you could go on and become an officer, but that was voluntary. And we followed that, and just about the whole country did, but before we got off it, there was a beginning of a cracking of the compulsory part of it. There was different interpretations of the Morrel Act, as I understand it, that said that they must provide it but that it was not compulsory.
MG: Was it compulsory just for men?
JB: Right. Yeah. There again, it was -- women were not involved with military. So they weren’t in the military bands, either, of course. And so as an undergraduate, I had the Army -- the only ROTC band we had at that time was the Army ROTC Band.
We had a Navy ROTC, but it was much smaller, and whenever they needed music for their reviews, they’d get something from Treasure Island or some Navy post around here. But we maintained a big, eighty- or ninety-piece ROTC Band back in 1939 or ’40, when I had it as a graduate student. On the basis of getting that job, my wife and I got married, because I was going to get thirty-three dollars a month for that job. In addition to her job for the telephone company, we figured we could make it. [Laughs]
MG: You did, huh?
JB: Well, anyway, Charles Cushing was directing the Marching Band, and the Concert Band, but I got this little extra job that helped me out during my graduate work. Let’s see . . .
MG: So the ROTC bands continued until . . .
JB: Up ’till about ’60, ’61. I think it was probably ’61. So when I came bank to direct the marching band in 1950, and then in 1952, I, instead of going back from my leave from the University of Virginia -- which, I was on leave my first two years here, doing graduate work. Then, in 1952, 1 stayed on permanently, at Cal, and I had, so, nine years of ROTC. And then, at that time, we -- this was after the war, of course, and the Air Force was getting to be a big . . . Before the war, the Air Force was the Army Air Corps; and then they became a separate, and during World War II, of course, a very big and very important military outfit, so after the war the Air Force was doing everything, including, they had an Air Force ROTC unit. And we had a new commanding officer of the Air Force who was very interested in music, and he was going to have a band. So, they organized an Air Force ROTC Band, and I became the director of that, too.
MG: This was all in one year?
JB: So I had a fifty-piece Air Force ROTC Band, and a ninety-piece Army Air Force Band. That’s pretty significant. That was right away, in 1950, when I came back.
MG: How did these bands relate to the ASUC Band? Was there still overlap of personnel?
JB: Well, there was quite a bit of overlapping of personnel, guys who had to take ROTC anyway, when it was compulsory like that, would rather -- it was only for their drill. They had their regular classwork like anybody else, but they could be in the band for their drill, and not to be out there with the company, see. And in the Air Force, the same way. And they played for their own -- the only thing they did was a functional thing, they played for their reviews. And once in a while, for drill. Or, otherwise, we’d play inside, and once in a while go out and have a practice review, and the main thing I had to do as far as the military officers were concerned was a steady 120. They’d clock me, and if it got to be 128, why, it’s too fast, if it got to be 110, it was too slow. It’s not easy to have an absolutely steady tempo, as you know. But we did real well. The personnel was quite a bit, but you know what the ROTC did that I thought was a very good thing, it was sort of a -- I viewed it as a reclaim. Many students who had been in a band in high school, and maybe dropped out for whatever reason, quite often because they were scheduled to go to Cal, and their counselors and their mamas and papas said, now you’ve got to get out of the band and study hard and get grades to get in to Cal. You know, that kind of an attitude was quite common.
MG: We have a problem with that now, the way the standards are going up.
JB: Forever a problem. But some of these kids had played in a band, and this was a chance for them to play again, because we took anybody. There were no tryouts for the ROTC Band. If they could play an instrument, particularly if they had their own instrument -- we had a body of instruments in the ROTC, too, but if they had their own instrument, or if they could play -- if they were a tuba player, say, and hadn’t played since they were a freshman or sophomore in high school, come on. And kind of get back into it again, and sometimes some of those guys turned out pretty well and would come into the Cal Band later, and when they got their confidence. And I thought it was a wonderful idea.
Also, athletes, who had no -- you know, their practice time always interfered with any kind of extracurricular activity other than their sport. I’d have football players, track stars, in my ROTC Band. I remember one great big tackle, must have been 250, played the flute. [Chuckle] One morning he came in with a big, fat lip, you know, he’d -- they’d had a scrimmage that he got banged up, and he was trying to play, and it just struck me as being funny, a big fellow playing a flute with a fat lip.
It did wonders for fellows to have a chance to play, and that’s what I think college activities are for.
MG: The ROTC bands didn’t do campus activities or anything like that?
