Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia | Kappa Sigma | Valparaiso University

Chapter History

 

The History of the Kappa Sigma (ΚΣ) Chapter of ΦΜΑ

Origins and the 1960's
In April 1951, the Beta Lambda chapter of Sigma Alpha Iota was established at Valparaiso University. For whatever reason, the men of music at Valpo did not similarly organize at that time. A "fraternity fever" of sorts must have been in the air, as the 1950's saw each of Valpo's local social fraternities initiated as chapters of various national fraternities, one right after another. During this time, various students tinkered with the idea of a men's music fraternity on campus, but it was not until 1960 that anything of any substance materialized.

By the fall of 1960, Kenneth Lundberg (a sophomore Music Education student) had taken it upon himself to thoroughly investigate the various music fraternities, and came to the decision that the one that would be the best for the musically-inclined men of Valpo was Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia. On October 28, he contacted the fraternity regarding the possibility of forming a chapter at Valparaiso University. Three days later, the fraternity responded with the list of requirements for becoming a chapter. Even before the decision was made to actively pursue this course, the organizers were torn between the extremes of professional & social; the former path could potentially create a group of "music elitists" with too much emphasis on musical ability rather than the appreciation of music, and the latter would potentially create a group that would not be dedicated to the ideals of musical excellence and advancement. The early members of the chapter wanted to walk the fine line of balance between those two positions.

On February 9, 1961, the group of interested men got together for a planning meeting. A few weeks later, on March 21, the group elected a provisional administration, with Ken Lundberg as the first president and Dr. Newman Powell as the first Faculty Advisor. Over the next few weeks, the group worked on completing the requirements for establishing a chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia at Valparaiso Univerisity.

On April 23, 1961, the big day came. The province governor of Province 4, Maurice F. Shadley (Indiana University), and a team from Delta Iota (Western Michigan Univerisity) initiated the Kappa Sigma chapter at Valparaiso University.

The tension between the professional and social sides of the organization was present in the early years, but the chapter made a concerted effort to be as musically involved on campus as possible, but to also have as much non-musical fun as possible. These efforts lasted throughout much of the chapter's first decade. The chapter histories speak of parties and social gatherings, but right along with that were attempts to save the campus radio station, writing for the music columns in the fine arts section of the campus newspaper, staging frequent performances of great music, and the like--even the coup of having the O.P. Kretzmann, who had been university president for some twenty years at that point, publically state that Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia was the first student organization on campus that he had any desire to join. (This statement was made when he was made an honorary member of the chapter.)

By the end of the first decade, Kappa Sigma was increasingly feeling like something of a "black sheep" in the fraternity. As they made more contacts with other chapters in their province, they found that they were often quite different from that of many of the other chapters, where music and professionalism were emphasized over all other things--exactly one of the two extremes that Kappa Sigma had long sought to avoid. The brothers of Kappa Sigma had strong reservations about the ritual and the national by-laws stance on recruiting and joining, and the other chapters apparently felt that Kappa Sigma was too social and had no respect for tradition. Some of the other chapters even felt that the very fact of owning a house diminished the emphasis on music. (At that time, as now, there were only five or so chapters of PMA that had a house.)

As it happens, this happened just after Kappa Sigma received permission to be transferred to Province 4 (which then consisted of all of the chapters in the Chicago area). There were a number of rather heated discussions about the transition. From the viewpoint of Kappa Sigma, the chapters in Province 4 seemed much more amenable to KΣ and their opinions, and after the bad feelings raised in Province 39, things were finally looking up.

