What I Learned from Listening to Ravel’s Bolero for 14 Hours in a Row

Ah… the joys of pledging a college fraternity!

Mitch Ditkoff


Photo by Mohammad Metri on Unsplash

During the course of a lifetime a human being goes through many rites of passage. Birth, for example. First love. And enduring a Republican primary debate. For me, one of the most memorable rites of passage happened in college during the weekend I was initiated into a fraternity.

I realize, of course — especially during these painfully politically correct times — that college fraternities are rarely associated with anything remotely smacking of insight, awareness, or transformation. But for me it definitely was — at least on the rite of passage night I was initiated into Pi Lambda Phi — an experience now permanently etched into whatever remains of my mind.

The initiation?

To sit blindfolded in a pitch black room, next to 21 of my sweating classmates, each of us holding 17 marbles in our left hands while listening to Ravel’s Bolero for 14 hours.

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

That is not a misprint, folks. Fourteen hours of Bolero.

If you are not familiar with Bolero, allow me to briefly introduce it to you. It goes a little something like this: dahhhh, dah dah dah dah dah dah dah dah dah, dah, dah dah dahhhh, dah dah dah, dah dah dah dah dah dah dah dah dah dah dah dah dah.

It is, shall we say, an extremely repetitive piece of music, a kind of mental military mantra, one that requires the kind of refined sensibility to appreciate that none of us in that room possessed.

I think the operational word here is “torture” — a kind of classical music waterboarding experience I still have not yet completely recovered from. Five minutes of Bolero is usually enough for most people. Fourteen hours is like the last year of a really bad marriage.

Photo by Alex Lion on Unsplash

Now here’s where things get really interesting. By the grace of the Bolero gods and the fact…



Mitch Ditkoff

Co-Founder of Idea Champions, Face The Music & Sage Catalysts. Author of Storytelling for the Revolution, Storytelling at Work, Unspoken Word and Free the Genie