JB: No. This Air Force Band commander, Air Force unit commander, he was a real ambitious, proud type of fellow, and he kind of wanted his Air Force Band to get in to doing things like that, and I said no. Air Force plays for Air Force, and military things. It’s not going to try to jump into ASUC Band affairs. You know, where we belong. Once in a while they could play a concert, sure, in an outdoor area. That was -- I encouraged that, but we hardly had time, you know. Just those drill periods every week, just to learn the marches for that was all we could do, and to learn concert music -- but once in a while, we’d have a, kind of a march concert.
MG: How often did you rehearse?
JB: Twice a week. Why not.
MG: And how often was the Cal Band rehearsing, at that point?
JB: As I recall. the Cal Band was still on a twice a week, Tuesday and Thursday afternoons.
MG: So the guys who were in both were doing four days a week.
JB: Well, yeah. but the ROTC periods were in the middle of the day sometimes and they didn’t conflict.
MG: Oh. I see -- school time.
JB: No, it did give them more playing time, sure, it was good. But rehearsing different music.
JB: So, the relationship of the ROTC bands and the so- called ASUC Band, or the Cal Band, there was similar personnel, you know, but not completely. There were many fellows in the ROTC Band that, that was the only thing they could play in; they were athletes, or, for whatever reason, sometimes they weren’t really good enough to play in anything else. But the relationship was -- oops!
[Tape turned to second side.]
JB: We were talking about the relationship between the ROTC bands and the Cal Band. Interrelated personnel, but as an organization they were completely separate. And I even -- when there were tendencies. as I mentioned to you before, the new Air Force band, sometimes that commanding officer of the unit had ideas of the Air Force Band becoming important in other things other than just the Air Force. I saw to it that they didn’t, that they stayed within bounds. I didn’t want any fuzzy borders between the Cal Band and the ROTC bands. And it worked out right that way. And it lasted clear until -- as I said, we had on the average around a ninety-piece Army ROTC Band that had gone back, way back, and Air Force band from 1950 on that was averaging around fifty.
MG: Do you know how far back the ROTC Band went, by the way? We’re getting dates, some things say 1889. some say 1890, and some 1891.
JB: I think, back in the late nineteenth century there sometime, but I don’t know how far back. I’ve seen a picture, I think you’ve seen that picture, was it 18
JB: ’89? And did they have some kind of military uniform on? Yeah. The ROTC band that sticks out in my mind, and I know they existed long before this, but they were pretty important, particularly because of some of the people who were in it. I think we have in the band room, either in the band auditorium or else in Mr. Briggs’ office now. a picture when President Robert Gordon Sproul, as a student, was the drum major. Have you seen that?
MG: No, I haven’t.
JB: Oh, you must see that. Big tall, long fellow, ideal size for a drum major. He’s always been proud of the fact that he was drum major. That was the only band there was at the time, so he was drum major of the Cal Band. And in that same band, in that same picture, where Sprout is the drum major, there’s a clarinet player, a blond-haired clarinet player from Bakersfield by the name of Earl Warren, who became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and long-time governor of this state.
MG: [Laughs] I’ve heard of him.
JB; And very important in Boalt Hall law history, and the university. I think bands have always had people like that, that have gone on in various fields and done very very well. I can just name all kinds of students who have done well. Not necessarily famous, but, there’s something about the initiative and the responsibility that they learn in the Band that doesn’t hurt them at all.
MG: Well. it’s great training, I think. At least, it certainly was for me. That might be a good next topic, actually. What was your experience on the Executive Committee like, as a student?
JB: Well, my experience on the Executive Committee was very stimulating, and kept me on my toes, because, you know, they were very bright. All our executive officers are -- they’ve been elected by their own peers, and . . . There have been times, I think, in these elections, when I privately, thought maybe, wanted somebody, was going to be better, but the students elected somebody that I didn’t think was going to be good. But, generally speaking, I agreed with the -- but once in a while, i -- but it turned out that the students’ judgment is generally -- collective judgment is better than any one person, including my own.
MG: You did get to vote, though, didn’t you?
JB: No, no. Oh, you mean for manager? Of course, that’s an appointed, by the outgoing Executive Committee. Oh sure, I had a vote.
MG: No, I mean, you didn’t vote in the general election?
MG: Mr. Briggs does.
JB: I might have legally been qualified to do so, but I don’t think I ever did.
MG: That’s interesting. Mr. Briggs does, that’s why I asked.
