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In Memoriam

In Memoriam: Jon Elliott — 1955-2015

The DMAA Board is sorry to announce the death of Jon Elliot ’77. DMAA Vice President (and President Emeritus) Tom Bulleit ’79 offers the following tribute:

“It is with great sadness that I report the death of one of our best, brightest, and most beloved. Jon Elliot ’77 passed away in his sleep at his home in Connecticut on Monday morning, February 23, 2015.

Jon was the model from which they made the Teddy Bear. A very large man even in his college days, he was as lovable as the plushest stuffed bear, and as kind, generous and thoughtful as anyone I have ever known. He joined da doox as a junior in my freshman year. Though he had a beautiful lyric baritone voice, he abjured putting his name up for the Whiffenpoofs in order to spend two full years as a Duke’s Man. He was also sharp as a tack and wickedly efficient. He served as the manager of a successful tour during his senior, my sophomore year, taking us to several southern locations to the wonderment and delight of this undergraduate. His quiet but quick sense of humor and calm manner were always a force for drawing the group together in difficult times.

After graduation he was offered a position as a buyer at one of the major New York department store chains, but chose instead to attend the University of Michigan law school, where he was a founder of the Headnotes, the law school’s first a cappella group. At Michigan he developed his twin interests in family law and litigation, participating in the Child Advocacy Law Clinic. Returning to Connecticut post-graduation in 1980, he joined the Stamford-based corporate firm of Cummings & Lockwood, where he practiced litigation for several years. Early in his career, he served on the state’s Task Force for Foster Children (charged with making recommendations about reforms to Connecticut’s child abuse and neglect laws) and the Connecticut Bar Association’s Juvenile Justice Committee and Committee Regarding the Representation of Children in Family Matters. Eventually, he moved to smaller law firms where he could also more easily pursue his interest in family law, finishing his career as a partner at Zeldes, Needle & Cooper in Bridgeport, CT.

Jon was an active supporter of the Duke’s Men Alumni Association from its inception, arranging for his firm, on a pro bono basis to create the DMAA and arrange its incorporation as a Connecticut nonprofit. He attended our 60th reunion in the Fall of 2013, and sang the key solo in the Silver group’s balladic rendition of Proud Mary. More recently he had been assisting the undergraduate Duke’s Men in their effort to incorporate.

He leaves behind him his loving wife of 29 years, Cheryl, and two adult children, Shana (26) and Jessica (almost 23).

The funeral will be at 11 AM on Thursday, February 26th at Green’s Funeral Home, 88 Beach Road, Fairfield, CT.

The family will sit shiva that evening beginning at 7 PM at their home: 22 Historic Drive, Monroe, CT.

I will miss him tremendously.”

-Tom Bulleit ’79


Dear Doox,

It’s Febrrrruary, and we have some special updates for you all. In this bulletin:

  • A New Year with New Faces – New undergrads and board members
  • Mission Accomplished – Fostering charitable work
  • Bringing the Generations Together – Undergrad concert in Wellesley MA
  • Annual Appeal – Thank you for your support 
  • Spring Jam in April – If it’s happening, that is

1. A New Year with New Faces
We at the DMAA hope you had a wonderful holiday season and that 2015 is off to a fantastic start.  Word has come from New Haven that the group recently returned from their annual tour of the Borscht Belt, and as such, we thought it would be a good time to introduce you to the doox babies!  Perhaps one of them is from your town, providing a perfect opportunity for a tour stop or mini reunion:

  • Avi Durlling, Tenor 2 from Saratoga Springs, NY
  • Caleb O’Reilly, Baritone from Oakland, CA
  • David Torres, Bass from El Paso, TX
  • Kenyon Duncan, Baritone from San Jose, CA
  • Wade Newville, Tenor 1 from Oklahoma City, OK

In addition, we have some new faces at the DMAA.  Please welcome your new officers as of January 1, 2015:

  • Michael Hrycelak ’97, President
  • Tom Bulleit ’79, Vice President
  • Lindsay Elliott ’04, Secretary
  • Jon Rubin ’81, Treasurer

Other current Board members are:

  • Jeff Freeman ‘57
  • Carl Kaestle ‘62
  • Elliott Watts ‘09
  • Ken Goldman ‘84
  • Tom Metzloff ‘76

And special thanks to our original Board founders Tom Bulleit and David Lefkowith ’78 as they pass the torch they so brightly lit.

2. Mission Accomplished!
One of the goals of the DMAA is to facilitate charitable and educational work by the current group.  We are proud to announce that, through the efforts of board member Elliot Watts ‘09, the boys performed a public concert in Atlanta as part of their winter tour with proceeds donated to the East Atlanta Kids Club, a non-profit organization that supports the education and development of underserved children.  The group was very well received, and expressed their excitement about taking part in such endeavors in the future.Do you know a worthwhile organization in your community who could benefit from such a performance?  Contact the DMAA and let us help with the details.

