In an interest to learn a little more about those people who have been elected or appointed to offices in Mu Beta Psi, I thought that it would be fun to interview a few people regarding their experiences as a Brother and as an officer. The first installment of this interview series is our National Historian, Nathaniel Kulyk, alumnus from Xi Chapter. This interview took place via email this past weekend, and I wanted to get it up as soon as possible. Enjoy!
Andy Bronson: I suppose the question I ask everyone is – what made you want to pledge Mu Beta Psi?
Nathaniel Kulyk: Music has always been an important part of my life, starting when I was about 3 years old when I started taking piano lessons…
When I started my freshman year at Saint Vincent College, I wanted to get involved in some of the music activities on campus. I joined the Bearcat Pep Band and a musical theater organization called The Company. A number of Xi Chapter Brothers were involved in these groups as well, and several of them approached me asking if I would be interested in pledging. Initially, I didn’t think much of it — as I had the preconceived notions of Fraternities, including houses off campus, hazing, keggers, toga parties, “double-secret probations,” and so forth. However, after some more encouragement and some reassurances that none of the aforementioned stereotypes took place in Mu Beta Psi, I agreed to pledge. I was initiated in April 2001 in the Iota Class of the Chapter. So in essence, it was more a result of my love of music and a rigorous recruitment strategy that resulted in my becoming a Brother.
AB: What’s your favorite thing about being a Brother?
NK: I think the most remarkable thing to me is how Brothers of Mu Beta Psi will move mountains for each other. This is an incredibly diverse organization that consists of individuals from pretty much every background that you can think of — be it our upbringings, religion, orientations, affiliations, hobbies, majors, and so on. Despite this, we all have a common bond — a love of music and have the desire to promote it in our lives and in the lives of our peers. I found that since graduating from college, roughly 10 years ago, I have remained in closest contact with my Brothers in Mu Beta Psi. Frankly, after close to 13 years as a Brother, and all of the people who have touched my life in so many positive ways, I cannot imagine my life without it.
AB: Why did you decide to run for National Historian?
NK: Well, a couple of things. First off, history is an important part of my life, just as music is. I earned my bachelor’s and master’s degree in history, and my professional career focuses on research. I consider it very important to learn about the past so that we all have a better understanding of where we have come from. History tells a story and I consider it vital to ensure that that story is preserved as passed onto the next generation.
Additionally, my time as a National Officer did not begin with National Historian. I initially served as National Secretary, starting in 2004. As the end of my term approached in 2007, I was considering running for re-election, but was also considering the possibility of running for National Historian. I stayed in regular contact with my predecessor and we spoke a bit about the possibility of my running if she were to retire.
Prior to the 2007 Convention, she announced that she would be stepping down and I announced my intention to run for the position. Because it is a lifetime term, the process is different from the usual National Officer election — my nomination was considered by the Board of Trustees and they voted on whether or not to recommend me to the Legislative Council. It was not a guarantee, as there was another candidate, plus the BOT always reserves the right not to recommend anyone. As it happens, they chose to recommend me to the LC. During the National Officer elections, after delivering a speech and taking questions, the LC ultimately voted to confirm me to the position at the General Assembly meeting.
It is a position that I truly enjoy and I consider it to be a great privilege to serve our Fraternity.
AB: What’s your favorite bit of obscure Mu Beta Psi history that people may not know about/remember?
NK: I can give you several:
The Alumni Association once extended an Honorary Membership invitation to Burl Ives.
At one time, the National Organization experimented by giving responsibility of editing The Clef to a Chapter, rather than an individual (this was a short-lived idea).
One of our Brothers fought and died at Normandy on D-Day.
The Cheat (for those of you who remember the Homestar Runner website) was given Sweetheart status. Also of note, I don’t believe there was ever a motion to revoke the status or to reconsider it…
In the 1930s, some of the official positions included the Grand Maestro and Grand Conductor.
The earlier National Conventions between Alpha and Delta Chapters were held the weekend that the two schools met on the football field.
The positions of National Vice President of Expansion and National Vice President of Chapter Maintenance were created in the early 1990s. Prior to this time, the position was known as the National Vice President.
We almost colonized a Chapter in Montana. However, the would-be colonists decided against it because, at that time, we were not yet extending Brotherhood to women, and that was a condition of their installation. Ironically enough, it was Montana that sent the first woman to Congress in 1916 — Republican Rep. Jeannette Rankin.
A few years ago, Brothers appeared in a picture of President Obama at the Lincoln Memorial that appeared in the Washington Post. Front page. Above the fold.
AB: What’s your favorite genre of music?
NK: Just one?? I enjoy the following (in no particular order): Jazz, Big Band, some Showtunes, music from the 1980s, Classical, and my wife likes Country (so that’s grown on me after six years of marriage).
AB: Do you have a favorite artist or band?
NK: So many genres, so little absolute favorites…..
AB: What instruments did/do you play?
NK: I started with piano when I was 3 years old. 13 years of lessons and I can play Chopsticks and Heart and Soul. Give me some time and I can play The Entertainer and the main theme to Super Mario Bros. 2. Now that I have a son, I’m starting to pick out kids songs and Christmas carols. I played cello for a few years in grade school. Overall, that was short-lived.
I started playing trumpet when I was in the 5th grade and I played it in the high school marching and concert bands, in pep bands in undergraduate and graduate school. Now, if time permits around St. Patrick’s day, I’ll play in the local parades with the Notre Dame Alumni Marching Band (while I’m not an alumni, both of my parents are, and they’re always looking for musicians).
I also sing in a baritone/bass pitch and put that to good use in high school and college, appearing in the chorus in such shows as “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Damn Yankees,” “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” and “Godspell.” Additionally, I was the lead in “The Pajama Game” senior year in high school, and Linus in “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” freshman year at Saint Vincent College (while I was pledging).
AB: What would you say to someone on the fence about joining Alumni Association?
NK: Join the Alumni Association. We have cookies.
AB: In your eyes, what’s the biggest perk of being a member of Alumni Association?
NK: Maintaining a strong relationship with your Brothers after graduation. We all have lives, careers, families, and the like. Share the joys and trials together, while continuing to share wisdom with the next generation. Plus there are cookies.
AB: The question I’m sure everyone is dying to know – do you have a gigantic warehouse out in Nevada where Top Men keep Mu Beta Psi records safe for you, a la Raiders of the Lost Ark?
NK: Not quite. When I first became National Historian the Archives were in my apartment. I can still remember that about 15 file-size boxes were shipped to me. After the initial review of the contents and removing some of the extra copies (the Archives really did not need 500 copies of the same expansion brochure, for example), I acquired two filing cabinets and storage envelopes. Some of the other items are still in storage containers as well.
In 2010, after taking some soundings from the National Treasurer and members of the Board, I made the determination that an independent storage unit would be more practical for the Archives (this also fulfilled one of the mid-range goals that was set for me). The initial storage unit was located in Chantilly, VA and the Archives was housed there for 3 years.
Over time, through a combination of practicality and the fact that their rates kept going up, I moved the Archives to its current location in Stone Ridge, VA. In both instances, the storage units are temperature-controlled, which is best for historical documents and items. While it doesn’t looks like the massive warehouse at the end of Raiders, it is located in a warehouse-like building under lock and key. With a password-protected gate out front. And a middle-aged woman behind the desk at the office who may or may not take advantage of concealed-carry laws, but who is definitely appreciative of the Fraternity’s business.