JB: He does? Well, he still feels like a student, I think. [Chuckles] He was a student in the Cal Band for so long -- on so many .- You know, he has a -- I think he has a very special feeling. I have a very special feeling, my own, for the Cal Band, but I think Mr. Briggs is a little bit different. It’s different; he is really attached to that band. I tried to have other interests, in my life, but I don’t know whether he’s got any other interests but the Cal Band.
MG: Well, he has his cars.
JB: Yeah, that’s right. That’s one thing, you know. But . . . [Laughs] I don’t mean that to be demeaning, I think it’s wonderful a man can be so dedicated to his job. I think I was dedicated, quite, but not in the same way. I had a family, and that was one of the things. You talked about Ex-Comm meetings, and they most always were held at night, in my days, and, you know, having nights out for this or that just took me away from my family.
MG: Your family lived in Berkeley?
JB: Yeah. We were lucky that we were able, by the skin of our teeth, to get into a house up in North Berkeley, near Marin and Grizzly Peak on Keeler Avenue. That saved a lot of time for me, because I thought, when we first came here, that the only house I could possibly afford would be some development out through the tunnel. You know, Lafayette or Walnut Creek. That would have meant much more missing dinner with my family, because I wouldn’t have been able to go home and come back, like in Berkeley [where] it was ten minutes back and forth. So it wasn’t too bad, but when you have a lot of -- and I tried to get in, particularly in the later years, when we had Musical Activities and I was the administrative head, not just director of the Band, I felt obliged to keep kind of administrative office hours. And I tried to get in as close to eight as I could, and be in there every day eight-to-five type hours, and then band rehearsal hours on top of that, it got to be pretty heavy.
MG: Well, there’s no question, it is a big time commitment.
JB: Yeah. But I don’t regret it; I’m not complaining. I just liked working with the students, and particularly when . . . Then I had committee meetings to attend. Sometimes I’d get away with not going to all of them, when they got heavy, but I wanted to, particularly the Stunt Committee meetings, I wanted to have a hand in that. And I legally had a vote in there.
MG: Well, that’s a change, then, too.
JB: No, I wasn’t good at picking up ideas, but my value in the Stunt Committee -and I think it was a pretty important value, in those days -- was to be a kind of a voice of experience on what had been done before, and what kind of things worked. and don’t work, and when things, when they’d attempt something that was almost ridiculously hard, marching-wise, and to be able to play music at the same time, then’s when the old man would say, you can’t play, and do this, you know? And after all, we are a band. There were certain, I would say, not non-musical, but not interested in the music very much. But interested in how sharp we march, and to do some very complicated dance step, or something, that was all the idea. And whether or not we could play the notes didn’t make any difference to some people. And that just -- I could not abide -- and I had to take a lot of that, gee, at the time we went to Brussels, for instance. “Rock Around the Clock.” You know, and the rock music was just, “Rock Around the Clock”, and “Steam --” there was another one. Anyway. The .57 choreography that went with those things was just fierce.
Of course, it doesn’t make much difference how you play on “Rock Around the Clock.” I guess that didn’t bother me too much. [Laughs]
MG: Pretty simple tune.
JB: Yeah. But, there were others, there was one called “Steam Heat”. It was impossible.
MG: “Steam Heat” is more of a jazz band tune.
JB: Yeah. It was difficult. And then, so, the Stunt Committee meetings I tried to attend quite regularly. Not only to be a negative influence, I enjoyed it, and I enjoyed the creativity that was going on. Sometimes we’d get real carried away. But I think I was, overall, a steadying influence, that could remember. You know, they wouldn’t have any idea that this was not a brand new idea, that it was something tried ten years ago and it didn’t work.
MG: That’s a recurring problem -- [Laughs]
MG: .- of having such a transitory government in the Band.
MG: Sometimes we do lose the sense of continuity.
(Part 2 -- The Missing 18 Minutes)
MG: Now, you were the student director, when you were in the Band as a student?
Berdahl: Yeah, I was student director in academic year 1939 --just a minute -- ’38-39. Yeah.
MG: What was your role like then?
Berdahl: Well, at that time, the, I wasn’t even a voting member of the Ex-Comm. The constitution at that time was a three-man -- it was the director, Mr. Cushing, the manager, and the drum major. The student director and the rep-at- large, we called it, would just -- it’s called PR now? They were officers, but the drum major and manager didn’t even pay any attention to us. We were unimportant.
MG: Sometimes they still do that.
