PMO ‘Tradition of Excellence’ Expands Exponentially

When it was dedicated in 2014, Ralph & Bettye Bailey Hall was a perfect fit for the students and staff of Purdue Musical Organizations.

Eight years later, the organization continues to expand exponentially. Consistent with the University’s increased enrollment records, the number of students interested in performing with a PMO ensemble is also rising. As more students audition, the PMO staff have to make the difficult decision of where to put these passionate performers.

“Every year, the talent of each class of students who audition for PMO keeps getting better and better,” said Bill Griffel, the Albert P. Stewart Director of Purdue Musical Organizations and Jack Calhoun Director of the Purdue Varsity Glee Club. “It’s a good problem to have, but a problem nonetheless.”

As the COVID-19 pandemic introduced new safety precautions, the PMO staff had to adjust the daily rehearsal schedule in order to fit each ensemble inside Bailey Hall.

“Since the Bells have outgrown the Luhman room, we had to move them into the Rohrman Room to accommodate for the larger number of ringers,” Griffel said. “As a result, the Glee Club now rehearses an hour earlier to allow for the Purduettes, Heart & Soul and University Choir to all use the Smith Room afterwards.”

Currently, the Smith Room is the only rehearsal room large enough to accommodate four of PMO’s six ensembles, including the All- Campus & Community Chorale, which rehearses on Tuesday evenings. During the day, the first floor of Bailey Hall bustles with students from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and students meet for sectionals and specialty rehearsals on most nights.

“We are so fortunate to have a beautiful building like Bailey Hall to call our own,” said Griffel. “Our home is increasingly becoming too small for our growing family, and we are looking forward to implementing some enhancements here soon! It’s exciting to dream about what that will look like in the near future.”

Bailey Hall

University Choir Welcomes Choi as Artist in Residence

It’s not every day that Purdue students have the opportunity to perform the world premiere of an original song under the composer’s direction. However, that’s exactly what students in University Choir are looking forward to this semester.

PMO is thrilled to welcome Saunder Choi as University Choir’s first Artist in Residence this spring! Choi, a Los Angeles-based Filipino composer and choral artist, has an impressive resume with highlights such as writing compositions for the Los Angeles Master Chorale and working with Tony Award winner Lea Salonga.

“Commissioning is an incredibly creative process and requires deep commitment from composer and performer alike,” said PMO Assistant Director Jake Stensberg, who has worked with Choi over the past year to request a commissioned piece arranged specifically for University Choir.

Choi’s original composition, “I Came to Your Shore as a Wayfaring Stranger,” uses text from two sources: the American folk tune “Poor Wayfaring Stranger,” and classical Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore’s “Stray Birds.”

During his visit, Choi will have the chance to work with the Purduettes and the Purdue Varsity Glee Club, who are also singing songs from his musical catalog this semester. While in West Lafayette, Choi will have the opportunity to collaborate with other Purdue departments, including the Asian American and Asian Resource and Cultural Center.

“It’s especially exciting that we’ll be able to host Saunder in residence here at PMO at the end of March and have him in attendance for the world premiere on April 1,” said Stensberg, who assists Jeff Vallier in directing the Purduettes and University Choir.

Some of Stensberg’s favorite lines from Tagore’s “Stray Birds” poem include the text “I came to your shore as a stranger; I lived in your house as a guest; I leave your door as a friend.” In Stensberg’s opinion, “There’s no better way to summarize the beautiful relationship between performer and composer.”

PMO Ensembles Excited to ‘Hit the Road’ this Spring

While keeping a careful eye on the COVID-19 landscape, several PMO ensembles are excited to “hit the road” again this spring!

For the first time in 22 months, the PMO performance calendar is filled with collaborative concerts and performances in unique locales. From Ohio to Hawaii, and from Florida to New York, the PMO students and staff are thrilled to be able to perform for in-person audiences again this semester.

Beginning this month, the Purdue Varsity Glee Club and Purduettes will perform together on Feb. 19 at First Church in Wheatfield, Ind. In March, both ensembles will embark on respective spring break performance tours. The Purduettes will travel to Hawaii, and the Glee Club will begin its spring break in Naples, Fla., before finishing the tour in New York City.

