In the spring of 1947, a group of students and faculty organized themselves into the Men's Music Club of the University of Georgia. The charter members had drawn up a constitution, and recruited new members during the following quarter. The Men's Music Club actively sponsored recitals by both guest artists and UGA faculty members. Under the leadership of Professor John H. Anderson, the sole faculty Sinfonian, the Men's Music Club successfully petitioned the Supreme Council of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia in the summer of 1949 for membership as an active chapter. At that time twelve student and six faculty members comprised the Men's Music Club, including Department of Music Head Hugh Hodgson.
Under the guidance of the "big brother" chapter, Alpha Rho (University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill), the Men's Music Club was initiated and received its charter on January 14, 1950. John Anderson became the first Faculty Advisor, and Troupe M. Harris became the first chapter President. During the early years of Epsilon Lambda, the chapter held weekly meetings to conduct business and sing, in addition to being very active around the department of Music at UGA. The chapter increased its numbers significantly by holding two probationary periods per year. In addition, the first chapter Sweetheart, LaJauna Webb, was elected in the fall of 1955.
Over the past sixty years, the musical activities of Epsilon Lambda have enriched both its members and the UGA School of Music. Brothers of Epsilon Lambda involve themselves in virtually every performing ensemble in the School of Music. Many brothers have used their musical experiences in their work as professional musicians, performing with bands, orchestras, and choruses around the world. Still other brothers have continued to advance music in America as music educators, teaching in schools and universities throughout the nation.
In 1965, Faculty Advisor Dr. Olin G. Parker founded the first jazz-oriented performing organization at the University of Georgia: The Phi Mu Alpha Stage Band. The Stage Band was composed of Sinfonians who would gather to play swing and dance band music, rehearsing once a week after chapter meetings. After three years, the growing interest in the group throughout the department led to its inclusion in the music curriculum at UGA. At that time, Dr. Parker was elected Province Governor of Province 36, and Roger Dancz, Director of Bands at the university, assumed leadership of the group. Thus, the beginnings of jazz education at the University of Georgia were established. The Phi Mu Alpha Stage Band played an important role in the creation of many high school jazz bands across the state of Georgia. In 1969, the Stage Band was honored to perform at the Georgia Music Educators Association Convention in Atlanta. Later that year, the group held a clinic for high school students interested in jazz and big bands, with Doc Severinsen as a special guest clinician.
One of the oldest and most important traditions for the Epsilon Lambda chapter is the annual All-American Musicale. Ever since its inception over fifty years ago, the chapter has presented at least one program of American music, often as a joint concert with Sigma Alpha Iota, the professional music fraternity for women at UGA. In the earlier years of the chapter, the All-American Musicale was known throughout the Department of Music as one of the biggest programs of the year and was always well attended. In addition to the chapter's annual concert, each class of probationary members has traditionally performed a program of All-American music for the public.
Epsilon Lambda has recognized music excellence in many varied areas through the presentation of the Orpheus Award. The Orpheus Award can be presented to any person, male or female, which has significantly and lastingly contributed to the cause of music in America. Past recipients of the Orpheus Award include Philip Greenberg, Everett Pierce Arant, Jr., Albert F. Ligotti, Glenda D. Goss, Ivan Frazier, John Culvahouse, Allen Crowell, Doug Moore, and Tony McCutchen. Epsilon Lambda has also worked to advance the cause of new music in America. In 1997, the chapter commissioned UGA faculty member and Sinfonian, Dr. Roger Vogel, to compose a new brass work. The commissioned work, Fanfares and Flourishes for three antiphonal brass quintets, was premiered by the Georgia Brass and conducted by the UGA Director of Bands and Sinfonian Dr. Dwight Satterwhite. In 2009, Epsilon Lambda began the Arch Composition Award for the chapter's 60th anniversary. At the 60th JanFest high school band festival, the UGA Wind Ensemble premiered the winning pieces "Surface Tensions" by Shawn Hundley and "Concerto for Piano and Wind Instruments" by Robert Gross.
In 2006, under the direction of President Jarrett Bachman, Epsilon Lambda started the annual Athens Area Band Showcase. This pre-festival event allows local area bands to perform in UGA’s Hodgson Hall and receive the critique of well respected band directors and professors from around the state. In addition to the performance opportunity, Epsilon Lambda makes a donation to each participating programs booster fund.
