When Wabash Glee Club member Tim Riley ’18 is on stage, the emotions he shares during each song make it hard for audience members to look away. He believes it’s his job to impact listeners by connecting with each piece, but, for Riley, the connections that impact him the most are the men standing around him on that stage and every man who came before them.
Q: Where did your passion for music come from?
A: I don’t really know. I had done piano lessons growing up, but that was about it. It really started in middle school when you’re starting to branch out and you have the opportunity to choose either band or choir. Choir was something different for me to dive into, so I took the chance. And it continued through high school, and now throughout college.
Q: What made you want to be a member of the Wabash Glee Club?
A: I knew Dr. Bowen had a very strong program, and during one of my college visits, I was able to see them and thought it was something I wanted to be a part of. From then on, it’s been a great opportunity. I’ve been on three Glee Club tours: first to Austin, Texas; the second to Nashville and Memphis, Tennessee; and then the third to Philadelphia and Washington D.C. this past year. It’s always a lot of fun to interact with the alumni and see how music is still changing their lives today.
Q: What are those trips like?
A: (laughs) You really get to know everyone quite well that week. But by the time we get back, there’s a big difference in our sound. Doing multiple concerts a day, day in and day out, you’re really perfecting what you’re doing.
Q: Speaking of perfection, the Glee Club sounds pretty close to perfect each time they perform. What goes into creating the sound and the blend you’re able to achieve?
A: Though a lot of the music that we’ve done has been challenging, it’s challenging in different aspects. Some of the simplest music that, at times, can be some of our most beautiful, we really dig in to get the dynamics just right in order to bring out the words. And some of the ones that are more technically challenging, you have to make sure that you’re able to hear everyone else in the group to hear what you’re supposed to be singing. The teamwork we build in those more difficult songs helps bring our performance up to another level when we go back to the easier pieces.
Q: What’s your favorite part about performing?
A: Getting to see the faces of those who are hearing the music and how it’s affecting them. Getting to share the joys or the sorrows a song brings to you and sharing that with them and seeing it affect them also. That’s when you know you’ve done your job well.
Q: Is that something you learn as a group? Or is it something you personally strive for?
A: It’s been stressed over the past four years by the different directors, but at the end of the day, it’s definitely more of an individual choice to sit down and figure out how a song relates to you. Each song has a story. And if you’re not telling a story, why are you up there? After I learn a piece and singing it is just rote memorization, it’s like I tell myself, ‘OK. This can’t be dull. How can I put the meaning behind the words so that I can tell this song’s story better?’
Q: When you mention rote memorization, the first song that comes to my mind is ‘Old Wabash.’ Does it ever get difficult to sing that song over and over?
A: Sometimes before you start, it can feel like, ‘Here we go again.’ But this is who we are, we are, in fact, spreading the fame of her honored name. So no matter how busy you may be or want to be someplace else, the moment you start singing ‘Old Wabash,’ you don’t want to be any place else.
Q: What’s been your favorite song throughout your time in Glee Club?
A: There have been so many, but I’d probably have to say ‘The Parting Blessing.’ It’s the one we always closed on my first two years. Last year, we did ‘Happy Trails’ as Professor Bowen’s farewell to the audience. But for the 125th Reunion, we’re bringing back ‘The Parting Blessing.’ It’s really a benediction piece saying ‘until we meet again, may God be with you,’ and that’s nice to think about as a senior.
Q: What are you most looking forward to this weekend for the 125th Reunion?
A: We’ve had to prepare and plan ahead with all of our coursework, so there’s been a lot to do, but there’s also a lot of excitement. This reunion will let every current and former member know that they’re never not going to be a part of Glee Club. Once you’ve done just one concert, you’re part of us. And that’s for life, just like with Wabash. Once you come here, you’re always a Wabash man.
Riley is a physics and religion double major. After graduation, he’s interested in going into non-profit work in poverty alleviation or ministry.