Cutting Loose from the Classroom
By Marilyn Harris
The current line-up for Stern’s FAB (Faculty And Band) features Professor Emeritus David Rogers (front), (from left to right) Vice Dean Tom Pugel, Professor Melissa Schilling, Joe Granata, Professor Luís Cabral, and EMBA students Barbara Granata and David Edwards.
The year was 1973, the place – Lansing, Michigan. Long-haired rocker and Michigan State junior Tom Pugel was staring down his future. Would he want to try for the big-time as a bass guitarist with his rock band, or continue on the academic track?
In the end, Pugel chose the latter, going on to earn his PhD in economics at Harvard and starting his 31-year-career (and counting) as professor of economics and global business at NYU Stern. “No regrets,” he said. “The nice thing is, teaching is performing, so a piece of that stayed.” Still, once a rocker, always a rocker, and for the last two decades, Pugel has had it both ways: In 1988, he co-founded Stern’s very own faculty band, which always brings the house down at the annual Executive MBA party and other School events.
The band is currently called FAB, ostensibly for Faculty And Band, but so named so that during performances, “We yell out, ‘We are FAB,’ every so often,” said Pugel. Over the years, the rolling list of members includes a roster of talented polymaths: In the early days, Richard Levich, professor of finance and international business, kept the beat on drums; former professors Tom Gladwin and Harry (Chip) Bowen cooked on guitars and vocals; and David Rogers, professor emeritus of management and sociology, played keyboard and sang.
Of the original group, only Pugel and Rogers still play with the band. Other current members include Luís Cabral, William R. Berkley Term Professor of Economics and Business, who plays a mean sax and sings; vocalist Melissa Schilling, professor of management and organizations; adjunct professor Mark Sirower, percussionist; and current EMBA students Dave Edwards, guitar, and Barbara Granata, trumpet and vocals, whose husband Joe, a professional drummer, lends his skills to the band.
Pugel, the band’s sparkplug, manages its gigs and organizes rehearsals at a studio near 10th Avenue. “It’s not easy because we’re all so busy,” he said. The annual EMBA party has evolved into a battle of the bands, and while the scene isn’t exactly a mosh pit, “We definitely get people up and dancing,” said Pugel.
The play list is not all hard rock. Rogers, a jazz pianist who performs professionally, said he has lobbied successfully to introduce more jazz standards into the mix, and with Cabral’s influence, the band now includes some bossa nova as well. Pugel, mindful of the dramatic requirements of performance, said he takes care that his onstage garb reflects the progress of each set, starting with a Hawaiian shirt and ending with a black leather vest. He added, “I jump around onstage, but there’s no guitar smashing.”
Over the years, FAB has played host to a number of faculty illuminati, who have brought their own brand of magic by “redirecting” the lyrics of well-known tunes to suit the Stern audience. Memorable moments have included Edward Altman, Max L. Heine Professor of Finance, rendering his custom version of the Beatles’ “Taxman” and Statistics Professor Aaron Tenenbein transforming “Summertime Blues” into “Math and Stat Blues.” At the end of the go-go ’80s, Pugel recalled, Vice Dean Ingo Walter and Roy Smith, Kenneth Langone Professor of Entrepreneurship and Finance, billed as “Masters of the Universe,” showed up in tuxedoes and belted out new lyrics to Gilbert & Sullivan’s “When I Was a Lad.” In the mid-’90s, then-Dean George Daly crooned “Stand by Your Dean,” and perhaps equally unforgettable, during one holiday party the band performed in Santa beards and wraparound sunglasses.
In the past several years, the band has only picked up momentum. “We have more gigs than ever,” said Rogers. “It creates a sense of community, and the students get a kick out of it.” As do the professors who make the music – in class and out.
Marilyn Harris is editor of Sternbusiness.