The Purdue Bells have several out-of-state performances scheduled during spring break as well. On March 17, PMO’s only instrumental ensemble will perform a free concert at Grace United Methodist Church in Naperville, Ill. Then on March 20, the Purdue Bells will perform a free concert at Worthington United Methodist Church in Worthington, Ohio.

On March 26, University Choir will perform a collaborative concert with the Indianapolis Children’s Choir at the Cornerstone Lutheran Church in Fishers, Ind. Later that same day, Heart & Soul will perform at St. Mary’s Catholic Church followed by an overnight in Greensburg, Ind.

Rounding out the performance calendar are PMO’s end-of-year concerts in April. The Purduettes will kick off the annual concert series with their Spring Spectacular Concert on April 23, followed by the PMO Spring Show on April 24. Both concerts will be presented in the Long Center for the Performing Arts in Lafayette, Ind.

The following weekend, the Purdue Varsity Glee Club will perform the annual “End of Season” Concert on April 29 in Loeb Playhouse, located inside Stewart Center on Purdue’s campus in West Lafayette, Ind.

PMO invites you to attend an in-person performance this semester, whether in West Lafayette or on the road, so you can see and hear what the students have been working on all year. We look forward to seeing your smiling faces (albeit underneath masks, if necessary) in the audience soon!

Click here for more details about upcoming PMO performances.

PMO Students Shine in ‘A Boilermaker Carol’ Commercial

What started as an anonymous post online turned into a nationally televised holiday commercial featuring PMO students and directors.

While walking out of the Elliott Hall of Music last fall, a Purdue freshman heard beautiful music coming from an outdoor piano located near the Bell Tower. Later that night, she wrote an anonymous post on an online Purdue forum, thanking the pianist for lifting her spirits after a particularly challenging exam.

After reading her post, the Purdue Marketing and Communications team requested that PMO create a unique re-imagining of “Hail Purdue” for their annual holiday commercial. Within 72 hours of receiving the request, PMO Assistant Director Jake Stensberg had arranged an inspired rendition of the University’s beloved fight song.

“Inspiration for the ‘Boilermaker Carol’ arrangement really came from drawing on some of my favorite memories: sitting at the piano, surrounded by close friends, singing songs together,” said Stensberg, who assists with directing the Purduettes, University Choir and several small specialty ensembles. “Once I was able to tap into that well of emotion, the re-imagining of a tune we all know and love came quite easily.”

This one-of-a-kind arrangement features lead vocals by Purduette Addison Schreiber, harmonies provided by 11 other PMO students and piano accompaniment by PMO Assistant Director, Dr. Shuk Ki Wong. Stensberg’s new “Norah Jones-esque” version of the fight song perfectly showcases Schreiber’s sultry sound.

“I thought it was really cool that the song wasn’t necessarily Christmas- specific because there are a lot of people that don’t celebrate Christmas, but it still had that same warm and fuzzy vibe,” said Schreiber, a junior from Bluffton, Ind., studying political science.

The production process, which included an audio recording session and three video shoots, took place over four evenings in November amid PMO’s preparation for the virtual Christmas Show. The students filmed the commercial near familiar campus landmarks including the Bell Tower, the Engineering Fountain and Mackey Arena, and they even had the opportunity to record audio tracks in the professional recording studio located in Yue-Kong Pao Hall.

“Working with Addison on the solo and watching our students at work in the recording studio reminded me of my days working with professional singers in Indianapolis and New York City,” said Stensberg. “They were polished and joyful, and I couldn’t be more proud of the work they did to put this warm, inviting image of Purdue University out there for everyone to enjoy.”

The PMO students and staff were honored to be featured in the University’s annual holiday commercial, which has reached nearly 130,000 views on YouTube to date.

Click here to view “A Boilermaker Carol” video, produced by Purdue Marketing and Communications.

Virtual Christmas Show Returns to Elliott Hall of Music

After a two-year absence, PMO students took to the Elliott Hall of Music stage once again.

In December 2021, the 88th annual Purdue Christmas Show was produced virtually due to health and safety concerns caused by COVID-19. However, the pandemic precautions could not stop the students and staff from sharing the spirit of the holiday season with thousands of viewers via PMO’s new broadcasting network: PMOBroadcasting.com.