Berdahl: [Laughs] But as a student director, of course, I was responsible to try to be at every -- you know, we had all kinds of little rallies in those days, step rallies, over on [inaudible] steps, or this and that, and they’d come up kind of spontaneously sometimes, you never knew, and if you weren’t around the bandroom . . . . And I was serious about my studies. When I came to Berkeley in ’37, I had been out of school for four years. And I didn’t come there to flunk out, or to fool around and get C’s and D’s, I wanted all A’s, and so I would cut away from that bandroom, and get to my room and study as much as I could, and sometimes I found out I’d missed a rally. They’d say, “Where were you? You’re the student director, you were supposed to be over there at the step rally.” I said, “Oh, I didn’t know about it, you didn’t tell me, and you know where I live.” The manager would sometimes get mad at me because I wasn’t around the bandroom all the time.
I had a pretty good example right in front of me. You know, various projects to do. The first year I came in ’37, the Band was on a campaign to go to Seattle, to raise money. And a couple of fellows, very talented, wrote, not only the whole musical, but the words and the music and everything, orchestrated it and everything, to a musical. I can’t remember the name of it now, and we put it on in the campus theater. The student center now covers it, but below Telegraph there used to be a one-block-long street that came all the way on up to where Sather Gate is now. There used to be a street down from Sather Gate. That’s all covered by the student center. But it was called Union Street, and it was a one-block-long street. At the Bancroft Way end was the campus theater. And so, it was close by, it had a good stage. We rented the campus theater and put on this musical, two nights, a Friday and a Saturday night, and I think we didn’t make enough to pay the expenses of renting the theater. It was lots of fun, and a big project. The fellow who was most responsible for that was a man by the name of Dick Loeb [sp?], from Bakersfield, who was the student director preceding me. He flunked straight out of school by putting all his time in on that. Now who remembers that he did that for the Band, for the University? You know, he didn’t get his degree at Cal. So that kind of frightened me a little bit, and I think with my normal feeling that I had, about being anxious to get good grades, for having been a dropout so long. And with that example in front of me, I just didn’t hang around that bandroom. But I did get elected student director. And we had five candidates that year. Maybe that’s how I got elected, they had so many candidates that it split up the favorites’ vote and this guy sneaked in. I don’t know.
MG: Well, lucky for us, I guess.
Berdahl: And I was elected student director after having been in the Band only one year because I was a junior transfer. And that’s not supposed to happen. The tradition was that you came in as a freshman, you played in the Band, if you worked around and looked pretty good, why, you might get to be -- if you were anxious to be a student director, if that was your aim, you’d get on the library -- you’d be the librarian, there was no library committee as such, I don’t think, it was just the “librarian to the Band.” And then it was just -- the librarian was supposed to become, eventually, in his senior year, would become student director. And the fellow who was in that long lineup should have been elected, according to the tradition, but I, if I wanted to be student director, that was the only chance I had, was to run at the end of my junior year. That was my first year, and then I was going to be a senior, and I -- so I ran anyway. I didn’t figure it could hurt.
MG: That would be forbidden now.
Berdahl: But I made a lot of good friends, you know, and unfortunately the young man, who was a good friend of mine, was -- the tradition was that he just sort of took it for granted, and I think that he acted like it was going to be that way, and for some reason or other that the Cal Band boys didn’t to have it be taken for granted like that. And I guess -- so my friends started working for me, I don’t know. I didn’t do any campaigning, as such, but we all had a chance to conduct the Band at rehearsals, that was part of, Mr. Cushing always -- See, in those times, the marching band was in the fall. There was not a note of sit-down concert band in the whole fall semester. Can you believe that? And then second semester was all concert band. So he provided time during concert band rehearsals to have all the student director candidates get a chance to stand up in front of the band and conduct concert pieces, of that sort.
MG: What time of year were the elections held?
Berdahl: At the end of -- well, at that time we were on a calendar something like you are now again. We got out in May. So, it would have been, the elections were, we had a banquet at the end of the school year, somewheres along May before commencement. I don’t remember exactly the date. So, in that -- in those rehearsals, why, we had a chance to conduct the Band, and that was my strong point. I was a music major, and I think I knew a little more about that stuff than some of those other fellows who were good strong bandsmen, and musicians, but they probably didn’t have the technical ability that I might have had. I was older, too. I’d been out of school four years. And, you know, some kind of maturity might have shown through.
