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Jim Steinman (AC 1969), the phenomenally successful composer, lyricist, Grammy-winning record producer, arranger and performer, was awarded an honorary degree at the Amherst College commencement this May.

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Steinman (r) receiving the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from President Carolyn “Biddy” Martin at the Amherst College Commencement, May 25, 2013.
(Photo: Amherst College Office of Public Affairs)

Steinman is still probably best known for penning such songs as “Bat Out Of Hell” and “Paradise By The Dashboard Light” on Meat Loaf’s album Bat Out of Hell—the second best-selling record of all time—and “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)” on Bat Out Of Hell II. But his work in musical theater is equally deserving of attention; for example, he wrote the lyrics in a collaboration with Andrew Lloyd Weber for Whistle Down the Wind (1996).

The hoop-la surrounding the return of a veritable musical superstar to Amherst made me wonder about what Steinman got up to while he was an undergraduate. Given his high-gothic sensibility and the generally turbulent nature of the ’60s when he was here, it’s not surprising that the answer is: quite a lot, actually. While at Amherst, Steinman indulged his passion for musical theater by writing a number of rather daring works. Most notable among them was The Dream Engine, a rock musical that Steinman wrote as an independent study project in his senior year.

Let’s have a look at this work, as documented in our Dramatic Activities Collection and our College Photographer’s Negatives Collection.

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Cover of the program for the Amherst College performances of The Dream Engine.
[Dramatic Activities Collection]

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