History of singing at Stevens
Music has been a part of life at Stevens nearly since the school's inception in 1870. The current, co-ed Stevens Choir of 40+ members led by director Dr. Bethany Reeves traces its ancestry back to the first 7-member Stevens Glee Club, formed in 1873. This all-male group, reflecting the all-male student body, was dissolved and reformed on several occasions after its founding until the arrival of Professor William F. Ondrick in 1957.
The Ondrick Era
With the arrival of "Professor," as he came to be known, the Glee Club became firmly established as a Stevens tradition. From 1957 to 1971, the Club was made up of seventy men, twelve of whom were selected to perform as an elite group called "The Rocks." In addition to regular campus appearances, the Glee Club appeared at Rockefeller Center, the New York World's Fair in Philadelphia and Washington, at other colleges and at various alumni events. The Glee Club recorded two albums at Capitol Records in New York City, Stevens Sings and Seasons at Stevens.
In 1971 Stevens opened its doors to women, prompting the formation of a women's Glee Club to complement the men's group. It soon became clear, however, that a merger of the two groups would provide a more versatile alternative. Hence, in 1973 the Stevens Glee Club included both men and women. A smaller group of co-ed singers, the Stute-Aires, was also created.
Professor Ondrick, who added academic music courses to the Stevens curriculum as well as directing the major campus musical ensembles, retired in the mid-1990's. His memory lives on in the dedication of the music facility on the fourth floor of the Wesley J. Howe Center as the Ondrick Music Room, and in the hearts of the many students he inspired. Without him, the foundation would not have been laid for the now-numerous musical programs and traditions
at Stevens Institute of Technology.
Composers and Arrangers
Stevens has long had a proud tradition of premiering new music and arrangements written by in-house musicians, including students, accompanists, and faculty. The Glee Club over the years has featured music by, or arranged by, musicians including Robert Hebble (a published choral composer), Ken Manzer, James Moran, and Bruce Rogers.
The Roger Years
Professor Ondrick was succeeded by his colleague and mentee Bruce Rogers, who took over music courses, the Glee Club and the Jazz Band from Ondrick's retirement until 2003-2004. Rogers, an accomplished jazz pianist and arranger, provided rigorous music theory instruction to serious-minded music students and arranged numerous jazz and popular standards for the Glee Club. Connie DeFazio, a music teacher in the public schools and a member of the Glee Club under Professor Ondrick, conducted the Club, with Rogers at the piano and a core group of devoted alumni serving as leaders in the ensemble.
The Stevens Choir, now part of DeBaun Center for Performing Arts, was renamed (from Stevens Glee Club) to reflect a broadening of repertoire emphasis. The Choir is led by director Dr. Bethany Reeves, accompanied by Stephanie Safko, and composed of current undergradate students with several additions from enthusiastic faculty and staff. The Choir performs two major concerts per year at DeBaun Auditorium, in addition to regular appearances at Convocation and alumni events.
Some things stay the same, however. Rehearsals are still twice per week on Monday and Thursday evenings, and the Choir still has a strong presence in the community, performing twice yearly at St. Matthew Trinity Lutheran Church for Black History Month and the Messiah Sing. The Ondrick Music Room is very active, home to the Steven Choir, Jazz Band, Concert Band, Orchestra, Pep Band and various small ensembles. All this would not have been accomplished without the foundation laid by the founding music groups at Stevens, the original Stevens Glee Club, and Professor Ondrick.