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School or Affiliation: University of Colorado Boulder
Boulder, CO
UNITED STATES

Buffoons

In June of 1954, Dr. Oakleigh "Oak" Thorne, who had then been the musical director (or "Pitchpipe") of the Yale Whiffenpoofs, moved to Boulder to work on his Ph.D. in Biology at CU. The "Whiffs," founded in 1909, are the oldest college a cappella singing group in the USA. Oak found out that the Yale Whiffenpoofs of 1961 were coming to Denver to sing for the Colorado Yale Association. The next night after their Denver concert, he brought them up to Boulder to sing in Macky Auditorium. When he introduced them, he suggested that someone should start an a cappella group at CU.

A year later, the Yale Whiffenpoofs of 1962, a totally new group (because the "Whiffs" are college seniors elected new each year) came to Colorado, and again Oak brought them to Boulder. This time he challenged the audience to start such a group here. After the concert Don Grusin and Roger Nelson, who were about to become seniors at CU, came up to Oak and asked him if he could help them start a group, and asked if he had some vocal arrangements they could sing. Oak was delighted to help. They even made him sing with them for the first year, even though he already had his Ph.D. and was 10 years older than they were!

In September 1962 they had formed an octet and thought of the name "BUFFoons," spelling the first part with capital letters to emphasize the CU buffalo connection. By the end of the academic year, in the Spring of 1963, they made a recording in what is now the Grusin Music Hall in the CU College of Music, and released a 10-inch LP album entitled "Songs of the CU BUFFoons." The album cover was photographed outside Mary Rippon Theatre and showed a lovely blonde young lady in a black evening dress sitting alone in the foreground, listening to the BUFFoons on stage who were dressed in their cammelhair tan blazers. They sold many copies of this album by singing at various CU sororities and dorms. Needless to say, the album is now a collector's item.

That Spring, they elected new members to replace the graduating seniors and brought the group up to 13 in number. Ever since then, this has been the average size of the CU BUFFoons, which are now in their 50th year on campus!

The Buffoons remain the premier college a cappella group in the state of Colorado. Boasting a diverse repertoire that features songs from the 1950's all the way to contemporary hits, the Buffoons perform over 50 times a year for a wide range of audiences.

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