However, all was not happy at 810 Brown Street. Attendance at meetings steadily declined, to the point where the secretary started regularly recording absences as "Absent from the role of Brother were..." The chapter seemed to be splintering into a small core of upperclassmen who got everything done but would be graduating soon, and a "silent majority" of members whose feelings towards the chapter organization ranged from simply a lower priority than schoolwork or other activities to apathy to a desire to leave the fraternity, but in general didn't like the way the chapter was being run nor where the chapter seemed to be going. As a result, in December the by-laws they had worked so hard to create only a year before were suspended indefinitely, and the entire executive board resigned. A temporary "caucus chairman" and secretary were appointed while the brotherhood got together and discussed whether to simply disband and sell the house and if not, how to fix what was wrong with the chapter. The decade ended with a lot of soul-searching and hammering together new policies that would hopefully fix the problems that had caused so many members to become discontented.

The 1970's
January 1970 began with the election of a new executive board. Caucus Chairman Phil Hahn became the new President, and things started to turn around. There were some fits and starts, as is typical when an organization attempts to climb up after hitting rock bottom, but things were definitely on the mend.

Other than that, not much is known about the chapter through the 1970's. No formal histories survive if any were ever written, and the minutes of the general assembly are often difficult to understand, when they exist at all, due to the very brief descriptions of events and almost exclusive use of nicknames when referring to brothers. It was during this time that the tradition of passing the gavel during the general meetings started, so that every brother would have the chance each week to take the floor and speak his mind on whatever topic he wished, rather than limiting the floor to those who had reports to give or who were recognized by the president to speak specifically to whatever official business was on the table. It was also during this time that the tradition of starting meetings with "Hail, Sinfonia" and ending it the "Sinfonian Anthem" ("All Hail Sinfonian Brothers") began. It seems many chapters (including Kappa Sigma before that point) exclusively use the "Hail" to open and close meetings. In 1993, this tradition was changed, replacing the "Sinfonian Anthem" with the "Parting Song," partially as a gesture to promoting more brotherhood during a difficult period. (That song has more mention of what it is to be a brother, whereas the "Sinfonian Anthem" is more of a boisterous, triumphant piece that assumes good relations between brothers.)

The 1980's
The 1980's saw a period of strong growth for the chapter, in part because the fine balance between professional and social elements started tipping more toward the social side. The only historical data that remains from this period are yearly photo albums and reminiscences passed down from super-senior to freshman new members. Throughout it all, there was still the fervent desire to promote high standards in creativity, performance, education, and research in music, even if one wasn't overflowing with personal musical talent oneself. The decade began with the chapter performing the national anthem at Chicago's Wrigley Field, and ended with the chapter large enough to have a large pool of talented musicians to draw from for any occasion that might arise.

The 1990's

The 1990's The 1990-91 school year saw the chapter reach its largest size, as the second-largest chapter in the fraternity (after Iota), with 63 active members. It was just at that point when the pendulum began to swing back to professionalism. The brothers who most stressed the social side of the chapter had either already graduated or did so that year, and the younger members were mostly split between those who tended towards the professional side of the chapter, those who were more passive and/or apathetic, and those who would rather goof off than do anything else. Performing and performing well seemed to be of the utmost performance to the first group, and the other two rarely expressed any worthwhile opinions on the matter. This was not a big draw for incoming freshman other than music majors, however, and at that point, the quality of Valpo's music program was suffering--so qualified, interested men got increasingly difficult to come by. Within the span of a few years, the chapter had shrunk to one-third its previous size. The chapter also struggled with internal conflict and severe apathy; volunteers were always few, and at one point actives were requesting expulsion nearly every other week, sending morale to an all-time low. Eventually, a core of committed brothers formed, and the worst of all three camps graduated. Ever since the chapter has been rebuilding and reestablishing the balancing act on the fine line between their social and professional aspects.

The House
In May 1963, the chapter decided to lease a house at 605 Lincolnway from Pi Kappa Alpha; the lease was actually signed in June. (Pikes had themselves leased it from Delta Theta Phi while an annex to the Pike house was built; construction on the annex was done by this point, but Pikes still had one year left on their lease.  DQF had only bought the house in 1961 from the Alpha Xi Epsilon sorority when Scheele Hall was built and the sororities were forced to give up their houses and move there.) This house was only a short distance from the area where most of Valpo's students lived and where most of the student hang-outs were. The house served as a focal point for chapter activities and helped the chapter grow much larger and maintain that growth longer than it could have if all it had to its name was a room in a campus music building. (Note: the Lincolnway house has since been demolished; a wheelchair ramp for the house next door and a few trees are all that exist on the lot--both lots were owned by Delta Theta Phi, and possibly are still owned by DQF alumni, even though there hasn't been a chapter of that fraternity at Valpo for many years.)

