History of the Choral Program


The Women's & Men's Glee Clubs

For as long as there has been a Pomona College, there has been a choral program. From the first choral class taught by Frank Brackett in 1888, through the formal creation of the Choral Union, the College Choir, the Men’s and Women’s Glee Clubs, and the mixed-voice Glee Club, choral music has played an especially important role in the cultural life of the College. Through the years, hundreds of students from Pomona College and the other Claremont Colleges have chosen to include Pomona’s choral program as part of their curricular liberal arts experience, and as an avenue by which they can express themselves intellectually and artistically.

Along the way there are many highlights: the Men’s Glee Club’s surprising win at the National Championship in 1932 (Pomona is still reigning champ); the Choir and Glee Club’s 1988 performance under the direction of Robert Shaw to celebrate the College’s centennial; and more recently the Glee Club’s performances in some of the great architectural spaces in the United States and Europe. But more important than these are the experiences of learning and singing together that are at the heart of the choral program, and the life-long friendships and engagement with music that it has inspired. It is this strong legacy of music-making and collaboration that we document and celebrate in these pages.

Principal Conductors:

  • Fred Bacon (1903–17)
  • Ralph Lyman (1917–48)
  • William F. Russell (1951–82)
  • Jon Bailey (1982–98)
  • Donna M. Di Grazia (1998–present)

Shorter-term Conductors:

1888–1931: Frank P. Brackett, Lillian Link Brannan, Arthur Bissell, John Comfort Fillmore, Dwight C. Rice, William Andruss, Theodore Irwin, Kate Condit, Byrde Eustis, Walter Hartley, Arthur Babcock

1947–51: Arthur Hitchcock, Edgar vom Lehn

— by Matthew Cook ’20, with Professor Donna M. Di Grazia (July 2020)

Select Bibliography

Primary Sources

Concert Programs. Music Department. Thatcher Music Building. Pomona College. Claremont, CA[1]
– Men’s Glee Club programs
– Pomona College Choir programs
– Pomona College Glee Club programs
– Women’s Glee Club programs

Concert Programs. Special Collections. The Claremont Colleges Library. Claremont, CA
– Choral Union programs
– Men’s Glee Club programs
– Pomona College Choir programs
– Pomona College Glee Club programs (passim)
– Women’s Glee Club programs

Music Department Archives. (Includes personal correspondences, programs, and other materials related to the history of the choral program.) Thatcher Music Building, Pomona College.Claremont, CA.

Pomona College Catalogs. Office of the Registrar. Alexander Hall. Pomona College. Claremont, CA.

Russell, William F. Personal Papers. Music Department Archives. Thatcher Music Building, Room 215. Pomona College. Claremont, CA.

Scrapbooks. Music Department Archives: Thatcher Music Building (Rooms 106 and 215). Pomona College. Claremont, CA.

The Metate of Pomona College. Special Collections. The Claremont Colleges Library. Claremont, CA.

The Student Life. Special Collections. The Claremont Colleges Library. Claremont, CA.

Secondary Sources

Bailey, Jon. Conversation with Matthew Cook. Claremont, CA. 1 November 2019.

Beeks, Graydon. Conversations with Matthew Cook. Claremont, CA. 2017–20 passim.

Brackett, Frank P. Granite and Sagebrush: Reminiscences of the First Fifty Years of Pomona College. Los Angeles: Ward Richie Press, 1944.

Di Grazia, Donna M. Conversation with Matthew Cook. Claremont, CA, 4 March 2020.

Interviews. Various choral alumni. 2018.

Lyon, E. Wilson. History of Pomona College, 1887–1969. Claremont, CA: Pomona College, 1977.

Murphy, Merwin. Prof. Lyman of Pomona College. Alhambra, CA, 1979.

Sumner, Charles. The Story of Pomona College. Boston: Pilgrim Press, 1914.

Swan, Howard. Music in the Southwest. San Marino, CA: Huntington Library, 1952.

[1] As of June 2020, extant programs in Thatcher Music Building are located in the Music Department Office, Room 104 (programs from 1947–present), in scrapbooks located in Room 106 (1922–43), and in William F. Russell’s personal files located in Room 215 (1951–82). [back]