The Power of Music at Universities


Schools have something no other businesses have in America.


Think about it.  Schools have songs that all its employees (teachers), all its clients (students), its past clients (alumni) and in most cases, millions of people that have an affinity to the brand can sing.  And when they sing these songs, they get a strong emotional connection to that business.

Who made up that great idea hundreds of years ago?

Meanwhile, UPS has 262,000 employees.  Their employees don’t go to a stadium on a weekend and sing the “UPS Alma Mater” or stand up and scream and clap to the “UPS Fight Song.”

There is no business that sells emotion more than a university.

Unbridled emotion drives the decision of an alumnus to donate.

Music for a university is an extraordinary, proven tool to engage alumni and students – creating immediate familiarity and deep-rooted connection.


Ask leading university fundraisers.  Music facilitates not only getting donations — but getting bigger donations.

Jimmy Dunne has seen it happen more than once where alumni watched a video of a school song — and, on the spot, wrote a check for a million dollars.

Think of Notre Dame’s “Cheer, Cheer for Old Notre Dame” and its alma mater (that a sea of Notre Dame fans sing along with the players after a game).  Or USC’s “Fight On.”  Songs at Oklahoma.  Michigan.  Big Ten Schools.  The list goes forever.  Their songs are priceless assets.

Good luck finding a student, an alumnus or a grandma in Kentucky that not only can’t sing “My Old Kentucky Home,” but doesn’t start weeping when they hear it.

Good songs are a cash register for these universities.

Here’s the ‘but.’

But so many schools don’t take advantage of this.

At so many universities, students/alumni can’t sing their alma mater, or don’t know the words to their “Fight Song.”  Some universities have songs that are so weak they’re to the melody of Christmas songs, or to the melody of “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad”; or, in one case, to “Three Blind Mice.”

A lack of connection to a university’s music has nothing to do with how passionately their students/alumni love their university.

It’s almost always because of one or more of these three reasons.

  • Their songs aren’t good or memorable enough.
  • Their recordings of the songs are outdated and poorly recorded.
  • There’s no one at the university who is owning the role of maniacally infusing their fantastic songs and recordings into touchpoints everywhere.

Here’s where we come in.


Writing new alma maters and fight songs.

Jimmy Dunne has had exceptional success writing alma maters, fight songs and anthems for universities such as SMU, UC Merced and many other schools around the country.  Results have been immediate.

Often, here’s the hiccup.  Even when students/alumni can’t sing their alma maters and universities aren’t reaping these benefits — many universities are hesitant to replace their old alma maters.

Here’s the fix for university leadership.

Don’t call a new song an ‘alma mater.’  Just call it a “University Anthem” or “School Song.”  What matters is creating a song that immediately hits a nerve — and is used as an emotional bonding trigger at school games, graduations, school events, on all social media and in all fundraising efforts.  Students and alumni don’t care what it’s officially ‘called.’

Ask Notre Dame how it worked out embracing a new song, “Here Come the Irish.”  Ask them how they feel when a stadium of Notre Dame fans passionately belt it out as loud as they can in communion right before the opening kickoff.

Here’s how it works.  Jimmy Dunne gets under the skin of a university.  He meets with the board.  With students.  With alumni.

He writes a song that hurts alumni to sing and hear — that will last for generations to come.


Re-recording the universities’ songs and creating a music library.

If the alma mater is a recording that sounds like it’s 50-years old,  or if the “Fight Song” sounds like it was recorded by a fan in the stands on their iPhone — why would a student embrace their school’s songs?   Why would alumni?  No wonder these universities don’t use their songs in any new media videos.  They don’t have any decent recordings to use.

No wonder the students or alumni don’t know the words to the alma mater.  How would they learn them?

And this, we’re sure of.  Just playing an alma mater, or University Anthem, or Fight Song at a few school events during the year doesn’t do the trick.

An Alma Mater, or Fight Song, or University Anthem — has to be infused in everything.  On YouTube videos.  Facebook and Instagram videos.  At live university events.  Performed by the university bands and choral groups and choirs and orchestras.  In emotional fundraising videos and email campaigns.  At graduations.   On hold music.  At and in everything.

That’s how to make a song important for a university.

Here’s how this works.

Jimmy Dunne takes the school songs (could be the Alma Mater, Fight Song, or University Anthem) and re-imagines and re-records them.  It might be bringing the university band into the studio near the university — and layering the track.  It might be recording the Alma Mater with the best vocal group on campus in a studio — and creating an entire production around it.  It might be starting from scratch.  It might be engaging a famous alumni music artist — to sing the vocals.

After that, the next step is recording a number of instrumental versions in every style imaginable, (heroic, contemporary, heartfelt, driving, etc.) at every length.  Some at 4 minutes.  Some at 4 seconds.

Suddenly, your university has a Music Library (a University Songbook) with incredible, diverse, contemporary arrangements and recordings.

The recordings will instantly pop up everywhere.  In advertising.  Promotions.  School events.  Public speaking events as university dignitaries enter/exit stages.   Videos at university and alumni fundraising events.  Online fundraising campaigns.  Student and faculty recruiting videos.  Audio logos behind graphic logos.  The versions will spread like wildfire on Facebook.  Instagram.  Twitter.  Websites.  Youtube.

Most universities’ videos live on a Youtube Channel — with millions of yearly plays.  Almost always, the music under the videos is stock music — with no emotional connection to the university.

Imagine the difference if the university content creators had access to a robust University Songbook Library – that had background cues in every style imaginable and in every length, all background pieces embedded with melodic motifs of the university’s songs.

And for donors, what a fabulous ‘naming rights’ opportunity.   University videos, on the website, etc. could credit the donors with something such as “The Duke University Songbook generously underwritten by the Jack and Anne Delaney Family.”

We’re looking forward to making your university sing.