3. Bringing the Generations Together
Another DMAA goal is to foster a life-long love of singing.  We are excited to announce a wonderful opportunity in the Boston area, organized by Linus Travers ’58:“Come on along! Enjoy the current Duke’s Men as THE featured group at an a cappella festival.  Saengerfest promotes male a cappella singing and focuses particularly on encouraging younger singers to learn what all of us know: the joy and camaraderie of male voices raised in song.”The current Duke’s Men of Yale will be the lead-off group, performing a full set. Other groups on the program will also display their talents. All singers will engage in a triumphant massed a cappella chorus to finish the concert.

  • Date and Time: Sunday February 8 @ 4 PM
  • Location: Wellesley High School Auditorium, 50 Rice Street Wellesley Hills, MA
  • Tickets and information:

4. Annual Appeal
A special thank you to all who donated in 2014 as part of our annual fund raising appeal.  We are please to announce that we saw a significant increase in the number of donors, and we are grateful for your support.  For those who donated at the special incentive level, your gift CD is in in the works and will be sent once production is complete. In addition, you should already have received a letter thanking you for your tax-deductible donation.  If you have not, please contact our treasurer, Jon Rubin ’81 ( or send an email to, of course, if you haven’t yet donated, it is never too late!  Please use this link to donate and support the continued efforts of the DMAA:

5. Spring Jam
The undergrads, as usual, are not planning on having a spring concert. But if they were, it might be on Friday, April 24th in the evening.

In Memoriam

Burnie Riggs ‘54 

It is with sadness we report the passing of a Duke’s Men Founder. Burnham Ward (Burnie) Riggs ’54 died August 12 at the age of 82 in Chelsea, MA. One of the original Saybrook Duke’s Men, he roomed  as a Senior with Founders Paul Thompson ’55 and Parker Towle ’55 during their Junior year. A baritone, he sang at the group’s first public performance on Princeton weekend 1952, and at the Chi Phi Jamboree where the group premiered Istanbul to wild acclaim in the Fall of ’53. Parker also recalls Burnie sang with the Apollo Glee Club. Parker reports he and Burnie corresponded for years at long intervals, especially at Christmas. Burnie served in the army after graduating from Yale, then got a Masters in Social Work at Boston University, and spent most of his career with the MA Department of Mental Health, eventually managing / supervising a public counseling clinic. He was married to Judith Rich Riggs for 48 years. In addition to Judy, survivors include their three daughters and seven grandchildren.

The picture of Burnie is from a group shot taken at the first performance of Istanbul, representing as always the youngest and best-looking men’s singing group at Yale. Our thanks to Burnie for being one of those who got it all started, and to Parker for his remembrance.

Duke’s Men important dates 2014-15

The undergrads are preparing their busy calendar for 2014-15, and we’re pleased to share the following dates:

  • October 11: Parents’ Weekend Concert
  • Winter Tour: Atlanta, Caribbean
  • January 16-18: Winter Minitour
  • Sunday, February 6th-8th: Boston Saengerfest (an all-male singing festival in Boston that the Duke’s Men are headlining)
  • Spring Tour: St. Louis and Chicago
  • April 24: Spring Jam
  • Summer Tour: Either Shanghai/Hong Kong or Buenos Aires (TBD)

Any questions? Contact

What a celebration!

Hard to believe that Doox 60th Anniversary Reunion has come and gone. The final count for attendance was 216 (172 Duke’s Men and 44 guests) – an almost 40% increase over the 155 who attended the 55th Reunion in 2008. Remarkable!

We hope everyone had as good a time as we did. Reconnecting at registration… Friday rehearsals… taking over Mory’s on Friday evening… Saturday rehearsals in Hendrie and elsewhere… compelling panel discussions… a superb concert at Battell… celebratory dinner at the Graduate Club… moving remembrance service Sunday morning, followed by our business meeting and farewells… It passed quickly—all good times do—but left an indelible impression on all of us who attended, including the undergrads.

Michael Hrycelak ‘97 passed along this excerpt of an email he received from Grant Fergusson ‘16, Business Manager of the current Doox:

“Thanks so much for helping to make the reunion such an unforgettable experience. The active group loved everything about it, and wanted to make sure that you and the rest of the alumni knew just how grateful we all were to be a part of the festivities.”

Check out more anecdotes and photos on the DMAA facebook page:

Tap Night 2012!

The Duke’s Men recently concluded another rush, and tapped some wonderful freshman.

Truett Davis ’16 (Tenor 2) – Dallas TX
Grant Ferguson ’16 (Baritone) – Atlanta GA
Chris Camp ’16 (Tenor 2) – New York NY
Chris Peters  ’16 (Bass) –  North Haven CT
Christian Probst ’16 (Tenor 1) – St Louis MO

Though their names may be common (and reminiscent of the Matt / Matty / Mattias trifecta of 2004/2005), their singing is anything but.

(It must be noted: this is another year without a sophomore tap, a proud Duke’s Men tradition that seems to have ended back in the fall of 2004, back when all the good traditions ended.)