But at any rate, I had good friends, and that’s how I became student director. I didn’t expect to. But it really changed my life, because directing the band then -- and then being student director with Mr. Cushing, and he always provided opportunities in his main concerts for the student director to do a number. And, gee, that was great. I was conducting the University Concert Band on a number on a regular concert. And I began to think, you know. I was mainly a string player, and I played in bands all through high school, and I came to Cal -- I joined the band because I wanted to have that one activity, but my main musical interest, to tell the truth, was on my violin and viola, and chamber music, and in the orchestra, that I played in at Cal too, at the same time. I just kind of took for granted, that being a string player, and involved in that kind of -- and all my studying had been on the violin, serious studying, that if I was going to go into music as a profession, that orchestra, chamber music, strings, would be what I would do. But that changed. That experience, with Mr. Cushing and the University of California Concert Band, opened my eyes to a field of worthwhile, serious concert music, original things for the band, not just orchestral arrangements of the old, “Morning Noon and Night” ’s, and “William Tell” ’s, you know, that bands can’t play very well. But music written for band.
Cushing himself was a composer, and wrote some fine music, and he was an expert arranger. And he could -- he did some Bach transcriptions that were just fabulous. And it just kind of opened my eyes and ears to it. Now here’s something that I can really sink my teeth into, and might be a -- I didn’t know what my career was going to be, but it certainly opened the possibility. And then, from then on, all the opportunities, with all the bands. At the University of Virginia they wanted me for a band director. Well, I had an orchestra too, but they didn’t really care about that. They wanted a band, but I breathed life into an orchestra there, but the band was what I was hired for. And then when I came up to Berkeley again, it was the marching band that was in need, after the Ohio State Rose Bowl. So that’s where all my opportunities -- and I don’t -- I’d do it all over again. It’s a wonderful career. But I had not really planned it that way. Everybody still looks at me, when they see me carrying a violin around, and they never knew that before.
MG: What did you play in the Band?
Berdahl: Tuba. I played tuba in high school. You know, the tuba’s an instrument that you always need in the band, but directors don’t -- in high school, don’t have much time to, they’ve got all these clarinets and oboe players they’ve got to be teaching how to play. And the tuba -- my high school director handed me a horn and that’s the last I saw of him as far as instruction was concerned. I just had to learn it. And did just fine.
MG: It’s especially fun to play tuba at Cal, the way things have evolved.
Berdahl: Oh, yeah, well, we had pride in our tuba section, but we didn’t -- I’m glad we didn’t have to do the things physically that the students do now.
MG: The strut? You don’t like the basses’ strut?
Berdahl: Yeah, I like that, but I wouldn’t . . .
MG: [Laughs] . . . want to do it? Oh, that’s their pride and joy.
MG: So you were at Cal from your junior year, and then as a graduate student?
Berdahl: Yes. I was three years, and I had one graduate year. And then I had this scholarship. I probably would have maybe stayed on just a little bit longer, to finish my masters’ at least, but I didn’t quite -- I did all the coursework, but I had a thesis yet to do. I got a chance to go back to Philadelphia to study at the Curtis Institute of Music. And this was like -- big main chance, I’m going to go back an be a -- study conducting and become a symphony conductor, something like that. It really is [isn’t?] one of our major music schools in the United States.
MG: I know of it.
Berdahl: It was a great experience, but it’s fall of 1940, things were getting hot in Europe, you know, the war was bad over there, and we started having a draft. I was registered in the Philadelphia Draft Board, and couldn’t stay in school because my wife was supporting me. We were married by that time, out in Berkeley. I was going to music school, and she had a job in Philadelphia, with the telephone company. I got a low number in that before-the-war one year draft, supposedly. And I would have had to go into the Army, right away. We weren’t at war yet. I didn’t have any desire to go into the army unless it was more necessary than that. So then I had a chance to go to the University of Virginia, for a band job there. That’s how I got stuck in the East for so long. I had planned to stay in California when I came out there, to [inaudible].
I had a good year at the Curtis Institute, played under Ormandy, and played under [inaudible], and Saul Castin [sp??], some fine conductors, and all the teachers in the school were Philadelphia Orchestra people, it was a marvelous experience. But it didn’t last long, and --but I got in on it.
MG: And then you were in Virginia until when?
Berdahl: Yeah. I did go it the army then, in 1943, for 2 years, and I was stationed at Governors’ Island, New York. Thought I was on my way overseas, you know, when they sent me from basic to Governors’ Island I thought, oh, this is just a point of embarkation. But I stayed in that band all through the war.
MG: Nice and safe, at least.