Since 1950, Epsilon Lambda has provided stage managers and ushers for the countless recitals and performances given at the University of Georgia School of Music. This tradition has been in place since the very early days of Epsilon Lambda history. The Epsilon Lambda chapter has also sponsored many recitals and receptions for faculty and guest artists.
The Epsilon Lambda chapter annually awards the competitive Gerschefski Scholarship. This scholarship, first awarded in 1972, is given in honor and memory of Dr. Edwin Gerschefski, former head of the Department of Music at the University of Georgia. Dr. Gerschefski received the status of national honorary member in 1969. The scholarship, determined by competitive audition, is awarded by Epsilon Lambda each spring to a student who exhibits exceptional musical skill. Any rising junior or senior music major, male or female, is eligible to compete for the scholarship. In 2002 the Epsilon Lambda chapter started the Dr. Olin Parker composition competition. This is an annual competition that attempts to further the quality of American music by awarding excellence in composition. This award is open to any rising junior or senior music major.
Each year, Epsilon Lambda has undertaken a variety of small service projects designed to better the University and the surrounding community. In the past, brothers have held free car washes, caroled at retirement homes and hospitals during the holidays, and sponsored School of Music dances and recitals. Once each semester, the chapter holds a faculty breakfast for all School of Music faculty, in appreciation of their dedication to music education and the ideals of Sinfonia. In addition, Epsilon Lambda provides breakfasts for School of Music auditions, the annual middle school band festival (Midfest), and the high school band festival (Janfest). Phi Mu Alpha probationary members are given ample experiences in the field of service projects; each probationary member class maintains a donut and coffee sale to raise money to benefit various causes.
Every semester, Epsilon Lambda participates in Phi Mu Alpha's national philanthropy known as the Mills Music Mission. Started by the fraternity’s founder Ossian Everett Mills in the very early days of the fraternity, Sinfonians nationwide visit hospitals, nursing homes, retirement homes, and many other venues to sing and play music for those in need. Epsilon Lambda visits local nursing and retirement homes to treat residents to classics, old favorites, spirituals, seasonal selections, and patriotic music.
In addition to serving functions around the community and the School of Music, Epsilon Lambda has also served the Alma Mater by performing the National Anthem at many campus sporting events including Men’s Basketball, Women’s Basketball, and Gymnastics.
The brothers of Epsilon Lambda have always enjoyed the social aspects of the fraternity. For more than a half-century, the chapter has enjoyed cookouts and picnics (often in conjunction with Sigma Alpha Iota), camping, and date nights. For several years, brothers have competed in intramural softball; at one time, Epsilon Lambda boasted two teams: Phi Mu Alpha Red and Phi Mu Alpha Gold.
Many of the brotherhood's social events are held in conjunction with the probationary membership period. Every brother used to look forward to the annual "Pledges versus Brothers Football Game." In recent years, Probationary Members and brothers have had pool tournaments, poker tournaments, field days, and played laser tag. In addition, several recruitment mixers are always held before a probationary period, giving the brothers a chance to meet and socialize with prospective members.
Over the years, the chapter has enjoyed holding several formal social events, such as the Pledge Banquet and the Sweetheart Ball and more recently the Winter Semi-formal Banquet. However, no formal event has endured with so rich a tradition as the Epsilon Lambda Spring Formal Banquet. The chapter has held the Spring Formal Banquet in several establishments around the Atlanta and Athens areas, always using the time as one for reflecting and reminiscing about the past academic year and the overwhelming memories and brotherhood that it has yielded.
Today the Epsilon Lambda chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia enjoys a membership of 26 active brothers. The chapter maintains its dedication to service and musical excellence, always recalling the Object of the Fraternity. Over sitxy years' time, brothers at the University of Georgia have witnessed a dynamic growth both in its numbers, its quality of education and in the University's music program. Since its chartering on January 14, 1950, Epsilon Lambda has initiated 801 men of music into the brotherhood of Phi Mu Alpha. The Department of Music at UGA, initially residing in the Fine Arts Building, expanded into Joe Brown Hall and eventually into a new building on the University's east campus as the Hugh Hodgson School of Music. The Epsilon Lambda Chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia looks forward to accompanying the School of Music in further progress and development.