Purdue Varsity Glee Club: History
For more than a century, young Purdue men have given their best in performance to audiences at the University, throughout the nation, and around the world. The spirit and success of the Varsity Glee Club also inspired the birth of Purdue Musical Organizations over 65 years ago. Today, as throughout its memorable history, the Glee Club brings recognition and honor to Purdue University.
As a part of PMO, the Glee Club shares the mission to make music that fosters camaraderie among students as they learn, rehearse, travel, and entertain. The men of the Glee Club represent virtually all academic areas. As Purdue's official ambassadors of song, their accomplishments are even more impressive in light of the fact that Purdue has no school of music.
In 1893 11 Purdue students sang in the first Glee Club, directed by Lafayette organist Cyrus Dadswell. At that time, Purdue University was rough around the edges, more given to agriculture and engineering than music appreciation. Despite its environment and numerous changes in leadership, the Glee Club persevered. In 1910 E.J. Wotawa directed the group and later composed the fight song "Hail Purdue." During the 1920s director Paul Smith brought to the ensemble a strengthened sense of purpose. However, it was largely due to the enthusiasm of the Glee Club's first full-time director, the irrepressible Albert Stewart, director from 1932 to 1972, that music found a home at Purdue.
When Al Stewart first asked Purdue president Edward C. Elliott for funds to pay for Glee Club uniforms, he met with a vigorous refusal. But as the Glee Club gathered admirers, Elliott yielded and generously formalized Stewart's position, gave him a staff, and provided rehearsal space.
Under Stewart's direction the Glee Club increased in size to more than 60 members. Concerts took the club to a variety of venues across the nation and abroad. In 1942 popularity of the Glee Club received an important boost when Purdue was a finalist in Fred Waring's national Glee Club Sing-Off in New York. Other performance highlights were to follow, including U.S. presidential inaugurations, a goodwill trip to West Germany after World War II and a meeting with Queen Elizabeth II.
In 1974 William Luhman succeeded Stewart as director of PMO and the Glee Club. A man described as a "piano wizard with perfect pitch," Luhman was a former Glee Clubber himself, graduating in 1949. Luhman's career had developed at Stewart's side, accompanying the Glee Club for 17 years before taking the helm. While loyal to Stewart's music philosophy, Luhman expressed some of his own interests by starting many Glee Club specialty groups. When illness and an untimely death cut short Luhman's efforts, he was succeeded by accomplished pianist William Allen.
Under the direction of Brian Breed, the Glee Club continued to share its eclectic and unique style of entertainment with audiences everywhere. Today, these ambassadors of goodwill for Purdue University continue to entertain audiences throughout the world. Nine European tours along with tours to Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, China, the United Kingdom and South Africa have served to showcase the talents of these fine young men.