Berdahl: Yeah. Well, it was a lot better than even being off in Texas, or New Mexico, or some desert base. It was tough, living in New York, but my wife worked there, because I couldn’t have supported -- we had a child by then, and I couldn’t -- I was a private, was in a big band that only had a twenty-eight man table of organization, and we kept sixty to seventy-five people in the band all the time. The bandleader was an old experienced army man. William C. White was his name, and he knew General Eisenhower, and all those folks when they were lieutenants back in Washington. And so he -- whenever there was any suggestion that he was going to lose somebody, or that his band was going to get moved, why, he’d take off for Washington, and come back, and everything was all clear.
MG: He had the inside track.
Berdahl: Yeah, and he kept a lot of people in the band through various devices. There was a band roster, and then various others of us would be on the MPs list, or some other outfit there on that post, because he knew all the colonels and he could do that.
But it was an important band. We played for all the visiting Russian, Chinese, Allied generals during the war. We played for Eisenhower when he first came back from Europe. We played for Skinny Wainwright when he came back from a Japanese prison camp. I was telling the band, when the war was over I didn’t have enough so-called “points”. You had to be overseas to get these little “points” to get out. And I sat around there for six more months while everybody else was being demobilized. But it was interesting. New York was of course a very wonderful city. We didn’t have too much time, but you could go to musicals, go to plays, and go to concerts whenever you had time off.
MG: Your family was living there too?
Berdahl: Yeah. That was -- we kept our little family together. Then back to Virginia, and then when the GI Bill was about to be cut off, my conscience got to nagging at me so that I asked for a leave to go out to Berkeley to study, because with the GI Bill it would be financially just barely possible. Even though it was a long way to take my family to do it, that was where I wanted to do it. And I fully expected to go back to my job in Virginia, but I stayed in Berkeley, and that’s what happened.
MG: And the rest is history.
MG: What kind of influence did the war have on the Band here at Cal?
Berdahl: Well, you know, I wasn’t here, I was back east, but from some of the fellows that were in the Band at that time, what I learned from them is that they got very thin in numbers. There were very few male students in school, and those that were were probably on some Navy B-5, B-12, or some special service program.
MG: So the ROTC people who had been in the Band were all in the services?
Berdahl: I think so. But the ASUC Band -- and we had a big band in 1937, we had 130, 140 people. The Band in the 50’s was smaller than it was when I first came to it. But during the war I understand it got down to, sometimes 35, 40 people, and in order to do something on the football field, they’d do the lay-down stunts, you know, and make a letter and lay down head-to-toe, head-to-toe, or else put caps down to fill in spaces to make a letter.
MG: I’ve seen pictures of that.
Berdahl: Well, they did whatever they could. But they kept the Band -- actually, never folded. There was a student activity ASUC Band all the way through the war, somehow or another. And I think that was a pretty good achievement, because a lot of bands folded up during the war, and other activities.
That’s all I know about it, is from some of the fellows. I know somebody you might talk to about that, if it’s interesting to you. A fellow by the name of Herb Towler, who has been on Tellefsen Hall boards from time to time, and is still around. And he --
MG: Brian Thompson mentioned him the other day.
Berdahl: Yeah. You know Brian?
Berdahl: He’s a real nut. He’s a real band nut.
Berdahl: He’s going to come down and look over some of my records. I’ve got college band records -- here’s Iowa, Ohio State, you know. I can’t keep all of that, and he’s a collector, so --
Herb Towler, he was a manager -- or drum major, was he? I forget. Anyway, officer of the Band, in the war years.
MG: [Inaudible]. I’ll keep an eye on that one, then.
Berdahl: He’s an insurance agent, his office is in Montclair, someplace, but he’s listed in the telephone book. Lives in Piedmont.
MG: I know Brian has his number. There was one incident in the thirties, I came across when I was looking through the archives, and some old Daily Cal articles from scrapbooks from the thirties. And they had a whole series of articles about an incident in which -- I think it was 1933, I’m not sure -- in which the ASUC proposed to fund the Band in a trip to Los Angeles and then decided not to, and so the Executive Committee decided not to go and the Band threatened to revolt. Do you know anything about that?
Berdahl: That’s before my time, so I don’t know about that. The only similar thing that I know about, that I’m not sure you know, was about 1963. Lloyd Anborn [sp?] was the drum major, I think, when we decided to test something. You know, the theory was that ASUC Activities was in charge of their own activities, and made their own budgets. Well, we were just getting sick to the bosom of poor football years -- we’d go down to Los Angeles and get beat, humpty-hump to nothing, and --
MG: The way we do now!
