For Glee Club, singing at Paterno service was a lifetime moment

Story posted January 31, 2012 in News, Joe Paterno by Anna Orso

More than 12,000 people stood up in unison behind graduate student Chris Tow on Thursday, as the mouths in front of him opened to sing the Penn State “Alma Mater.”

Tow, the conductor of the Penn State Glee Club, led the group that sang the iconic song at “A Memorial for Joe,” a service held to honor the late head football coach Joe Paterno.

“The entire song was definitely a blur,” Tow said, recalling a moment in his life he said he will never forget. “To hear thousands of people standing behind you is unnerving, powerful and cool at the same time.”

Following an introduction by the Rev. Matthew Laffey, 16 members of the Glee Club, chosen by seniority, stepped onto the stage in matching blazers and ties, knowing they were singing before thousands, maybe millions.

“A Memorial for Joe” was broadcast live on the Big Ten Network, and senior singer Steven Cornelius said the idea that they were performing at such a pivotal event in Penn State history made him numb.

“This was Joe Paterno.  This man was the face of Penn State,” Cornelius said. “This was a completely different experience than any other time we sang this song. We were a part of something so much greater than any of us.”

Penn State junior Jake Zenker agreed, saying the opportunity to sing at an event for a man respected so highly in the Penn State community was an honor because he was able to share something he loves with everyone else – music.

Zenker said music can convey things that words cannot and can strike emotions in people in ways they wouldn’t have imagined. But for him, the words to the “Alma Mater” made all the difference this time.

“It’s the perfect song for who JoePa was,” Zenker said. “For me, that’s why it was special and different in so many ways.”