The first Women’s Glee Club was formed in 1893, under the direction of Mrs. Augusta Hastreiter of the School of Music. Initially known as the “University Girl’s Glee Club,” the club blossomed in its early years, quickly gaining notoriety on campus and throughout Ann Arbor. By 1903 an article about the club appeared in a local newspaper, entitled, “Can Give the Boys Pointers on How to Sing the College Songs.” The article stated, “In appearance and in their musical numbers the girls made a most pleasing impression, demonstrating finally and for all time that the University of Michigan has ample material for a good club among the girls.”
Continuing to grow into the 20th century, the Glee Club was directed by Nora Crane Hunt for twenty-five years, 1910-1935.
Hunt was a distinguished graduate and faculty member of the School of Music, as well as a founder of Sigma Alpha Iota. She is now commemorated as the namesake of Hunt House in the South Quad residence hall. The club became known as the Women’s Glee Club in the early 1940s, kicking off an era of great strength for the organization. Directors such as Prof. Marguerite Hood, then President of the Music Educators National Conference, promoted high musical standards and an active schedule. Other directors in the 20th century included Thor Johnson (future conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony), Bill Sawyer, Wilmot Pratt, Jeanette Floyd Estep, Prof. Maynard Klein, and Achilles Taliaferro.
The WGC performed regularly on campus, in Ann Arbor churches, on the radio for WJR, and even at nearby Camp Custer to keep up the morale of civilians and the armed forces during World War II.
WGC alumna Florence Kingsbury Froelich (BA ’47) wrote that the activities of the club were a “bright spot” on campus during the war. Unfortunately, the club disbanded in the early 1950s because a director could not be found and the legacy of the WGC was missing from campus for several years.
In 1976, a student named Kimberly Smith (LSA ’79) resurrected the group in an effort to reinvigorate the musical opportunities for women on campus, becoming the current club’s first president.
The re-founded club confirmed its dedication to “live up to the aims of the original group” in its 1978 concert programs.
In 1978, Director Rosalie Edwards (mus ’57, Mmus ’59) began her career with the club, and would be tirelessly devoted to its growth and improvement for years to come. The WGC thrived under Mrs. Edwards’s direction, boasting sub-groups such as a Madrigal Choir, the a cappella ensemble The Harmonettes, and a Michigan Spirit wing known as Bo’s Boosters.
Conducted by School of Music faculty since 1994, the WGC has continued to thrive and expand its horizons in the community and on multiple concert tours.
Director Dr. Sandra Snow contributed to the group a renewed dedication to performing inspired and exceptional music for women’s chorale. This spirit is embodied in the WGC’s Women’s Vocal Arts Day, which annually hosts over 700 high school women from across the State of Michigan. The club continues to actively contribute to Michigan Spirit in our “Blues” tailgate performances and at other events throughout the year. In 2003, WGC alumna and grand-daughter of the club’s first director, June Hastreiter Bennett (BA ’44), said of her grandmother, “How proud she would be of you now!”
As we look to the past for inspiration, the members of the Women’s Glee Club focus on the future and strive to become an enduring tradition at the University of Michigan.