In Memoriam

In Memoriam: John Barrett ’61 and Randy Tucker ’74

Just before Christmas 2011, John Barrett ’61 passed away from Lou Gehrig’s disease.  John was a member of the Duke’s Men and the Whiffenpoofs of 1961.  Despite his poor health, he made a point of attending the Western Massachusetts Mini Reunion sponsored by Carl Kaestle ’62 last summer.  He told Carl how happy he was to be invited because “that’s the kind of thing that makes life worth living”. John’s full obituary is available here:
John’s death comes almost two years after the passing of Emmett “Randy” Tucker ’74, another Whiffendoox who also had Lou Gehrig’s disease ( Randy’s Whiff group paid a visit to him a few weeks before his death.  See some touching videos at

Stockbridge Concert Review

During the same weekend on Aug 21, the group gave a performance at the Berkshire Theatre Festival on the Fitzpatrick Stage. The following is Tom Bulleit ’79‘s review of that concert.

“On Sunday, August 21, 2011, the Berkshire Music Festival in Stockbridge, MA hosted the first concert of the 2011-2012 year for the Duke’s Men of Yale (self-described as “the youngest and best-looking of Yale’s male a cappella singing groups”).  It was a triumph.

Fresh from only two days’ rehearsal at their retreat at the Great Barrington, MA, home of Co-Business Manager Alex Caron ’13‘s parents, da doox dazzled an audience of young, old, and some distinguished alumni at an afternoon concert.  Sophomore pitchpipe Benji Goldsmith ’14 stepped up like a pro, offering a program that mixed admirably newer and older repertory to produce a seamlessly enjoyable performance.

The group opened with Ben Wexler’s ’11 newish arrangement of “Party in the USA”, featuring rising sophomores Terrence Chin-Loy ’14 and Alex Ratner ’14 on the solos.  Terrence sings first tenor but has a strong baritone as well, showcasing the latter on this song and the former on Eric Schorr ‘82’sclassic arrangement of “Gonna Build a Mountain.”   Alex returned us to the 1970s with his lithe performance of the Jackson 5 standard, “I Want You Back.”

Another sophomore who gave strong performances of both old (James Taylor’s “Carolina in My Mind”) and new (Chaka Khan’s “Through the Fire”) was Nimal Eames-Scott  ’14 .

I was also pleased that the group has also reprised Dan Korn ‘89’s arrangement of “Motherless Child,” originally and memorably sung by the late Tony Bailey ’90, and ably rendered on this occasion by Alex Caron.

Jim Chu ’72’s arrangement of the Rock & Roll spoof “What’s Your Name?” was sung to the mother ofBrandon Hayse ’14, by Rueben Hendler ’13 (younger brother of former pitchpipe Micah Hendler ’11) and Henry Gottfried ’13, who smoothly handled the master of ceremonies duties for the concert (and author of that bit of impish narcissism that opened the concert).

Songs from the second Golden Age (the 1990s) have never been better sung.  Two Landsverk ’99/Sagalowicz ’98 classics – “Obvious Child” and “What a Good Boy” —  improved everyone’s afternoon.  Sam Tsui ’11 is a hard act to follow, but Henry gave a moving rendition of Good Boy.

For those who thought that the Nathan Reiff ’07 arrangement of “Either Way” would have to be retired when Casey Breves ’09 left the group for the Whiffenpoofs of 2009 and later for San Francisco’s famed professional a cappella ensemble Chanticleer, Brandon proved that the song still has life, as he performed a moving version, accompanied by Nate Janis ’13 on the duet.  Hayse’s sweet tenor also did justice to Adam Grupper ’84’s arrangement of “Wonderful World.”

The alums (and I hope the audience) were pleased that songs from the Founders’ era were still represented, as Gottfried (this guy has a lot of solos, doesn’t he?) performed Lou Hemingway ’42’s“You Are Too Beautiful,” and the guys continued the tradition of inviting alums to join them on Walt Farrier ’54’s immortal “Istanbul.”

Alums in attendance included former pitchpipes Augustus ‘Fritz’ Kinzel ’58Carl Kaestle ’62, andyours truly.  Alums will remember that Kinzel and Kaestle are two of the most important figures in da doox illustrious history.  Fritz arranged, among others, “Lulu’s Back in Town,” “Brother Can You Spare a Dime?,” and “Lone Prairie” (with Jeff Freeman ’57); Kaestle the ballad “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning,” along with two humor standards from the ‘60s rep, the Kennedy homage “New Frontier” and Flanders and Swanns’ “Wom Pom Song.”  These two were also the first two Duke’s Men to be elected to pitch the Whiffenpoofs.  Also joining the group on stage was a refreshing representative from the lost generation (late ‘60s to early ‘70s), Jim Rossbach ’68.

Privately, the alums repeated the well-known refrain acknowledging that they probably wouldn’t even have been invited to join the group had they been lucky enough to survive admission to Yale these days.

I also bought the latest CD, The Chase, which my daughter and I listened to on the drive home.  Following in the recent tradition of flawlessly sung and produced recordings, this one will please anyone with an appreciation for the genre.  Especially notable is  revival of Yoshi Waterhouse ’95’sarrangement of Tears for Fears’ “I Believe,” and an excellent recording of Sam Tsui’s version of “What a Good Boy.”  The Chase can be purchased by emailing Brandon,  via iTunes, or at the doox website (

And this was before they tapped those six new voices.  Looks like another spectacular year, which I for one plan to follow closely.”

–Tom Bulleit ’79