The Georgia Tech Glee Club is the oldest student organization on the Georgia Tech campus. It is also the oldest Glee Club in the South, and one of the oldest such groups in the country. Founded in 1906, it has a rich tradition of singing that includes numerous national and international tours, as well as radio broadcasts and recordings. It was one of the first college organizations to record its fight song, making Ramblin' Wreck from Georgia Tech one of the most famous college fight songs in the country. The group has appeared twice on the Ed Sullivan show and has entertained audiences around the world.
Featuring a "healthily irreverent" blend of music, drama, and vocal/visual performance antics, the Georgia Tech Glee Club sings entirely original arrangements of usually unaccompanied music, utilizing vocal percussion, movement, and technology. It is a rare occasion for the Glee Club to have any accompniment.
For two years, the Glee Club served as Ensemble-in-Residence in Honolulu at the 2006 and 2007 Hawaii International Conference on Arts & Humanities. In 2006, the Glee Club released its first studio CD recording of all original arrangements and compositions. In 2008, the ensemble made a successful solo debut appearance in New York City's Carnegie Hall and completed a successful ten-day concert tour of England, Scotland, and Wales, garnering rave reviews for their performances. In 2009, the Glee Club performed at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. and in the Russell Senate Building. The Glee Club closed 2009 by performing on The Weather Channel, Adult Swim, and ESPN. May 2010 saw the Glee Club travel up and down California for a west coast concert tour. The group sang for adoring fans, alumni, and unsuspecting pedestrians. They also lifted the spirits of wounded soldiers in the San Diego Navy Medical Center.
It is unclear when a group of Tech men first harmonized and called themselves a glee club, but it is accepted that the singers represent the Institute's oldest student organization. "The Glee Club was first started in 1906 and was composed of some eight or 10 men who would gather every afternoon under the Academic Building and practice," the Technique reported in an October 9, 1917, article introducing new students to campus customs and clubs. An Atlanta Constitution article dated June 20, 1907, records the group's roots a bit differently. "One of the great social organizations that helps to make the thorny path at Tech tread easier is a musical club organized last February under the suggestive title of the 'Tech Glee Club'."
The storied history of the Glee Club includes travels around the world on military transport planes, being surrounded by screaming girls, and even referring to themselves as "heckuva engineers" to appease Ed Sullivan. By 1924, the club was so popular that it drew over 200 voices to the fall tryouts, according to the student newspaper. "Seventy-five survived the first cut. This number will later be cut down to 50 as soon as the management decides who are the sheep and who are the goats." In 1926, the club broadcast on WGST radio three times and staged shows throughout the state. A March 19, 1926 review of one tour stop said "Shorty Wiggins' act, which consists of a sort of Charleston clog, was the hit of the show, he being called back for encores so many times that he was completely exhausted and had to be helped off the stage."
Glee Club news routinely made the front page of the Technique. On October 14, 1927, the selection of 35 singers made the front page alongside another headline: "Thousands greet Lindbergh on Grant Field." After World War II, the Glee Club enjoyed one of its most popular and wide-reaching eras as military transports flew the Tech men around the globe. One such world tour resulted in a January 1951 headline in the Atlanta Constitution: "The Tech Glee Club returns from 7,525-mile jaunt."
In 1953, Ed Sullivan's "Toast of the Town" attracted an estimated 30 million television viewers. The 50 Glee Club members auditioned for 28 seats on the train that would take them to New York. Three songs were planned: "Ramblin' Wreck," "There's Nothin' Like a Dame," and the Alma Mater. Sullivan went beyond insisting that the men sing that they were "heckuva engineers," according to the Technique. "The club sang 'Dames' at rehearsal and brought down the house, only to have Sullivan give it the axe." The Glee Club was invited for a return appearance in 1968.
Over their 100+ year history, the group has literally traveled the world, appearing in Greenland, Labrador, Korea, the South Pacific, Europe, South America, the Caribbean, and throughout the United States. Their history has always included an "out of the box" spirit, in keeping with the Georgia Tech motto, We don't fit the mold; we make it.
After the golden years, the 1970s saw a dropoff in interest and attendence, which never really picked back up. By 2003, the Club was nearly dead.
At the first rehearsal after the arrival of its current director Dr. Jerry Ulrich in 2003, the Glee Club numbered 13 singers, including at least two persons who could not match pitch. That fall semester featured one public performance on the November Choral Concert where the group was "sandwiched" between the Chamber Choir, the Chorale, and two student-run a cappella groups.
In the ensuing five semesters, the group expanded to 50 singers, and performed hundreds of times, including a featured performance for the Georgia Board of Regents at the GT President's residence, home basketball games (singing the National Anthem and a half-time feature), homecoming football games, the President's Gala at Tech Square (for the presidents of every public college and university in Georgia), Earthlink Live (Greek Sing), the Student Success Center, the GT Economic Development Institute, Connect With Tech, Spivey Hall (as a part of the 2004 choral concert), the College of Architecture Awards Day Ceremony, featured performances at Atlanta area churches, and community outreach performances, including Hands On Atlanta> at the Kings Bridge Assisted Living Facility.
Additionally, the group introduced Live Music for Dead Week performances in the dining halls (coordinated and sponsored by GT Dining) during the last week of academic classes, and Sorority Serenade, an evening of singing for sorority houses on campus (both invited and spontaneous). The group has also provided numerous entertainment programs on the campus and in the Atlanta community, such as the Administrative Professionals Breakfast, Faculty Women's Club luncheon, Alumni Association events, and FASET. The Glee Club hosted Ultimate A Cappella clinic in collaboration with the Southeast U.S. region barbershop society.
Spring 2005 featured the first full feature concert (in recent history) by the Men's Glee Club in the Student Center Theater. In April 2005 the Men's Glee Club was featured at the High Museum of Art, Hill Auditorium as a part of their After Hours at the High program.
In the past few years, the group has sung over 500 performances for thousands of people, including performances for GT Presidents Clough and Peterson, Mayor Shirley Franklin, Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, Governor Sonny Perdue, U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field, the Alumni Association Board, the Georgia Tech Advisory Board, the Georgia Tech Foundation, AirTran Airlines Atlanta managerial staff, AirTran Christmas party, hundreds of weary holiday travelers in numerous performances in the Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, and the Georgia Tech Black History Month Celebration. In January 2006 and 2007, the Glee Club served as Ensemble-In-Residence at the 4th and 5th Annual Hawaii International Conference of Arts & Humanities in Honolulu. The conference audiences included over 1500 academicians from over 40 countries.
The Glee Club has opened for Rockapella, Horatio Sanz of Saturday Night Live fame, and shared the stage with Kenny Chesney and Joe Walsh. They have appeared live on ESPN, The Weather Channel, and Adult Swim on Cartoon Network. In April 2008, the group debuted in New York's Carnegie hall and the following month completed their first concert tour of the UK. In May 2010, the Glee Club embarked on a concert tour of California.
It's safe to say the Glee Club is now alive and doing well!