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The Bros of SMO

Joe Brenckle

A Music Education major with a minor in Communication Studies and President of SMO, Joe Brenckle is no stranger to the choral scene at OU. Along with SMO, he is a member of OU’s top SATB ensemble, University Singers, and Secton 8, an acapella group formed out of the Singing Men. Brenckle became a part of the Singing Men during his first quarter here, in 2010, because a family friend was an alum of the group and told him he had to do it… and so the journey began.

“The brotherhood of SMO is so cool because it’s just a bunch of dudes from all different backgrounds with different majors and interests who come together because they like to sing. I think because we have so many different types of guys in the group, it adds to why we’re all so tight. My best friends are in this group,” Brenckle says.
 
Since he first joined, the group was assigned a new director, so the way in which they rehearse and other things have changed, but the 22-year-old doesn’t believe that the idea of it all has changed, or that it ever will. To him, the coolest part of the group is that SMO will always be SMO.
 
Before becoming President of the group at the beginning of this year, Brenckle, a Baritone, served as the Tour Manager and a section leader. 
 
“I had a lot of goals for this year, but my main goal was for the brotherhood of the group to be the strongest that it’s ever been—and I would say we easily accomplished that goal. This year’s group really embodied the brotherhood and traditions behind the Singing Men, so it’s been really fun,” he says. 
 
Among the list of advantages behind his beloved position as president is teaching the younger members what the group is all about, he also enjoys showing them SMO traditions and the reasoning behind the things they do. 
 
“There aren’t a lot of disadvantages to leading a group like this, but I would say that some of the “magic” gets lost when you become a leader,” the Louisville, Ohio native explains. “Instead of getting to enjoy a lot of the events we put on, I (along with the other Exec Board members) am running around just making sure things run smoothly. It’s stressful, but I don’t think I would ever want to give it up.”
 
Nick McKibben
 
 
Don’t let his declared major in Sociology/Criminology fool you—Nick McKibben has mad music skills. Not only has he been a trombonist in the Marching 110 for two years (and counting), but he also joined the Singing Men of Ohio this semester as a Bass. 
 
“Originally, my plan was to enlist in the Marines. I wasn’t really even considering college,” explains McKibben, a sophomore from Hebron, Ohio. “I was told that I might be able to be an officer in the Marines, so I was going towards that. I came down here one day with my high school band, and I fell in love with the 110; I completely did a 180 and had changed my plans. I had given everything up to come down and audition… I actually made it on the field for everything, I mean some freshmen don’t.” 
 
Fast-forward a year later, to when McKibben’s friend Trevor Patton (and several 110 friends) convinced him to join the SMO brotherhood. 
 
Going into his try-out, McKibben didn’t know what to expect because he had never done a vocal audition before. At the time, his only goal was to hit the right notes… and he did! 
 
“My favorite memory [with SMO] would have to be one of the first times we got together, when I found out who my Big was, because I felt like I was immediately accepted into the group. I feel like everyone’s my brother,” he says. 
 
This music man claims that because he’s in a large group and has done so many performances with the 110, he doesn’t get nervous. 
 
However, McKibben was surprised when students swarmed SMO during their first stop on tour to a high school in Ohio, which has been his favorite performance this year. 
 
“It was pretty crazy. All these high-schoolers asked us for autographs and had us sign under our names and stuff, and it was great. It was as if I was a rock star,” he says with a laugh.
 
McKibben describes the best part about being in SMO as “the brotherhood,” saying that onstage as well as offstage, they are two totally different groups.
 
William T. Perkins
 
 
After being in varsity choir, men’s ensemble, and chamber singers during his high school years, SMO was the perfect opportunity for Will Perkins, a freshman majoring in journalism.
 
“Being an out-of-stater at Ohio University, I wanted to get involved in something that would interest me, and also that would allow me to develop some friendships with people who share my same interests,” Perkins says.
 
For him, the transition from a high school vocal group to a college one was quite different, especially in terms of passion.
 
“You have a lot more commitment in a college group because if somebody sticks with choir and singing in college, it means that it’s something they’re really passionate about. You don’t see that passion in high school,” the Baritone section member said.
 
After SMO sang at a church on tour in Boston, a bonding moment was created that Perkins will never forget. When the guys were changing out of their trademark green blazers, a group of them started to sing one of their songs, and it didn’t take long for the rest to catch on. They joined in a circle, starting to remix and beat box along. To him, it was quite a brotherly, fun experience.
 
“In SMO, we have a number of traditions and other things that are passed down year to year from those who have come before us; that leads to a real sense of connectivity and there’s a support you get from that network of brothers,” says Perkins, who is from Clinton Township, Michigan.
 
“If you plan on joining SMO, be prepared to be completely weirded out because we are a very strange group of guys,” he advises. “But eventually, if you get past our initial weirdness, you’ll begin to love and appreciate some of the deeper ideals that SMO stands for.”
 
Alex Lumley
 
 
There was only one thing that freshman Alex Lumley really wanted to be a part of coming into college—The Singing Men of Ohio. He came to the group with a strong choral background from high school, including being president of the men’s chorus and show choir, and a member of Chorale. For Lumley, the transition from high school singing to college singing was very easy.
 
Although SMO performs several times each year, one performance in particular has been near and dear to his heart.
 
“The best memory was over tour in Cleveland. We gave a concert in my hometown. It was amazing for me because we performed in a church and we sounded amazing… the acoustics in that church were just incredible,” Lumley recalls. “The audience was composed almost entirely of family, my friends that still go to Westlake High School, and my high school choir teacher Mrs. Butler was able to come with her family. Being able to show her how far I’ve come was special.”
 
Furthermore, the reason why Lumley is hardly ever anxious or nervous when it comes to performing, is largely due to the fact that Dr. Hall is great about preparing the group for concerts, which are held in the fall, winter, and spring. SMO also goes on a tour with about six or seven stops over the course of spring break.
 
Lumley, a Baritone, can describe the unique brotherhood in one word—everlasting. 
 
“Of course we’re a performance ensemble, but more than anything else, we’re a group of people that come together to do what we love. There’s a lot of guys leaving the group this year, but they’ll always be considered part of SMO.”
 
As far as future members go, Lumley emphasizes that the ability to sing well is not necessarily a requirement. The group is made up of numerous non-music majors, too. 
 
“If you have a passion for singing, and more importantly if you have a passion for brotherhood and unity, this is the place to be on campus,” he says, “We accept members of all talents and all backgrounds.”
 

 

Sophomore studying magazine/news writing at the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism; also working on a minor in French. Scripps J-School Ambassador Her Campus Ohio U copy editor Backdrop Magazine writer Interned at West Life/The Press newspapers in Cleveland (Summer 2014) www.emjmac.wordpress.com
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