On February 27, 1967, the chapter purchased a house of its own at 810 Brown Street, which was even closer to campus than the Lincolnway house. They moved from Lincolnway to Brown Street in June of that year, and the chapter has remained in that house to this day. In 1981, the mortgage was burned; the house is 100% Kappa Sigma's.

 As it turns out, the move to Brown Street was the second time the chapter has moved into a house previously used by another Valpo fraternity--in the 1930's, 810 Brown Street was the home of Sigma Delta Chi, a local fraternity that became a chapter of Theta Chi in the 1950's.

The Brown Street house originally housed up to 25 brothers (though most years, there were rarely more than 15 living there). In the late 1980's it was extensively remodeled and two or three bedrooms in the basement were removed, bringing the normal maximum capacity of the house down to 17 residents. The rooms are arranged so that there are five sleeping areas, generally holding 3-5 beds each, each of which has an associated study area either adjoining or elsewhere in the house. (Sometimes the rooms & study areas are split, so that each becomes a sleeping & study area for 1-2 brothers.) The basement has a laundry room and an L-shaped meeting/party area. When Jesters (the main cafeteria on campus, previously known as The Grail) was remodeled, the chapter acquired one of the large, round tables, and then garbage-picked two of the bench seats and one of the rectangular tables.

The Corporation
On October 22, 1965, the chapter formed a corporation, "Kappa Sigma Chapter, Inc., Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Fraternity." The corporation was formed due to insurance matters as well as the ease of getting loans. Every past and present member of Kappa Sigma is a "shareholder" of sorts. The chapter raises money, and the corporation manages it--charging rent, managing the investment portfolio, paying for improvements to the house, taking care of insurance and any loans, and otherwise generally watching out for the chapter's best interests. Technically, the house is owned and operated by the corporation rather than the chapter. Since the corporation's existence is so entwined with that of the chapter, there doesn't seem to be much to say other than that about the history of the corporation itself.

One instance where the corporation's history warrants separate merit, however, is during the Vietnam War, when Paul Truebenbach, one of the board members, was drafted and so had to resign his position. Ed Eich was appointed to fill out Paul's term. A month later, Ed was drafted. Needless to say, Ed's replacement on the board was quite anxious for a while whenever he opened his mailbox!

The Little Sisters
Sometime in the early 1970's, the chapter decided to create a "Little Sister" organization for women interested in music. It flourished for several years, until the national fraternity found out about it, and ruled that no chapter was allowed to have a "little sister" organization. After much debate (and much thought given to leaving Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia and forming a new professional music fraternity that allowed both male and female members), the "Phi Mu Alpha Little Sisters" were officially disbanded, and were just as quickly reformed as "Perfect Harmony Incorporated" (or PHI for short, as a way of thumbing a nose at the national fraternity), which was shortened to just "Perfect Harmony" after someone pointed out that they weren't actually incorporated. This organization publically functioned as a "music boosters" organization of sorts, and privately was often treated by the actives as a sort of "Kappa Sigma dating pool." Then, in the early 1990's, Perfect Harmony began to wane; they tried to distance themselves more and more from Kappa Sigma, and found they could not exist for long on their own--in large part due to apathy, which is a killer to a "boosters" organization. In an effort to stay around, they opened their membership to men as well, but that only staved off the by-then inevitable for another year or two. The organization officially disbanded during the 1993-94 school year.


Respectfully submitted,
Joel Hahn '94

Adapted,                                                                                                                                                                  Eric Mueller '16

More about the new decades coming soon...

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