Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Save Men's Glee

I know that it has been a while since I posted to the blog. To be honest fatherhood, doctorate program and my job were keeping me pretty busy.

I have recently learned of a disturbing situation with an organization at the University of Illinois that is near to my heart, the Varsity Men's Glee Club. For anyone that knows me personally, they know that music has been a big part of my academic career and personal life. Recently, there have been changes to the audition policies of the School of Music that have "demoted" the VMGC to a third tier choir.

Please check out to get the full details. If you are in central Illinois, please attend the concert at Foellinger Great Hall in the Krannert Center for Performing Arts on the U of I campus on April 25 at 7:30 pm. If you happen to be a VMGC alum, please get your voice heard through a letter, phone call or other communique. If you, the alum, can make it to the concert, think about attending the meeting at 3 pm with Dr. Coleman and Dr. Kramer to discuss the current state of the VMGC. You can also hear Jim Turpin discuss this matter on 1400 AM.

Below of the letter that I wrote. Please help in any way that you can.


My name is Robert Abrams and I am an alumnus of the class of 1998 of the University of Illinois. Currently, I am the Instructional Leader of Science at Rich East High School in Park Forest, Illinois and pursuing a Doctorate of Education. My students often ask me questions about where I attended college and what I did when I was there. If they are in my office when these questions are posed, I proudly point to my U of I flag hanging on my office wall.

Some of my best memories from my time at the University of Illinois came from being a proud member of the oldest organizations in the history of the University, the Varsity Men's Glee Club. Being a member and executive board member of the VMGC provided me with the opportunity to make some amazing friends from across the campus, proudly represent the University as an ambassador when performing around the state of Illinois and across the Midwest, gain valued leadership skills, and make some inspiring music that I still sing today.

As a new father, I was looking forward to my son attending the U of I and sharing in my experiences as a part of the VMGC. I imagine the experience of sitting in Foellinger and eagerly awaiting the chance to go up on stage and perform the Big Ten Medley and Illinois Loyalty and perform with old friends, a great director, Dr. Barrington Coleman, and my son. I am disheartened about some of the recent changes in the School of Music’s policies and the lowering of the VMGC to the third tier of performance opportunities availed to the general populous of the University.

VMGC is more than just a School of Music course. It is an institution open to university-wide participation by students of every college and department at Illinois with 123 years of grand tradition. VMGC, although a proud unit of the School Music committed to the highest performance standards, also has important constituencies among the Alumni Association and a rich tradition of service to the University at large. Music majors, while being required to get broad experience in all different kinds of choral ensembles, should not be prevented or discouraged from remaining in VMGC in addition to any other coursework, if they wish to do so. Non-music majors, as I was, should be exempt from the arbitrary assignment policy and should be allowed to try out specifically for Glee Club, if they wish. They should not be subject to being reassigned to a different choir because they are “too good for Glee Club.” The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign should not set out to have a “first-tier” mixed voice ensemble and a “third-tier” male chorus in its School of Music, any more than the university should aspire to have a “first-class” football team and a “third-rate” track team.

Tradition and Honor are two values that I learned to fully comprehend while I was at the U of I. I learned about these values as a member of 123 year old organization. There was a history of excellence that I knew I had to live up to. Especially as a non-music major, I was honored to don the tuxedo tails and represent the University wherever we performed. The Glee Club should be restored to its position and reputation as one of the leading collegiate male choruses in the United States. The Glee Club director should be able to hold campus-wide auditions, to augment the ranks of VMGC with talented non-music majors, in addition to taking any music majors assigned to VMGC by the mandatory panel auditions of the School of Music.

It is an insult to the honor, talent, and history of the VMGC, beginning as the Apollo Club in 1886, to allow this policy to demote this grand and historical organization. Allow the wonderful history that Mr. William Olson built and Dr. Barrington Coleman supports to continue to teach and inspire through quality music and performance without mandatorily siphoning off the talent to other University groups. Allow the Brothers in Song to flourish. Please let me know how I can help in this matter.


Robert Abrams
Class of 1998
VMGC member 1994-1998
VMGC Secretary 1996-1997

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