In 2016, Scott W. Klein '80 and Marta Feldmesser '82 created the Scott Klein and Marta Feldmesser Hasty Pudding Theatricals Band Fund with a gift of $50,000. As undergrads, Scott and Marta were themselves part of the Pudding Band, between them playing in HPT 130: A Thousand Clones, HPT 131: Overtures In Asia Minor, and HPT 132: A Little Knife Music. Scott also served as Band VP for HPT 132. We recently caught up with Scott and Marta about their time in the Pudding, what they've been up to since, and what led them to create the endowment.
Scott: Paris Barclay ’79, whom the Pudding honored with the Order of the Golden Sphinx in 2017, introduced me to the Theatricals in the spring of 1977 when I was a freshman. He’d written the music for HPT 129: Cardinal Knowledge and the Pudding needed an occasional substitute pianist. Paris knew my playing from other musicals on campus, and I was thrilled to get involved. Playing for the Pudding became key to my undergraduate experience, and I reupped as official pianist for the next three years, becoming Vice President of the Band in 1980, my senior year.
Marta: Early in fall 1978, my freshman year, I played bass for the Lowell House Opera. That led to an invitation to play for Paris’s musical Making It, which was also staged in Leverett House. That was where I met Scott. We had real rapport as two-thirds of the accompanying piano trio for that show, and Scott recommended me to the music director and band VP of the Pudding. He convinced them to take on an upright bass player despite the fact that the Pudding band had previously featured an electric bass. I felt incredibly honored to play for the Pudding in my freshman and sophomore years. It was an extremely important part of my undergraduate experience-- but I sadly then stepped aside, hoping to salvage my ability to get into medical school. [Editor's Note – Which she did!]
Scott: That’s the major story behind the creation of the endowment. Marta and I became extraordinarily close friends as undergrads, and playing together for the Theatricals was one of the cornerstones of our relationship. I think of my Harvard experience as inseparable from both Marta and from the Pudding: I’ve always thought of her as the dearest friend of my life. But she graduated two years after I did. We kept in touch when she was finishing at Harvard and I studied at Cambridge University in England. But once Marta began medical training, and I became immersed in my PhD, we lost contact with one another. (These were the years just before communications technologies—the internet, email, texting—began to make staying in touch so straightforward.) I suspected that Marta would stay in the New York area professionally, and I lived and worked in North Carolina. I always planned to contact her whenever I had the chance to visit Manhattan. But aside from meeting Marta there once in the early 1990s, I didn’t have occasion to travel to New York for many years.
Then in 2013—even though I’m an English professor-- I became artistic director of the Secrest Artists Series, Wake Forest University’s professional performing arts series. I began to visit New York regularly to attend arts conventions and to scout potential performers. The very first thing I did when I came to New York was to reconnect with Marta —with great happiness— for a series of reunion dinners. I’d missed her terribly. But we picked up right where we’d left off, and we’re back to being exceptionally close friends.
Marta: Yes – Scott and I were extremely close during our undergraduate years and for a while beyond. I had long missed our friendship and was thrilled when Scott contacted me to tell me that he would be coming to New York. When we met for our first dinner, I immediately was struck by how natural our relationship felt. I was as though time had stood still. Now, though we make full use of communications technology, I truly look forward to my in-person visit with Scott and his wonderful wife, Karen, when they come to New York for the Pudding show—which has become an annual ritual. Scott’s Secrest-related trips to New York feel like a bonus.
Scott and Marta at the 2017 Order of the Golden Sphinx Gala
Marta: By chance, Scott had to be in New York for professional reasons on Pudding weekend in 2015, and we went to see HPT 167—the first Pudding show that either of us had seen since our graduations. Scott had the idea of marking the occasion by contributing to the band members’ delinquency with a gift. Of course, I wanted to join in. We tucked cash into an envelope to help the Band have fun in Bermuda, and we presented it to the Vice President of that year’s band. We did the same the following year.
Scott: We both fell in love with the Theatricals all over again. And as the students were extremely appreciative, we began to think about whether we could do something permanent for the Band. So with the help of the Pudding’s Graduate Board we created the Scott Klein and Marta Feldmesser Hasty Pudding Theatricals Band Fund, an endowment that will throw off income in perpetuity to support the activities of the Pudding’s student musicians. We think of the Fund as serving several purposes: helping future Harvard band members have enormous fun, as we did when we played for the Pudding—and, in so doing, honoring our personal histories and celebrating our reclaimed friendship.
Marta: Contributing to the Band Endowment feels like the perfect way to create a continuum between a unique experience in our earlier lives and our present relationship, while contributing to the collaborative efforts of the very talented and dedicated student musicians who play for the show.
Scott: We originally planned simply to underwrite the band’s experiences in Bermuda. But our plans grew as we thought through the various ways in which we might act as patrons. We learned that the Band now holds an annual Fall retreat, which we also wanted to support, and we pegged our initial contribution at a point where it would throw off sufficient income to help the band enjoy not only a Fall retreat and enjoyment in Bermuda, but also entertainment and refreshments during the rehearsal period and run of the show.
Marta: With time, we hope to build the Fund to the point where future groups will have the flexibility also to enjoy a post-season celebratory dinner in Cambridge, or even have money left over annually to help purchase needed permanent musical supplies: replacement strings and reeds, for instance, or a periodically upgraded electric keyboard for the pit, or needed instrumental amplification.
Scott and Marta at one of their reunion dinners
Scott & Marta: HPT was a significant part of both our Harvard experiences, and was one of the bases for our strong bond with one another. We hope that other alumni, individually or in groups with friends, will step forward to create similar endowments to benefit other units of the Theatricals—the cast, the tech crew, or the business staff—or perhaps to benefit the entire company. We’re proud to support the hugely talented and hard-working students of the Theatricals, who are exceptional in their ability to juggle the Pudding’s nearly professional performance schedule with the rigor of Harvard academics. The Pudding gave us the time of our lives: we hope that other alumni will also choose to give back to help future students have comparably wonderful experiences and memories.
Scott W. Klein (Quincy House, 1980) was an English major who played piano for HPT 130, 131, and 132 and was Vice President of the Band in 1980. He did graduate work in English as Harvard’s Lt. Charles H. Fiske III Scholar at Trinity College, Cambridge, and at Yale University. He is Professor of English, and former department Chair, at Wake Forest University in North Carolina. In 2013, he was named Artistic Director of the Secrest Artists Series, Wake Forest’s endowed professional performing arts series.
Marta Feldmesser (South House, 1982) was a History and Science major who played string bass for HTP 131 and 132. A physician specializing in Infectious Diseases, she attended Duke University School of Medicine, then trained at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Montefiore Medical Center. She has worked as a clinician, researcher, and administrator at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and currently is Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan.