Professional fraternities, including music fraternities, provide students with the opportunity to bond over a common career interest. (Photo courtesy Sarah Clements)
Professional fraternities, including music fraternities, provide students with the opportunity to bond over a common career interest. (Photo courtesy Sarah Clements)

Finding my Voice: A Greek Community for music students

A deeper look into music fraternities on campus and how they facilitate deeper bonds between music majors

January 18, 2020

(Photo courtesy Sophie Heinz)

Having just witnessed my friends experience Panhellenic sorority rush week— with its joy, anxiety and disappointment—now is the perfect time to discuss the other Greek life opportunities on campus outside of Pan-Hellenic life. There are numerous professional fraternities available to Vanderbilt students ranging from business to law to medicine. There are even two music fraternities: the female Sigma Alpha Iota (SAI) fraternity, and the male Phi Mu Alpha (PMA) fraternity. I’m just now starting in the recruitment process for the female music fraternity, SAI. PMA had their recruitment last semester.

While SAI and PMA have many music majors, they are open to everyone on campus who has taken and passed any music class (i.e. any MUSL class or large ensemble). Interestingly, PMA is composed mainly of non-music majors, and instead predominantly with men who are involved in Spirit of Gold, Vanderbilt’s marching band. SAI is largely full of music majors.

As a first-year, I’m still looking to find new sources of community here, and from what I’ve experienced so far in the recruitment process, SAI can provide that and so much more.  

I asked a friend of mine, SAI member senior Sarah Clements for more information about her fraternity. She spoke of SAI’s many different purposes, specifically in regards to its social and service oriented activities. SAI’s goal is to “try to support aspects of the Vanderbilt community as well as that of Nashville” in addition to providing a social group to its sisters where they can find community,” Clements said. The group is committed to creating a space for women to feel supported in music, valuing their contributions and accomplishments. 

Some of the service activities that SAI has been involved in include donating to natural disaster relief, such as flood recovery assistance. SAI also works with the W.O. Smith School, which is a community music program offering free music lessons in varying instruments. In addition, SAI regularly donates to SAI Philanthropies, charities specific to music causes related to the national SAI association. These philanthropies fund many projects including music-therapy for those in need and support for working female composers. SAI also assists the Blair Academy pre-college program by working at their events.

So far I’ve been to two of SAI’s recruitment events. At these events, interested students can get to know the girls and ask questions about the fraternity while participating in group activities. For recruitment meet-and-greets, SAI has hosted a craft night, movie night, Jeni’s ice cream excursions and pizza parties.

Professional fraternities offer an alternative community away from Panhellenic Greek life. They allow for members to bond over their shared career goals and interests while also serving the community using specific, developed professional skills. And because SAI and PMA are nation-wide associations, like most other professional fraternities, it cultivates a wide network of alumni working in the business of their interest, creating the opportunity for endless connections.

Because professional fraternities are a far less known aspect of Greek life, the groups of girls in the recruitment process have been small, allowing all of us to really get to know the sisters. I really appreciate this because I thrive more in small group settings and don’t enjoy having to compete to be noticed. The process at SAI is more relaxed in comparison to the oft-described stressful process of Panhellenic recruitment; in fact I’ve felt zero stress or anxiety. Even just from going to a few recruitment meetings, I’ve made friendships with girls I hardly knew, and probably otherwise never would have. 

This process has reminded me that I need to continue to put myself out there to meet new people. At this point in the year, it seems like most first-years have found their circle of friends. I’ve found it is easy to get socially complacent and not push myself into new social groups and situations. However, the prospect of developing brand-new close friendships reminds me of the excitement I felt last semester, and I never want to lose that.

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