One of my biggest regrets from my time at Skidmore College was never getting to attend or audition for Beatlemore Skidmania, the college’s annual Beatles tribute concert. The show is a big deal on campus; there’s a competition in the art department to design Beatlemore’s poster each year, and Skidmore students have to audition just to get a one-song slot on stage. It’s so popular that students even sign up to help organize the event for credit.
Now in its 18th year, Beatlemore 2018 will feature three performances on November 16 and 17 at Skidmore’s Arthur Zankel Music Center, and this year’s theme is the 1968 self-titled album, better known to the rock public as The White Album. There will be a total of 16 different acts including the Rust Brothers (a faculty band and the closer) covering or arranging songs from the eclectic album. Expect everything from a cappella groups and soloists to rock ‘n’ roll bands and a group featuring a sitar, banjo and guitar. “I think it’s going to be one of the best Beatlmores yet,” says Joel Brown, Skidmore’s Distinguished Artist-in-Residence and Co-Director of Beatlemore Skidmania. Brown is a lifelong Beatles fan; his office’s bookshelf is full of Beatles books and memorabilia. And though he may have helped produce the first Beatlemore (and performed in all but one of them), he credits the idea for the popular series to Professor Gordon Thompson, a retired music department colleague.
Eighteen years ago, students from Thompson’s Beatles seminar wanted to celebrate the end of the fall semester with something special. “They decided it would be a good idea to just go in [Filene Hall] and sing Beatles songs and sort of open it up to others who wanted to sing,” says Brown. “It was a very small group at that point, a very small audience.” After a couple of years of being a loosely knit Beatles singalong, it morphed into the tribute concert format and became an official Skidmore event. Soon, there was legitimate Beatlemania on campus. “In those early days, it was pretty much a madhouse in terms of crowd control,” Brown says. “And finally, the fire marshal caught wind of this and had to put security outside the door one year to prevent people from coming in.”
Beatlemore finally got the big boost it needed, when the concert series moved to Zankel Music Center in 2010. Since then, Beatlemore has grown from a one-night-only show to three performances over two days. Last year, it generated more than $14,000 in ticket sales, most of which went to campus organization, Skidmore Cares, which supports local charities.
Brown isn’t at all surprised by the success of Beatlemore; in fact, he’s expecting an equally big crowd this year. “I think that this music is still resonating with the people who grew up with it—it’s very nostalgic and meaningful for certain parts of their lives,” he says. “But I also think that [the Beatles] keep reaching out to more and more generations of young people.” And I think he’s right. I may not have grown up with the authentic Beatlemania of the early 1960s, but the Fab Four have always been one of my favorite bands. Luckily, I don’t have any plans this November 16-17. So it looks like, six months after I graduated, I’ll be going to my first Beatlemore. Better late than never, right?