Alma mater unites community, raises student morale


Courtesy of St. John's School

The alma mater is sung at every chapel in the Middle, Lower and Upper School.

Jennifer Liu, Staff Writer

When senior Tanner Watson walked into St. John The Divine as a new sixth grade student and was handed an inconspicuous piece of paper, he didn’t give it another thought. But when everyone around him suddenly stood up and started singing, he felt completely bewildered. This was his introduction to St. John’s Alma Mater. 

Watson, like many new students, felt that the song’s lyrics were confusing and mysterious in his first year at St. John’s. Yet the alma mater has raised his morale throughout his years at St. John’s and was especially inspiring during the Covid-19 pandemic when a recording of St. John’s singers was played at virtual chapels.

“We would always sing along as an advisory having a really fun time, especially because it was the one thing that we kept consistent through it all,” Watson said.

After the Mavericks secured their first football victory over Episcopal in 10 years, students showed school spirit by chanting the alma mater. 

Director of Spiritual Life Ned Mulligan believes that the lyrics of the alma mater allow the community to reflect on the important things in their lives.

“Personally, I like the first line, ‘We lift our hearts and rev’rence, we sing thy endless praise,’” Mulligan said. “The word reverence centers me on my faith in God and focuses me right away.”

The alma mater is sung at every chapel in the Middle, Lower and Upper School, which makes St. John’s stand out from other schools that Mulligan has worked for.

Romit Kundagrami, a senior with a passion for music theory, compares the St. John’s alma mater to the alma mater of his previous school, Awty.

“The St. John’s alma mater has a more traditional and classical feeling to its structure,” Kundagrami said. “The Awty one was, for lack of a better word, cheesy in terms of the text, but it was cute when I was in Lower School there.”

Chord progressions, the harmonic succession of chords in music, can dramatically alter the feelings of music and songs drastically. In the alma mater, this theory applies in the same way. 

“Important words are placed on strong beats,” Kundagrami said. “The chord progression also provides a nice sense of familiarity and conveys a strong feeling of tradition.”

To every member of the SJS community, the alma mater holds a different meaning and significance, but its existence allows students to unite and show school spirit.

“Not every lyric or note is probably exactly right, but that’s not really the point,” Watson said. “I see the alma mater as something that sparks a feeling of unity, a feeling that you’re really a part of the St. John’s community. ”