My youth leader once told me on a very successful mission trip to some ghetto in PA that the plateau feelings of self-worth and accomplishment do not last, and she was absolutely correct. That day, she gave each of us a journal to write down how we felt about what we did to inspire us in the future. I still read about gutting and painting that lady’s house and swell with pride for the little help I was able to provide to her and her family.
I don’t usually post about Phi Mu Alpha. In fact, there are times when I don’t usually have anything nice to say about Phi Mu Alpha at all, but as an esteemed graduate of West Virginia University, looking back on my time spent with the Epsilon Sigma Chapter there, I swell with pride – for every reason. In my time in Sinfonia, the chapter found success in every area you can think of.
In the province, Epsilon Sigma – I believe – is widely considered one of the more popular destinations to take your chapter. Being from the largest school of the 6, with the most… things to do, and after hosting one of the most successful province workshops I’ve ever heard of, our fellow brothers formed bonds with each other and with ES that make inter-provincial travel seem like a treat, rather than just some obligatory envoy sent to appease the province 39 bylaws. Some of the best friends you’ll find in Sinfonia are from other chapters. You can vent all you want to a brother from another school about whatever business drama or personal drama is going on in your chapter, and it’s almost guaranteed never to see the light of day again. Every chapter has it’s own stuff going on, and talking to brothers from other schools about the day-to-day tedium helps make everyone feel a lot better about their own chapters.
Although it may be little known to a non-Sinfonian, the basic jyst of the outreach of Phi Mu Alpha is, unsurprisingly, through music. We take music to people who need it – nursing homes, hospitals – wherever there is an opportunity to play or sing, that’s what we love the best. When I first began in the chapter, we simply did not have the numbers or dedication to really make that all happen. Between other obligations and keeping our head above water, ES had its hands full. A year or so in to the reconstruction era, that all began to change.
In high school, I kept traditions of going to Christian music festivals in the summer (before I fell in love with working at camp) with my youth group (read: best friends) and going on little mission trips to not-so-distant places in need (as the one mentioned above). The close feeling with God attained through those little gestures – things that come so easily for you and your cohorts, but make a world of difference in the days of those to whom you give – are extremely humbling and gratifying. Sinfonia is no different. Talking with elderly nursing home patients after hearing them open up their voice and sing along to the simplest song in your set list is a feeling unlike any other, and I personally can’t explain it. Without those shared experiences, I’m not sure if I would have lasted in Sinfonia as long as I did.
Most people who are a little familiar with the fraternity know that as one of the rites of passage to get in, you carry around this little notebook to try to answer questions and get to know the brothers better. One of the default things every brother puts on their page in every notebook is their Most Memorable Music Experience (MMME).
When I first joined, I had always written down my senior year of high school – we had a fresh new band director, and since all of my friends were seniors, section leaders, and the drum major, it generally fell to us to steer the band in the right direction all season. That season I had a kick-ass solo (the pretty solo in the Bluecoats’ Autumn Leaves, for you DCI fangirls), we kicked ass in competition, and a lot of great memories were made that I still cherish today. My first encounter with this chapter’s music game was at the AMR preceding my pledging, featured a trombone solo, a singer/songwriter duo, and a few red-book songs by the brothers – nothing that you would necessarily call memorable.
In the Pride of WV, I haven’t found a memory that has meant more to me than that experience. Yeah, band was fun, but it was always a struggle for me. I started off as a 3rd trumpet, fresh off braces, and while the trips were fun, they didn’t compare to the thrill of marching in competition.
The past few years, I have written something different in various PM classes books. The musical performance aspect of our chapter has grown almost as exponentially as the size of the chapter itself. Hosting a fine interfraternal American Music Recital with Kappa and SAI, having a thriving revival of EpSig’s Motones, and opportunities to sing with the WVU Wind Symphony. Singing the National Anthem for men’s and women’s basketball games and being on the list to be invited back ASAP. These are all things I never dreamed possible, but with the hard work of many, many men at this school, it was. Phi Mu Alpha’s success is an asset to the college of creative arts and to the university, and it shows how much you can learn about organizations through student organizations – if you care enough.
I mean yeah, we may act like dicks sometimes. I know I do. Every brother probably has a few least-favorite brothers. But together, we do stuff, and we mean something to each other. The plateau feeling doesn’t last, so you have to write it down. Maybe I’ll rewrite this post one day, but I doubt it.