Berdahl: And the Band wasn’t appreciated. We were getting to be a very good band by that time. But you know, in Los Angeles it was just a terrible bore. And so we decided, gosh, wouldn’t it be nice to go to Seattle, or Salt Lake City. And it so happened, the circumstances were that we had played the University of Utah the year before, and they brought their band all over to Berkeley. And we thought we ought to honor that, you know. And the next year we were playing Utah in Salt Lake City, and why couldn’t we go there? We didn’t have money enough to do both L.A. and that, so we notified everybody that our away trip this year was going to be Salt Lake City, and gave the reasons why. And oh, boy -- the Los Angeles area is too important to this University for the Band not to show up. We suspected this, but it was kind of testy. There was a vice chancellor by the name of Alex Sherrifs (sp?) who came to us and said, now, the Band must go to Los Angeles. Well, why must we? Nobody appreciates us down there. It’s not an experience, it’s not a recruiting tool for us, in fact it’s pretty grim and hard time getting enough -- you know, too many bandsmen don’t want to go, they want to stay home and study. Midterms are coming up, usually, around that time, so we’re just having a hard time getting the Band to go. And we’ve got to get some more interest, so we want to go to Salt Lake City. And also, another thing is -- about that time, we’d developed this finale that became a Cal Band signature finale, we did it too many times, repeated over the years, it’s when we finished up with that Glory, Hallelujah -- Battle Hymn of the Republic. And where we full field spread from one end to the other, and playing that -- you know, it’s a real tearjerker.
MG: We used it in pregame in ’84.
Berdahl: It’ll be revived again. It’s a terrific finale, and it should be permanent in our repertoire. But not repeated as often as we did for awhile. So we had that develop, and we kind of -- I was a little bit skittish about this, if you go to Salt Lake City where the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Philadelphia Orchestra had made this great record already, at that time, with that on there. And that’s kind of -- do we come and play that? But you know, it was terrific. They just took it as the greatest compliment, and I went to the rehearsal of the Tabernacle Choir, the Sunday morning after the game, and they just thought that was the greatest thing they had ever seen on a football field. They felt so honored and complimented that we did that in their honor. I think we had something in the script about dedicating it to the Tabernacle Choir for the famous record they had made, ’cause our arrangement was taken right off that record. Just the same.
It was a snowy day, and icy, and we rehearsed in the morning in three inches of snow. It was just a crazy weekend. But -- we went to L.A. too. It was a requirement that somehow or another -- we didn’t have the money for it, but university funds, not ASUC, because our budget was shot, but the university got up some money for us to go. But they said, okay, this time, but don’t you ever do that again.
MG: That’s happened again, since then. I think in 81- 82.
Berdahl: I think it has. But back in that same chancellor’s regime, it never happened again.
MG: I was just amused by this story from the thirties, because we thought about doing a similar strike, not playing any home games, in the early eighties. And it just amazed - - to realize how little things have changed.
Berdahl: No, there’s a lot of things that will keep repeating like that. There’s a difference, of course, in that your budgets now are not completely -- you don’t have a budget out of -- you have to raise money. And I resent that, I really do.
MG: So do we.
Berdahl: There’s one thing I fought for, all the time, back in those turbulent political sixties, was that the Band was supposed to have a budget. And we’d live within it, but whatever it was, we would have a budget that would take care of the things that we were required to do. And that’s to play for all home football games and one trip to Los Angeles. Then, if we are going to do something on a more ambitious scale, like going to Seattle, we might have to try to figure that out. Although we did go to Seattle a couple times, how in the world did we do that? I don’t remember now.
MG: Well, now we don’t get the money to cover the bare essentials.
Berdahl: You don’t even get the money for the L.A. trip, do you?
MG: No, not really. We get $32,000 a year now, which doesn’t cover FTP, the home games, and the L.A. trip.
Berdahl: Of course, $32,000 would have looked like a pretty good budget at one time, but costs are higher, no doubt about that.
MG: Oh, even twenty years ago, they were getting twice that much.
Berdahl: But you know, in those days FTP wasn’t a taken- for-granted thing either. Now you feel like you must have it, but do you really?
MG: That’s okay, I won’t tell anyone.
Berdahl: As long as you had the old academic schedule, the quarter schedule, I think FTP was almost a requirement if you were going to have a decent band in football season. But on this kind of a calendar -- and you can edit this out, if you want -- I think if push comes to shove, about money - - what time does school start now?
MG: Ah, let’s see. It starts on the nineteenth for me, so that must be --
Berdahl: In the middle of August, sometimes.
MG: It’s the end of August. About the 24th?