“As an out-of-state student, I am excited to be able to share this year’s virtual Christmas Show with my entire family, even those who typically would be unable to attend the show in person,” said Jennifer Ascher, a Purduette senior studying mechanical engineering from South Lyon, Mich.

More than 250 students and community members filled the stage of Elliott Hall to film PMO’s virtual production the week after Thanksgiving. In accordance with the University’s Protect Purdue guidelines, the PMO staff developed a customized COVID-19 testing program that allowed students to perform last year’s Christmas Show without masks.

“PMO is grateful for the assistance of the Protect Purdue Health Center and medical advisory team, which were integral in developing our surveillance testing protocol” said Colton Withers, PMO Associate Director and Director of Administration & External Relations. “As you see our students’ smiling faces, please be grateful for these partners!”

Over the course of a week, the PMO staff worked together with members of the professional orchestra, who were thrilled to be back in the pit, and the Elliott Hall of Music staff to organize a rehearsal and recording schedule for each individual ensemble.

PMO thanks Gary Higgins, videographer and owner of Indiana Motion Pictures, and Michael Graham, chief audio engineer and president of The Lodge Studios, for their partnership in making last year’s virtual production possible. Of course, the PMO students and community performers deserve all the credit for bringing the Christmas Show magic back to the Elliott Hall stage.

“As a senior, it is incredible to be part of a large production filled with students, none of whom are music majors,” said Ascher, who serves as manager of the Purduettes. “I am so grateful to be part of PMO and the virtual Christmas Show, and I hope this show brings everyone a little holiday cheer.”

The 88th annual Purdue Christmas Show is available indefinitely for PMO subscribers. To learn more and to view the virtual production, visit PMOBroadcasting.com.

An Open Letter from Bill Griffel, Director of Purdue Musical Organizations

When I reflect on the past two years and all that we’ve endured together, I am in awe of our students’ resilience in the face of adversity. Now more than ever, I’m so proud to say that our PMO students continue to exhibit that persistent Boilermaker spirit as we face new challenges brought on by the rapidly evolving COVID-19 pandemic.

As these new variants throw us one curve ball after another, I am pleased — but not entirely surprised — to find that the number of students interested in performing with PMO continues to grow. Better still, since we transitioned our audition process to be entirely virtual in the spring of 2020, our musical directors are continually impressed by the caliber of talented students who want to join our PMO family.

Even after everything this season of life has thrown at us, one thing is abundantly clear: nothing — not even a once-in-a-century global pandemic — can stop our organization from growing.

After nearly two years, our students are looking forward to hitting the road again this spring. Three of our ensembles are preparing to embark on spring break tours around the country. The Purdue Bells, the Purduettes, and the Purdue Varsity Glee Club will travel to Ohio, Hawaii, Florida and New York, respectively. Be sure to follow along with their travels on social media next month!

We have several exciting collaborations coming up for University Choir, including a combined concert with the Indianapolis Children’s Choir, while Heart & Soul prepares for their first overnight performance in March. Of course, nothing caps off the semester better than our end-of-the-year concert series in April.

Another exciting update we’re looking forward to sharing with our online audience is the opportunity to view these annual performances from the comfort of your couch by subscribing to PMOBroadcasting.com. Our students continue to tell me how thrilled they are that their out-of-state relatives will be able to tune in for these final performances — some for the first time. We hope you get the chance to attend a performance in person or to tune in online from wherever you call home.

If you find yourself back on campus, we encourage you to stop by Bailey Hall to sit in on a rehearsal and to see for yourself the wonderful work our students and staff are doing. Whether in West Lafayette or on the road, I look forward to seeing you in the audience again soon!

As always, I am ever grateful for your continued support of this amazing organization, which I am humbled to lead.

BOILER UP AND HAIL PURDUE!

William E. Griffel

Albert P. Stewart Director of Purdue Musical Organizations

Jack Calhoun Director of the Purdue Varsity Glee Club

PMO Student Spotlight: Karen You

Meet Karen You, a sophomore from Beijing, China, studying Computer Science and ringing with the Purdue Bells. Karen is just one of the many PMO students who dedicate their time and talents to serve as ambassadors of song for Purdue University.

