From soul-stirring reverence to slapstick silliness, the mood fluctuated greatly Alumni Weekend. And that was just during the two-hour Men’s Glee Club concert in Hall Auditorium.
The evening was particularly poignant for those among the 150 on stage who have participated in the group during the 10-year tenure of outgoing director Ethan Sperry.
For the “clubbers,” the entire weekend served as a tribute to Sperry, who arrived at Miami in 2000 as a bachelor and now leaves for Portland State University with wife Siri, and their young children, Max and Rebecca. Moving to be closer to grandparents, Sperry will be director of choral activities.
During a series of thank-yous at the Glee Club’s Saturday lunch, members shared Ethan Sperry stories.
One of the recounters, Jeff Wanko ’88 MAT ’93, met the director at a reception for new faculty. When Wanko, who teaches mathematics education, mentioned he was an alumnus of the club, Sperry asked him to rejoin. Two years later, Wanko did and has been singing tenor with the group ever since.
“Miami was very new to Ethan,” Wanko said. “It was a really great fit for him chorally and vocally, though he was kind of a fish out of water being here in the Midwest. Ethan’s been a father and a big brother to these guys. We’ve had some wonderful times and some sad times. We’ve shared a lot and Ethan’s been my best friend.”
Sperry, a native New Yorker who began studying conducting at age 8, also conducted Collegiate Chorale and Global Rhythms Ensembles at Miami and taught classes in vocal and choral music. He stretched the groups through international tours that introduced students to different cultures and through new, sometimes uncomfortably unfamiliar music. He positioned singers so that people with nothing in common became best friends while singing next to each other.
After a half dozen tributes at the Alumni Weekend lunch, Sperry came to the lectern in Shriver’s Heritage Room. Uncertain of how long his emotions would allow him to talk, he thanked the roomful of men.
“It’s been amazing to me all along how well this group has understood me and how well I have understood this group,” he told them. “I say this because I rarely fit into a group in any way, shape, or form … except for the group I played Dungeons and Dragons with in high school.
“But this group has that amazing gift of accepting everyone for who they are. I know how much of a gift that’s been for me. What goes on here is very, very special.”
Six decades of Miamians join together in song during the Men’s Glee Club concert Alumni Weekend under the direction of Ethan Sperry.
Editor’s note: Jeremy Jones, a doctoral candidate at the Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music in choral conducting, will conduct the Glee Club and the Collegiate Chorale this year.
To take a look back at Alumni Weekend 2010 and flip through the photo album, go to www.MiamiAlum.org/AlumniWeekend.