Pomona College Songs Committee


This page provides access to documents relevant to the Song Committee's charge of making recommendations on the future use of "Hail, Pomona, Hail" and "Torchbearers." It is provided in the hopes of helping the Pomona College community better understand the controversies over the alma mater, "Hail, Pomona, Hail", and "Torchbearers".

Information on open meetings on the college songs and how to communicate with the committee is available at the bottom of this page.

Song lyrics

The controversy over the alma mater has to do only with its origins in a blackface minstrel show. The words and music are unobjectionable. On the other hand, there are objections to "Torchbearers" involving the words and some of the music. The words (and recordings) of the songs are available here.

The alma mater

We provide here a variety of information on the origins of the Pomona College alma mater and blackface minstrel shows:

Recently alumna Rosemary Choate '63 has written a report arguing that "Hail, Pomona, Hail" was not written for the blackface minstrel show in January, 1910. To help readers evaluate this claim, we include here a brief description of the controversy over the history of the alma mater.


The college has received complaints about the song "Torchbearers" at least since the early 90's. The refrain "he ne terra-toma" of the original version, "Ghost Dance", was reportedly based on the observations by Professor Frank Brackett and student David Burrows of a ceremonial dance of the Cahuilla tribe about 1890. In 1930, Professor Ramsay Harris reportedly rewrote the lyrics, retaining the refrain "he ne terra-toma." The links below explore the background of the song and some of the objections to it.

Changing traditions at Pomona

While we have a tendency to see Pomona as a relatively unchanging entity, there have been a variety of changes, some significant, in college traditions, even in the last 50 years. The following describes a few of these changes in college traditions.

Open Discussions on College Songs

Open meetings to discuss the college songs are scheduled as follows:

Communicate with the committee

The Pomona College Songs Committee strongly urges members of the Pomona College community to write to us with their thoughts as to how these songs should fit into official events at the college. Please send e-mail to collegesongs@pomona.edu to let us know your opinions.

E-mail received before October 27, 2008, will be the most useful to the committee, but e-mail received after that date will also be welcomed.

Here is a selection of letters from alums on the college songs. It is taken from the Fall, 2008, issue of the Pomona College Magazine. The article also includes a reprint from the New York Times where their "Ethicist" columnist, Randy Cohen, responds to a question about our alma mater.

Committee membership