When I went to Wake Forest, we didn’t have national sororities—we had homegrown societies that some creative and resourceful women started in the 1950s. My mother helped start Strings—a tongue-in-cheek alternative to the scholarly “Tassels” club. My aunt Carmean joined S.O.P.H. while she was there a few years later, and I followed in her footsteps in the early 80s.
S.O.P.H. (sorry, if I told you what it stands for, I’d have to kill you) was populated by talented women, including cheerleaders and soon-to-be professional singers. Every year at rush, the best of the best put on a talent show worthy of a Broadway production to persuade women to pledge our society.
In my junior year, a group of eight misfits joined ranks to prepare a talent-less entry to spice up the show. We bought matching light blue tux jackets at the local Goodwill and rehearsed a badly choreographed dance routine to Teddy Prendergrass’ “Get Up, Get Down, Get Funky, Get Loose.” It was a train wreck of a presentation that was rejected by the organizers for its lack of finesse and sophistication.
After a heart-felt appeal to the society leadership, the Funk Band made its worldwide debut at the 1980 talent show, to rave reviews. We kept up the shenanigans for two years, performing at various locations across campus, including a guest appearance at the Sigma Chi house where we made our entrance through the first floor window, landing on the stage with a beer-induced thump.
We may have been clumsy, but we were breaking new ground. We couldn’t do a split or hit a high-C, but what we lacked in talent we made up for in fun. And, while we didn’t know it at the time, we were creating a legacy we would have never guessed would continue.
At the end of our senior year, we wrote up a list of Funk Band rules and handed down our light blue tux jackets to eight carefully selected rising seniors. We all went on to our professional and family lives and while we always held the Funk Band experience dear, we really didn’t look back.
Fast forward to an east coast flight about seven years ago, where I met a young woman from Wake Forest. Somehow, our conversation led to the Funk Band. It turned out she had just joined Kappa Kappa Gamma, which was the new iteration of the old S.O.P.H. society. When I told her I helped originate the Funk Band, you would have thought she was meeting the Dalai Lama. Two former members and I quickly set up a trip to Winston-Salem to meet a few of the members and try on our old jackets.
Turned out, the Funk Band was (and is) alive and well. Those light blue tux jackets have been bequeathed to rising seniors for over 25 years. And before you get too sappy about this fact, you should know that they have NEVER BEEN WASHED in all this time. Some of the jackets are mere shreds of light blue material that reek of sweat and decades-old beer.
I just got an email from a current member with this photo. The jackets continue to disintigrate, but the Funk Band lives on.
Back in college, we were just a group of girls dancing badly to popular funk songs. Over 25 years later, it’s become a time-honored tradition. Be careful what you do in the now, because you may be creating legacy for the future.