With colorful tunes, finger snaps, and genres ranging from jazz to rock ’n’ roll, the Princeton Footnotes celebrated their 60th anniversary with a three-day reunion event from Oct. 11–13, bringing more than 150 Footnotes — from the classes of 1961 all the way to 2023 — together for socializing and song.
“This is a community and an experience I’ll take with me forever,” said main organizer John Preston ’11. Preston borrowed from the words of fellow alum Paul Foody ’86, who describes the experience of being a Footnote as being able “to put your arm around someone 20 years your senior, and your arm around someone 20 years your junior, and call them your comrades.”
Despite the generational gaps, every Footnote shares a repertoire of songs. One of the group’s core songs, “All I Ask For is You” — written in 1962 by Michael Greenstein ’65 — is one example: “Everybody who is a Footnote knows that,” said Dorian Pousont ’21, who is the current music director of the undergraduate group. Upon watching a mixed-class ensemble perform the song at a near-full house concert on Saturday, one senior, referring to the hand shimmies and swaying done by the alumni on stage, remarked to his seatmate: “The [choreography] hasn’t changed in 60 years. That’s amazing.”
When the Footnotes were founded in the late 1950s, the singers were considered “the young upstarts” of Princeton’s a cappella scene, according to George Bassett ’67. “The others had all the alumni contacts and the name recognition,” he said, referring to the Nassoons and the Tigertones, the two existing groups at the time.
Fast forward a few years, and the Footnotes were in Redington Beach, Fla., for spring break when they were discovered by a talent scout. That summer, the Footnotes opened for James Brown at Tampa Stadium, where, according to David Chamberlain ’71, “the place erupted” as the singers began their last set.
Today, the Footnotes have traveled to places all around the world: In his first two years as a Footnote, Remy Reya ’21 has toured in Germany, California, Montreal, and London.
“The nature of being part of a group like the Footnotes is that it’s kind of all encompassing,” said Reya, who spent the past six months organizing the 60th anniversary event as the undergraduate coordinator.
“Just like when I was a Footnote, I ended up meeting people I never would’ve crossed paths with otherwise,” he said. Rosen met his wife through the Pixar Singers, and one of the original five Pixar Singers ended up having a son who eventually became a Footnote: Jake Levin ’18.
At the reunion brunch on Sunday morning, Chamberlain, a visual artist, showcased his “Orange and Black” series: paintings that express what Chamberlain, who has synesthesia, sees when he hears the Footnotes sing. “It’s a completion of the cycle that inspired me,” he said. Claiming that a large part of his inspiration comes from his time singing with the Footnotes, he also pointed out that many of the backers of his original studio were Footnotes members as well.
It was this kind of community sentiment that Michael Salama ’23, one of the newest Footnotes, described as “something special.”
“You see people who graduated before I was born, and they’re doing the same thing I’m doing now,” he said. “It really shows how this is a progressive cycle of what is such a tight-knit community.”
Foody shared a similar sentiment. In the ever-changing scene of college a cappella, he said, the one thread that has continued throughout the years is that the group “genuinely sees itself as family.”
“For me, my very best friends were in the Footnotes,” he said. “They are still my best friends.”
While giving the interview, Foody glanced over every so often at his fellow singers gathered under Blair Arch, their arms around each other, everyone belting tunes. “As different as we all are, we share this one common bond. And that common bond is what keeps us coming back.”