Berdahl: Yeah. I might be wrong, in that I think they’re scheduling earlier football games now, too. But there usually was [inaudible]
MG: I don’t know. Sometimes the first game is right at the beginning of September.
Berdahl: Yeah. Well, that -- of course, that changes what I was going to say now. But as I remember it, in those days, the football didn’t begin until -- the first game was in late September. And we came to school around the middle of August. We had five, six weeks to prepare the Band for the first football game. You know, there was no need for an FTP. Now I was going to say, if that schedule, you got anywhere close to that, it might be worth looking into.
MG: The longest we’ve ever had that I can remember is three weeks. I don’t know -- it varies from year to year, but they are scheduling the games earlier. The other problem, though, is that we don’t have the money for a lot of the fringe benefits, little things that used to be more excuses for the Band to get together and function as a unit, training tables, things like that.
MG: And because of that, I think FTP is necessary for the morale, and for the sake of building the unit.
Berdahl: Right. It really is important for that, I don’t demean the value of FTP at all.
MG: It’s only three or four days long now.
Berdahl: But you know what served as our first getting together like that in ’37-38? We went to State Fair. We were in school at the time, you know, the fair at Sacramento -- when is it, late August isn’t it? Early September? Anyway, the state fair was on, and we were in school, and one of the first things we did after we just got organized, we didn’t know each other very well yet, but we’d go to the state fair in Sacramento, and wow! What a wonderful time we had. And then, that morale business that you’re talking about, it was very important. And from then on, why, we’d methodically rehearse. Didn’t even have to get out and march on the field right away. Mr. Cushing could rehearse us musically. Get us in musical shape, and then we’d start doing our -- ’course, we didn’t have the marching ideals or standards then that we have now. We’d just have fun.
MG: It takes a bit longer to teach the fundamentals.
Berdahl: Yes, and it’s a whole different standard that FTP is important for, where you can concentrate on that before you’re involved in your daily academic routines.
MG: The all-day part is only three or four days long now, instead of the week it was when I was a freshman. And that’s been cut costs.
Personally, I think it’s a pity that they have to go up to Davis, but that’s become very popular. Because people can’t leave!
Berdahl: Well, I don’t know anything about that, because I don’t know . . .
MG: No, that’s just my opinion. Don’t let that out.
Berdahl: If it’s as it is now, why couldn’t you do it in Berkeley?
MG: Too expensive. See, in order to have it at Berkeley, we would have to have it even earlier in the summer, because they won’t let us have the dormitories right before school starts.
Berdahl: I think that was a problem. Yeah, I’m aware of that -- they’ve got to have room for students earlier, or something.
MG: They also charge more. They want the two weeks before free to clean it out, or something like that. And they also charge more than Davis does, which is ridiculous. Berdahl: That doesn’t seem reasonable.
MG: No, and they shouldn’t be charging us the same rate as the general public.
Berdahl: But isn’t it hotter than the Indias over in Davis at that time?
MG: It varies -- the first year it rained!
MG: It can be, but thus far we’ve been lucky. It’s just been hot, not blazing hot. And sometimes it’s blazing hot in Berkeley in the summer. It depends.
Berdahl: But then when you’re over in Davis, you’re stuck there, there’s no, you can’t --
Berdahl: You can’t do anything else.
MG: People can’t run away.
Berdahl: Well, that’s a two-sided coin, I guess.
MG: I think so too. I mean, it doesn’t stop them from leaving once we get back, it just keeps them there to try it out a little longer.
MG: And sometimes that has the desired effect, and sometimes it doesn’t. Depends on the person. Generally, I’ve found that anyone who really wanted to stay, stays, and anyone who really wanted to leave eventually leaves, whether then or two weeks later. But the Band is for some folks, and not for others.
Berdahl: Yeah, yeah.
I want to play something for you. This has nothing to do particularly with Cal Band right now, but you’re a clarinet player, aren’t you? I want you to hear a 24-member clarinet section play a cadenza in an Ingolf-Dahl (sp??) Sinfonietta. Do you know -- have you ever played the Ingolf-Dahl Sinfonietta?
[In fact, I don’t even know how to spell it. Pathetic.]
Why don’t I turn this off?
Interviewer’s note: After the 24-clarinet cadenza, which incidentally was quite impressive, and some other interesting musical recordings from Japan, this session came to an end. I thanked Dr. Berdahl for his time and we arranged a time and date for Session II, transcribed elsewhere.
[These interviews are cataloged as Tapes 1-4 - Tim Castro,
Interview with Dr. James Berdahl, Tape 0
continue to Part 2