Group celebrates sisterhood through music
Darkness and emptiness surrounded Penn State’s campus on a brisk September night. But amid the stillness, Old Main glowed.
A circle of women stood on its steps, dressed in gray hooded sweatshirts tied snugly around their heads. Each held a small glass candle that flickered in the night air.
The women broke the eerie silence of the night with song: “Let your voices rise in dedication,” they sang in unison. “Sing the joy of peace and friendships.”
As the gathering came to an end, the group congratulated its newest members for joining Sigma Alpha Iota, the university’s all-female music fraternity.
The 32-person fraternity doesn’t just sing in the darkness of night. This relatively unknown group, which was founded in the 1903, prides itself on tradition and celebrating friendship through music.
“Singing is part of our ritual, part of our tradition,” Katie Mixer, the group’s public relations officer said. “We like to sing together.”
Sigma Alpha Iota performs musicales throughout the year, said Mixer, a junior majoring in journalism. Their performances are open to the public, but few students attend because the group isn’t well known. The fraternity just became an officially recognized student organization this year, Mixer said.
Any woman with a passion for music can join, whether it’s playing the guitar or singing songs written by Adele.
Jessie Scrudders, a French horn player, decided to join the group to not only explore her passion for music, but to also serve the community.
The fraternity is also a service organization, Scrudders, a junior majoring in music education said. About five times a year, the group participates in different service projects. The women have volunteered at a local food bank, helped Girl Scouts earn their music badges and knitted blankets for troops overseas.
Each month, the group holds a benefit concert for the national chapter of Sigma Alpha Iota, which the Penn State chapter greatly admires for its tradition.
At weekly meetings, the group performs songs its founders wrote more than 100 years ago as a way to uphold the fraternity’s tradition. The songs are often about sisterhood and the bonds of friendship, Mixer said.
Though they honor sisterhood, members want to separate themselves from the social stigmas of sororities, some of which are notorious for hazing and cattiness. Often times, they are confused for a sorority because it is an all-female group.
“It’s not a sorority, it’s a fraternity for women,” Mixer said.
The group abides by a strict ant-hazing policy and refers to new members as “members in training” instead of rushes. Each “member in training” is only required to wear a gold Pipes of Pan pin, a symbol to the fraternity’s history, before they become an official member.
The talent in Sigma Alpha Iota is no secret. As members graduate, some may pursue professions in the music industry. Others may work as scientists and advertising executives. But, the bonds of sisterhood—and music—will forever unite the women.
This story was written for Comm 462.