WEST LONG BRANCH — On Jan. 10, Monmouth University announced a new collaborative partnership to establish the Bruce Springsteen Archives and Center for American Music.
The new archive center will have a permanent home at the campus, announced Monmouth University’s President Paul R. Brown, who greeted the crowd at the university’s Pollack Theater.
Robert Santelli, a distinguished Monmouth alumni and executive director of the GRAMMY Museum in Los Angeles, moderated the event, which was in a conversational format.
“Monmouth University is excited by the opportunity to grow our relationship with Bruce Springsteen,” said Brown. “Our partnership has been a natural one — just steps from Springsteen’s birthplace and the site where ‘Born to Run’ was written. Monmouth University’s location brilliantly captures the essence of Springsteen’s music while providing the academic heft of one of only nine university affiliates of the GRAMMY Museum. The establishment of the Bruce Springsteen Archives and Center for American Music celebrates and reinforces the Jersey Shore’s legacy in the history of American music, while providing a truly transformative experience for our students.”
Through the new collaboration, Monmouth University becomes the official archival repository for Springsteen’s written works, photographs and periodicals, thus broadening the existing relationship between Springsteen and Monmouth University. The university has served as the home of the Bruce Springsteen Special Collection since 2011.
The Bruce Springsteen Special Collection began at the Asbury Park Public Library and now has expanded to include almost 35,000 items, many donated by fans. Santelli has helped his alma mater secure that collection and was instrumental in bringing Springsteen’s archives to the university as well.
Springsteen was born and raised in Monmouth County, not far from the university that is located in West Long Branch. His career began when he and his E Street Band grew in local popularity in the clubs in Asbury Park in the late 1960s.
During the event, Santelli and Springsteen sat in comfy-style winged armchairs and chatted for over an hour about Springsteen’s career and insights. Santelli expertly moderated the conversation and took Springsteen back chronologically through the beginnings of his career in the late 1960s. He began the night by noting that early in his career, Springsteen played at the university, then known as Monmouth College nine times. Springsteen shared some fond memories of those early days.
The audience was led through the years and career milestones and treated to some treasured stories, such as when Springsteen wrote and practiced at night in an old, empty beauty salon in Asbury Park, amongst the old-fashioned ladies’ hair dryer apparatuses.
The audience was treated to a special conversation between two friends reminiscing fondly about the good ol’ days and thoughts about the present times. Springsteen shared some funny stories and jokes, as well as reflected on his own insights at various paths along his musical career.
The Springsteen collection will be the primary focal attraction at the new center, however, there will also be information on other legendary American musicians, such as Woody Guthrie, Robert Johnson, Hank Williams, Frank Sinatra and others.
The expanded partnership will help to more deeply integrate the history and inspiration of American music into the curriculum and research experience at Monmouth. It will also serve to bolster an already highly successful music industry program at the university — one of only nine university affiliates of the GRAMMY Museum.
Santelli and Springsteen discussed the singer’s beginning career and albums, with Springsteen sharing details on the pressures he took on when creating his “make or break” album “Born to Run,” which was written during Springsteen’s residency in West End.
A memorable moment Springsteen shared was how he came about the album postcard cover for “Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J.”
“I was walking down the boardwalk in Asbury and there was a postcard on a postcard stand, and I pulled it out. I said, ‘Yeah, I’m from New Jersey … it’s all mine,’” he said.
He talked about managing ego, fame and the changes in his family life after his marriage to local recording artist and E Street Band member Patti Scialfa, who was in the audience. He spoke candidly as he shared his views on balancing the creativity it takes to write and make music while raising a family.
“You learn how to work differently. You learn how to work around other people, that have schedules …. You learn how to integrate yourself … now I can write almost anywhere,” said Springsteen.
The event ended with an opportunity for audience questions. One question in particular was can popular music be used as a political force to change a person’s mind?
Springsteen shared his thoughts on activism by saying, “I tend to believe music is important to activism in the sense that it stirs passion, it stirs interest, it stirs curiosity, it moves you to question your own beliefs. It strikes straight to your emotions and it stirs you up inside …. I have a deep belief in music as a political force.”