Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The gay organ majors at Oberlin

Gay alumni of Oberlin (small college in Ohio) have documentation of their history on the internet.  One writer decries always presenting gay men as victims, when in fact he thinks they are quite wonderful  and creative and supportive (in his introduction to this  history of the organ majors of 50 years ago). Here's how they carved out a special dorm space.

"Nearly all the organ majors were gay men, their presence could not be denied, by the school or to each other. It wasn't calculated at all, it simply was. Gay men following their passion for music arrived to discover that others were more like themselves than they could ever have dreamed. How wonderful is that? Starting in the early '50s, someone whose name is lost to history had the brilliant idea for the organ majors to take over the top floor (consisting of 10 or 12 rooms, some double, some triple) of a dormitory named Burton Hall. And so they did. If you have ever lived in a dorm at college you know this took considerable forethought and planning, applying for particular rooms a year in advance. Covert and subversive, it was a sacred trust, no one admitted to what was going on and would deny it if questioned. The administration was mute. It remains unclear whether the scheme was unknown or best unacknowledged. The organ majors of Oberlin did hold some esteem and clout. They were talented and it is said what they lacked in technical skills was far exceeded by the emotion they could find in a seemingly neutral piece of music. There is much evidence that some highly placed, closeted professors knew well what was going on and did what they could to deflect and gloss over rumblings from the administration or gossip."

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