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Singing Men of Ohio celebrates “SMOmecoming” weekend

The Singing Men of Ohio, or SMO, is an ensemble of undergraduate and graduate students from Ohio University, as well as Athens community members who sing tenor-bass choral repertoire. 

According to OU, SMO was formed in 1989 after Dr. Ira T. Zook took over the former Glee Club and reformed its traditions. Zook was the director for 11 years and his passions for music and men’s choir were SMO’s “guiding force.”

SMO’s annual alumni concert encourages alumni from the past 35 years to reconnect and come together for a special performance. Cody Gue, OU class of ‘22 and interim president of the SMO alumni network, said the weekend, also known as “SMOmecoming,” consists of several events for the alumni to participate in. Gue said his favorite part about the weekend and his position is seeing how the group has evolved. 

“I would say being able to look and see how the group has changed over the years,” Gue said. “This year there is a new director and the personality of the group is totally different than it would have been 20 years ago and that’s okay because the group continues to thrive.” 

The current members of SMO help orchestrate the weekend’s activities and show their support for the alumni. Ben Christiansen, a sophomore studying communications, is SMO’s recruitment manager and said the current members and alumni are always willing to connect. 

“We (have) a giant Facebook group that has almost I think 600 people in it and anyone who has ever been in SMO is in that Facebook group,” Christiansen said. “That’s where we send a lot of our notices and upcoming events and especially with this weekend coming up, we’ll send them the music they’re singing … and where they need to be, call times and all that good stuff.” 

Not only do the current members show their support during “SMOmecoming” weekend, but the alumni continue to attend performances throughout the year. Peter Haley, assistant professor of instruction for choral music education and the director of two SMO ensembles, discussed the immense support he has seen from the alumni, despite it being only his first year in the position. 

“When we were on choir tour earlier this semester, one of the concerts that we gave was at St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati and the director of that group is a SMO alumni himself,” Haley said. “We were able to do that because we made that connection with him, or you know, we already had that connection with him.”

Haley said more SMO alumni also attended the concert to reconnect with one another and watch the group perform.

Each year brings a new level of excitement for the weekend festivities. Haley said he is especially excited as this is his first alumni concert experience. 

“I think the opportunity to make music with a different group of people than my sort of normal setting is always an exciting thing,” Haley said. “There is always the challenge of, ‘You don’t know what you don’t know,’ but at the same time, it’s going to be people that are familiar with the idea of group singing and folks that are motivated to be there.” 

Despite the name, SMO encourages all students to join the group. Christiansen said he admires the group’s acceptance and hopes others can join and express themselves. 

“We are a non-auditioned group,” Christiansen said. “If you want to join (and) you sing tenor or bass, you are free to come in and sing with us, which I think is one of our biggest strengths is that just anybody can come in and do what they love to do.”  

The alumni concert, which will be held in Glidden Hall on April 13 at 6 p.m., encourages all students, faculty and Athens locals to attend and show their support. Kaden Brunner, a freshman studying aviation, said he is looking forward to meeting everyone and sharing a special performance with his dad who is also a SMO alum.  

“I think I speak for everybody in the group that we are just all really looking forward to meeting all of the alumni and getting to sing with them,” Brunner said. 

SMO holds practices Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 11:50 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. in Glidden Hall. 

“SMO is considered more than a choir, we are a brotherhood and so at the end of every rehearsal we say, ‘When you SMO, you SMO for life’ and that really speaks to the fact that all of the alumni just feel a strong connection to the group and all the members today,” Brunner said.


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