Chamber Choir at Commissioning of the USS Indiana

On September 29th, the Indiana (the newest Virginia-Class submarine) was commissioned and entered the US Navy as a United States Ship. A group of six singers from University Choir were selected to perform the national anthem for this ceremony, and I was fortunate to be chosen as one of those singers.

This was an amazing opportunity which allowed us to perform at the commissioning and the gala the night before, get a tour of the submarine, and fly in to NASA’s shuttle landing facility. As an aerospace engineer, I especially enjoyed seeing the Kennedy space center from the air and seeing a shuttle orbiter on the side of the runway. At the events, we performed the Star Spangled Banner, The Navy Hymn, Back Home Again in Indiana, and a medley of other Indiana songs. The commissioning ceremony is available for viewing on ussindiana.org.

Being able to perform at an event like this shows the professionalism and capability of PMO and I thank the PMO staff and the culture they create in PMO for preparing us for this. As a senior, I can’t think of a better way to end my time here than with a performance like this. I also send thanks to the commissioning committee for inviting us and arranging all the details, and especially to Jake Stensberg, our director, and the other singers for making this an unforgettable trip.

Yours in Song,

William Marrujo, Senior

Chanhassen, MN

Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering

 

University Choir Fall Break Tour of Indianapolis

Joy (Noun): “Happiness over an unanticipated or present good”

As this semester closes to mid-term, University Choir has had a theme throughout rehearsals and our very first tour to Greenwood, Indiana: joy. I can assure that everyone on this Fall Break tour had a joyous time! On Sunday morning, University Choir, Heart & Soul, and the Purdue Bells performed during the Grace United Methodist Church worship services and later performed a full performance that evening. On our final day, we all went to Greenwood Community High School to perform three concerts.

Personally, I will always remember singing Indodana, a South African piece filled with weeping over the crucifixion of Christ. I felt the weight of those words through the intense lines and expressions of others around me each time University Choir sang. As I tried not to tighten my throat and watch our director, Jeff Vallier, with foggy vision I knew I had become captured by the song. Standing dumbfounded in my place, I was not even sure if I could sing our next piece.

Additionally, I could not be more thankful for all the friendly people within University Choir. As a transfer student coming in as a junior, I felt incredibly nervous about making friends at a new university. This tour reminded me how wonderful a group of singers could truly be, and I can write with great certainty many people—and the music—has increased my personal joy immensely! As defined above, it has certainly brought me a happiness that was unanticipated, especially as I remember laughing with such fun choir members. Thank you to all who made this tour possible and to those who attended our performances; you all made this experience memorable!

If you are interested in experiencing joy with Purdue Musical Organizations, feel free to attend our Fall Show on Sunday, November 4th at 2 p.m. Also, tickets for the Purdue Christmas are on sale now! So, if you are interested in experiencing the full joy of Christmas and PMO, please join us in this experience on December 1st or 2nd!

Yours in Song,

Abby Fisher, Junior

Frankfort, IN

Hospitality and Tourism Management

Public Relations Committee

Heart & Soul Fall Break Tour of Indianapolis

During Fall Break, we took a trip down to Indianapolis with the University Choir and the Purdue Bells. This was my first overnight trip with Heart & Soul, so I was very excited. While there, we sang at Hope United Methodist Church and Greenwood Community High School. The first morning, we got to be part of Hope’s worship services. As the gospel choir, we love getting to worship with others! That afternoon, we had a big concert for the people in the community. I loved getting to hear the other choirs perform and bring joy to people in the area!

The next day, we gave two mini-concerts for the students in the music program at Greenwood Community High School in the morning. I thought this was awesome because it showed high school students that there are opportunities to keep singing in college. That evening, we held a concert at the school for all students and community members. The crowd was awesome, and I loved sharing how amazing PMO is. I can’t wait to take another trip with Heart & Soul and the other choirs!

If you haven’t yet, get your tickets for the Purdue Christmas Show and see all of us put on a show you will never forget!

Yours in Song,

Liz Wakelin, Sophomore

Springfield, IL

Biomedical Engineering