VOSA Anthropology
an R&B Reunion Post Script
by Prof. Randy Fillmore

From reading the anthropological literature, I know that in most traditional societies--most often in tribal societies--men go through life very much attached to their age-mates. They go through life as part of a "cohort." Being part of a cohort means that men move through the stages of life together--the play of boys gives way to the responsibilities of young adulthood, and eventually the men of an age-set become elders, together. Through these stages, a cohort remains in tact and gives meaning and a sense of connection to growing up and growing old.

Of course, this is rarely possible in modern life....

What is missing in most modern societies, and certainly in American culture, are the benefits of going through life as part of a cohort. Once we leave high school, unless you go into the military, and perhaps only most ironically in war, we drift apart and become indistinguishable in society as a cohort, or distinguishable separately by our graying, balding and/or spreading waistlines (except for Santo Mirable).

Besides some very tangible benefits, what being part of a cohort provides is a sense of connection and a magical fraternity. As the cohort moves through life, members find more meaning to life when their experiences are shared. Members can depend on the group for social support. As we continue to age we WILL need that fraternity and support, and it's a different kind of support than we can get from our current co-workers and families. I suspect we'll come to depend on it.

And, what makes cohort life especially rich is ritual--those occasions when members of a group, either religious or secular, get together and celebrate who they are, and what they are, even celebrate what they are to each other. Anthropologists say that rituals create "communitas" - defined as warm bonds of friendship and a kind of meaningfulness, characterized by a sense of magic, or having been transported. Which, of course, we all experienced.

What we experienced in Baltimore last month [June 2001] was an example of the benefits of being part of a cohort. And it is on that experience that I am making a case for doing this every year. There are arguments that the real magic of the moment cannot be repeated, that doing it in successive years will tend to take away from the glow of the first year. True--we cannot expect that every Baltimore R&B Reunion will be as magical or amazing as this first one was. However, the real benefit for doing it every year is to continue the connections...... in some ways the music, as good as it amazingly was, was incidental; it is the connection and sense of fraternity that made the moment.

Thus, I suggest we do it EVERY year, ritually (which does not mean that Don Lehnhoff has to work as hard every year as this year. I think if he organizes the music and prints off tee-shirts in new colors and a different date every year, that's enough. We will all have our tasks and we can spread the work out a bit more now that we are a group). Like a bunch of old war veterans, we may continue to hold reunions... until there are just a few of us left. But to those who remain, reunions will be greatly important, and it will also ensure that those who have passed, who we really got to know again 30 years later in 2001, VOSA Boys are well remembered.


  1. By doing it every year we increase the number of people we reach and who attend.
  2. Also, by doing it yearly we won't loose connection with any of the people who made it this year. If we do it less than once a year finding people, or re-finding people, becomes difficult.
  3. Too, some of the guys who haven't played too much music will start playing more because of this year; some who haven't played in years are picking it up again, and we look forward to them being on stage next year.
  4. Finally, I think the whole venue, Stingers to The Alcazar, should be part of the ritual process. We don't need to make it bigger and better, just continue to make it happen, every year, and each year will define itself.
I think that the benefit of connection and fraternity--as we take a weekend a year to get to know each other again, as we did this time--is not only the realization that what we did 30 years ago was important, but that we are, and have been, very important to each other...In other words we are a cohort that needs to stick together... all kinds of good things may come out of it....

Let's do it again! Next year...