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The Rhythm of Culture and Competition: SAU finds its first fight song

Fans love a good fight song. It’s a common point of experience everyone, regardless of graduation or enrollment year, can share. Whether in victory or defeat, a fight song declares its school’s competitive spirit and expresses its values of good sportsmanship. For many colleges and universities, fight songs provide their communities with a cultural touchstone, something that spans decades and connects people through a shared identity. As Spring Arbor University continues to expand its athletic offerings, and as programs like women’s and men’s soccer experience national success, finding a fight song, one that fits within and expresses the community and ideals of SAU, seemed the next obvious step.

Early last year, Cougar Athletics voiced the need for that next step. An energetic and meaningful fight song was just the thing to bolster a burgeoning college sports brand. The board of trustees approved and word went out: SAU was having a Fight Song Competition, and the winning entry would receive a $2,500 grand prize. The competition was open to all students, faculty, staff, alumni and community supporters. Participants were required to write original lyrics and melodies for a song that was to be upbeat, rousing and memorable, appropriate for use at all athletic events and across a multitude of other university activities.

Over the summer of 2018, the school received dozens of entries spanning a variety of genres, including hip hop, rock, gospel and more. Memorable entries from talented musicians poured in. The competition provided the greater SAU community with an excellent opportunity for involvement in charting the course of the school’s tradition and culture.

Josh Kaplan

A selection committee of university staff, faculty and students was convened in early fall to narrow down the entries to a pair of finalists. Once the finalists were decided, the SAU community was invited to vote. It was an extremely close competition, and “All for Spring Arbor U” proved victorious. The song was written and submitted by freshman health and exercise science major Joshua Kaplan, who at the time of competition wasn’t yet a student. With a little help from his mom, Joshua composed the melody and lyrics and submitted his entry in the form of a family performance video — the Kaplans, wearing SAU swag and gear, gave a spirited rendition of the song, demonstrating its possibility for resonance and attachment within the school’s community.

band practice

“It’s a remarkably catchy and singable song,” says Dr. Mark Douglass, Assistant Professor of Music and Department Chair. Douglass took “All for Spring Arbor U” and composed a bridge for it while also arranging it for band performance. “It’s great. It encourages crowd participation. It’s a classic fight song. It evokes the 1950s’ sound while remaining thoroughly modern, and I love that. It grounds us in tradition and keeps us in the present.”

Carol Green, Vice President of Academic Affairs and Chief Academic Officer, praises the new song and the involvement of SAU’s Department of Music. “Dr. Douglass did a great job of leading the fight song competition and composing the winning entry,” she says. “We look forward to using the new fight song at many events around campus.” And even beyond. There are plans to integrate the new song into campus life whenever and wherever possible, including having it play from the McKenna Carillon Tower at certain times. The intention is to make the song and melody familiar to the community. Other ideas, from inclusion in commencement ceremonies to intro jingles for the SAU Community YouTube channel, are being discussed and circulated.

As for Joshua Kaplan, he saw the competition itself as a good opportunity, and his family encouraged him to take the chance. “Spring Arbor was the definite, number one choice for me,” he says. “It felt like the right place for me. I love the people and community. After doing the fight song, I knew I was coming to SAU.” And winning the competition hasn’t gone to his head, nor has the minor celebrity he’s experienced since then. People recognize him as “the guy who wrote the fight song,” yet Kaplan doesn’t seem to revel in it. He remains humble and just wants to do well at SAU, learn what he can and make true friends. Humility aside, Kaplan is destined to be a part of school history. As plans are devised for the integration of his song into the fabric of campus culture, his contribution to SAU will long be remembered, and celebrated at every home and away game.