Jimmy Van Heusen may be the most recorded songwriter in Syracuse history, but CBA’s gift to music, Bob Halligan (’71), is the second. A talented singer and instrumentalist in his own right, Halligan currently fronts his own band, Ceili Rain, fueled by an intoxicating and unique mix of Celtic, pop, new age and Christian influences. Yet, as a songwriter is where Halligan has made his mark. His songs have been recorded by a veritable who’s who of contemporary artists; Cher, KISS, Michael Bolton, Kathy Mattea, Judas Priest and Blue Oyster Cult, to name just a few. What’s more, he still performs onstage (perhaps ironically) as arguably the single most important musical influence of his life, Sir Paul McCartney, in the touring company of the show, Beatlemania. Today, Bob, an adjunct professor at Syracuse University and 2017 recipient of a CBA Distinguished Alumni Award, shares a few reflections of his time on Randall Road.
By: Bob Halligan Jr ‘71
At first for me, it was about Brother Brendan scaring the “daylights”out of us. Then it was about maintaining and increasing my grade average. Eventually it was about discovering my songwriting voice, then some musical leadership skills. But all the while, the thing was happening that I didn’t realize was the most important until sitting down to write this piece: The people I was spending my time with.
Absolutely, the faculty at CBA was stellar & essential: Kent Rensin, Brs. Brendan, Peter & Anthony, Skip Gensler, Mr. Sacco, Tony Bucci, on and on. My heartfelt thanks to them. But I am really speaking about the fellows I had lunch with, went to basketball games with, tortured Tony Bucci with. This was and is elevated company. That was the big prize for me at CBA. Both having those guys in my life, and understanding that the old cliché about “The company you keep” is a cliché for a reason.
I’ve tried to pay close attention to the blessings God has sent me in the form of “good company” over all these years. To cherish these people, learn from them, listen to them, become a better man in order to continue to merit their presence in my life. I’ve also needed to resist the temptation of snobbery, as some of the people the Lord has sent my way would not have passed the CBA entrance exam – I’ve learned to value “pearly gates” entrance more highly. The notion of us humans being teammates is super-compelling for me. Br. Brendan pushed our homeroom to be “the best.” But I really think he prized the togetherness over the winningness, and thus so did we.
But more about my CBA crowd: Others had an athletics crowd, or whatever other criteria may have prevailed at the time. My particular need was for funny & quirky & creative. Voila: there were maybe eight of us who formed the crew. I won’t say I have stayed in close touch with them all. That is not the point here. The way we fed each other’s progress on all fronts, that was the huge thing about it. My days since CBA have involved replicating that crew in some shape or form ever since, and the questing that was instilled in the CBA days is the magic here. My current spiritual questing, now my #1 focus, lay dormant during the CBA years, but was moved along insofar as I would allow it to back then. But CBA was an incubator for this quest.
I don’t miss CBA, in the sense that I don’t miss being 14 or 17. As the Medicare Milestone approaches, I prize the wisdom and spirituality that time has accrued for me. But what a thrill it has been to think back on CBA, and realize how formative it was to my essence. I shall continue to try to be worthy of the four years spent there, and the blessings I received.