After 86 years, Westminster Choir College has welcomed its first chartered fraternity.
The process of establishing the Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia male fraternity was begun three years ago by now-senior Chris Olson. The national fraternity has been in existence since 1900 and is the largest music fraternity in the world, with chapters on more than 200 campuses across the nation.
“When I came here, I was just astounded that we’re in a college environment and there was no fraternity,” Olson said. “That is a vital part of the collegiate experience, to have the opportunity to be in a fraternity.”
Although Olson was enthusiastic about the development of a fraternity on campus, some students were skeptical.
“A lot of them had a picture of Phi Mu Alpha being a fraternity similar to those that they would see in movies, with togas and frat parties and getting drunk, so the concept of a music fraternity was not something that they were conceptualizing,” Olson said.
The fraternity was chartered on April 6, but obtaining this charter was no easy task. The fraternity members had to begin by raising $150 for an application fee and then another $500 in order to set up a bank account.
“We couldn’t just get donations of the money, we had to actually do a fundraiser so that we would understand the concept that when we became a full chapter [we would have to raise money],” Olson said.
The members were also required to give back to the community through service projects. They renovated one of the practice rooms at Westminster and held performances at several nursing homes. An application also had to be drawn up and sent to the national fraternity for approval. The final application was nearly 400 pages long, said Olson.
“We received word back that not only was our application approved, but the commission on standards deemed that our application was the best that they had ever seen and our application will henceforth be used as the guiding application that will be sent to future colonies on what they expect as an excellent application,” he said.
There are currently 16 members of the fraternity at Westminster. Junior Evan Figueras, next year’s Phi Mu Alpha president, plans to keep the fraternity active and help it grow.
“The ultimate goal is to keep it alive, keep it thriving,” Figueras said. “It took us a while to get where we are now, but we have a larger place to grow to.”
The fraternity also had to be recognized as a student organization by the Westminster SGA. It will hold rush activities and hand out bids for the first time next year. However, the fraternity cannot recruit anyone who has not established at least a 2.0 GPA. This means that first-semester freshmen will be excluded.
Membership is not limited to those attending WCC or who study within music curricula or programs, so students from both campuses are welcome to join. The fraternity only requires that its members have a love for music and want to advocate the advancement of music in America. For example, the president of Rowan University’s fraternity is a math major, according to Olson.
The fraternity is not just a brotherhood, but also a family. It is a social outlet for students who are in a conservatory environment, and it is intended to get them “out of the practice room,” said Olson. The organization also allows students to establish a new “family” on campus.
“When students come to college, the idea of leaving your family is such a scary thing and to be accepted into a new family is an incredible experience,” Olson said.