Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia | Alpha Lambda | Illinois Wesleyan University

Chapter History

In 1922, a group of men formed a music club at Illinois Wesleyan University, which was named “The Nevin Club.” Two years later, after numerous recommendations had been solicited and sent to the National Headquarters of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia recommending the club for membership, the Supreme Secretary-Treasurer and first National Secretary, Charles E. Lutton, traveled from Chicago to perform the ritual ceremony which produced the Alpha Lambda Chapter. Advisors to the chapter were School of Music Dean Arthur E. Westbrook (for whom Westbrook Auditorium is named) and faculty member Arnold L. Lovejoy, both alumni of Sinfonia’s Tau Chapter and both taking a very active part in the foundation of the chapter and of the Nevin Club as well. The chapter boasted sixteen members with Charles Baired Wagner as its first president.

In over ninety years of active chapter hood, Alpha Lambda has grown and changed with the times; an example of an occasion in which such adaptation was necessary is the Depression period when widespread lack of sufficient funds forced many valuable members to leave IWU and, consequently, the active chapter. The chapter has owned five different chapter houses; the present one (303 E. Chestnut) has been in the chapter’s hands since 1942. At present, June 7th, 2024 will mark the chapters 100th anniversary.

The Men who have come to Sinfonia and gone on to earn places of recognition among fellow musicians are many. Alpha Lambda alumni known on a national basis include conductor Norman Luboff, organist Virgil Fox, trumpeter Armando Ghitalla, composer Lloyd Pfautsh, conductor Walter Damrosch, and organist Robert Baker. The chapter takes no less pride, however, in alumni and chapter affiliates whose names may be seen right here at IWU: Theodore Presser (after whom Presser Hall was named); Clark E. Stewart (recognized on the door to Presser Hall’s third floor); Carl Neumeyer (whose name was given to the Neumeyer Courtyard in the center of Presser Hall); and, of course, Arthur E. Westbrook (after whom Westbrook Auditorium is named). Another notable alumnus is Henry Charles, who served on IWU’s voice faculty for 42 years (1943-1985) and also served as province governor. His dedication to music and Alpha Lambda made it fitting for the chapter to name the Henry Charles Memorial Concerto Aria Competition after his death in 1992. The Chapter had been sponsoring the competition since 1979. There are some notable alumni who can be found outside of the music world as well, including Wayne Messmer, who is a long time announcer for the Chicago Cubs.

Alpha Lambda is a chapter of traditions and ideals held in high reverence by members past and present. Those traditions and ideals, with music and music professionalism as the uniting force and fraternal brotherhood the foundation, will continue so long as worthy and dedicated men adopt the goals of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia and help to preserve the past and form the future of the Alpha Lambda Chapter.


Adapted and edited from the 1983-84 Scrapbook

Last edited – April 6th, 2017 (Dean Scopelliti)