Blaine’s Days at San Francisco City College


 Thursday, May 27, 2010

city college student in 1977
I received this mail from this guy, Ross Hopeman, wanting me to talk about my time at City College of San Francisco. I was only too happy to oblige, since I consider the time I spent at this venerable institution to be some of the most productive and creative of my life. San Francisco City College was/is a school in the South of San Francisco which was free, or very cheap to attend and offered many facilities for its students, regardless of their income. I, for instance, availed myself of a loaner violin, to replace my stolen one, super 8 film equipment, computer time, use of an 8 track synthesizer recording studio, occasional use of a Les Paul or Fender Precision Bass, video equipment and much more.

Most significantly, the collaboration which resulted in the formation of Tuxedomoon had its origin there. Steven Brown and I were both attending the electronic music class and encountered each other’s performing selves for the first time at the end of term student performances for the class. While most of the other pieces were fairly standard electronic music fare, tapes played on tape players, his and mine stood out. Steven played a piece called “Amnesia” in which a ten meter tape loop recording his performance on a Polymoog synth looped on and on, recording sound upon sound upon sound of Steven’s lyrical melodic invention.

My Piece “Neo-Mayan Easter” consisted of me, wearing a Balloon Mayan Headdress over a black kimono topped off with a robot mask from Japantown and a hand-held propellor, jumping and jiving, shouting and singing my own poetry accompanied by my own synth loops and super 8 films and color Xerox acetates projected over the whole mess. Those were the days.

Here follows our dialog:

On Fri, May 21, 2010 at 3:56 AM, Ross Hopeman wrote:

Hello Mr. Reininger,

I am a journalism student at City College of San Francisco, and I wanted to contact you for a short feature story I’m writing.
I read that you are a former City College Student. I wanted to ask you about your time at CCSF, and your career.

Would you have time to answer a answer a few questions if I emailed them to you?


Ross Hopeman

sure. mail away. I really liked CCSF. I had a good time there and the price was certainly right. (It was free in those days, or maybe 200 dollars a semester. something like that).


On Tue, May 25, 2010 at 1:18 PM, Ross Hopeman wrote:

Hey! Thanks for your help. I really like CCSF and I’m having a good time there right now! You may be pleased to know that it’s still (almost) free, maybe 350 dollars a semester, something like that.

As I mentioned, I’m currently taking a journalism class, and need to write a story. I don’t really know what it’s about yet, (it would be irresponsible of me to write something before i talked to everyone) but I’m interested in contacting you for two reasons:

1st: I understand that yourself and Steven Brown formed Tuxedomoon while you were students at CCSF. I’m hoping to write a story chronicling examples of students working together to achieve something greater than what they could accomplish on their own. Although I’m contacting you for a journalism course, my primary interests are film, and audio engineering. I’ve seen a lot of students pass through these curricula while remaining relatively isolated from their fellow students, which is kind of a shame considering success in these fields usually involves a great deal of networking.

2nd: My Journalism teacher started listing off famous people that went to CCSF, and all he managed to come up with was O.J. Simpson. He needs a longer list next term.

Here are my questions; feel free to skip those that don’t resonate with you, and elaborate on those that do:

Did you know Steven Brown before you went to CCSF, or did you meet him at / because of CCSF?

>>>I met Steven briefly before starting at city college, but didn’t really get to know him until after we did our end of term performances. I did a performance where I danced and sang to loops I had prepared in the electronic music lab and projected films i had made in film class, as well as overhead projections. I made a point of using CCSF AV equipment and enlisting the campus mainframe computer to print the program for my event. I also made a point of reading poetry I had previously submitted in the poetry class.>>>

What were you doing before you started at CCSF, how old were you when you enrolled?

>>>Before city college I had studied music and composition at University of Colorado, then I moved to San Francisco in 1976. Before I knew I would be attending CCSF I did some fairly terrible jobs in SF, including hanging out with the winos at 3 am waiting to be picked to deliver advertising circulars. All that changed. I guess that I was 23 when I started at CCSF. I spent some time after high school learning how to be alive.>>>

What were your goals when you started at CCSF? Did they change while you were enrolled? What events sparked the change?
>>> I didn’t have any particular goals, other than trying to flourish in the arts and pick up some skills in interdisciplinary studies. I guess I was arrogant enough to think that I would succeed in one way or another.>>>

Do you feel you were afforded opportunities at CCSF you wouldn’t have otherwise had? Keep in mind I’m interested in connections you made at CCSF in addition to school sponsored activities.

>>>As I said before, I took full advantage of the facilities on offer at CCSF. On a given day, I would attend my writing class, spend some time in the synthesizer lab, play in the orchestra (on a violin lent me by the school since mine had been stolen). I would go run some computer programs and watch “The Ascent of Man” and other videos in the library (remember that video tape was very rare in 1976, especially for someone on food stamps!) I would then take a Super 8 camera and editor home and work on my film class assignments. What’s not to like?>>>

When were you enrolled and what classes did you take? Do you remember any of your teachers? Are you still in touch with any of them?

>>>I only attended CCSF from September 1976 to April 1977. The only teacher I really remember by name (I remember the other people by anecdote only) is Gerry Mueller who you mention later. I took Orchestra, Composition, Violin, Electronic Music, Creative Writing, Film Making, and Introduction to Computing.>>>

I recently met with Jerry Meuller, who spearheaded the electronic music program at CCSF, and whom you took a class with. He described you as a “male Yoko Ono”. Could you tell me anything about Mr. Meuller, or his class?
>>>Jerry Mueller was excellent. I admired him then and now for his hard work in making the electronic music lab at CCSF one of the very best in the bay area (far superior to say, USF). I particularly admired the Zen teacher-like way he kept enrollment confined to serious students. The class was always listed as “closed” on the computer so that only people who showed to beg for a chance to be let in were actually let in. I like that Yoko Ono remark, though I don’t really get it.>>>

Do you have any advice for students pursuing the creative arts?
>> My advice is, don’t get into the arts if you are looking for a comfortable life, and don’t think you are too good to learn some business skills.>>

Any memories of specific places on the CCSF campus?
>> I particularly liked the Diego Rivera murals and the library, and of course the synth lab.>>>

Where are you currently located?

I have lived in Athens, Greece since 1998.

Thanks again for your help,
Ross Hopeman


Author: Blaine L. Reininger

Blaine L. Reininger was born July 10, 1953 in Pueblo, Colorado. Then he lived a life. By and by, he founded Tuxedomoon with Steven Brown in 1977. He traipsed around America, tuxedomooning until 1980, when he began to traipse around Europe. As a direct result of all of this traipsing, many musical compositions were composed, most of which found their way to some sort of mechanical device capable of reproducing musical compositions. This was mostly for the good. He now lives in Athens, Greece, where he is content.

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