The Singing Fraternity
"Beta Theta Pi has always been known as a singing fraternity. It has laid great stress upon its songs. It has magnified the idea contained in the words, 'A singing chapter is a good chapter.' Considering sentiment of prime importance in binding the hearts of its members together, it always has recognized that those chapters which cultivate and cherish the sentimental side of fraternity life are likely to be the ones to which other features of that life appeal as worthwhile."
– Francis W. Shepardson, Denison 1882/Brown 1883
The Songs of Beta Theta Pi
Even before the first decade of the Fraternity’s history ended, Betas were raising their voices in a collection of songs. These were printed on a card and included opening and closing odes, a benediction, an initiation song and a song of greeting new members.
So essential was singing in the Fraternity’s founding and growth during the 19th century that a wealth of songs and poems have emerged from that era, many of them still popular.
Collections of Beta songs appeared periodically until 1902 when the publication became a red hard-cover book with gold leaf imprinted cover — a format that was followed for the next 90 years (above).
The Fraternity's song collection has grown to be quite extensive over the years, containing not only songs written to long-familiar music but a number also set to original tunes. Additions are made from year to year, each new edition of the song book containing new melodies.
Beta Song Competitions
At the 110th General Convention in 1949, a national song competition was announced for Betas to submit recordings of their chapter singing their favorite Beta songs.
By June 1950, Beta’s five-man National Song Committee received all the entries and selected songs by Case, Colgate, Kansas, Miami, Northwestern, Oklahoma State, Purdue, Southern California, Washington in St. Louis, Willamette and Whitman to be included in the five-record album (left).
Today, Beta continues the tradition at each Convention by awarding the Whitman Choral Cup for best recording, the Shelby L. Molter Song Competition Award for best live performance and the Best New Song Award for composing.
Recent winners of the Fraternity's prestigious singing awards include:
Best New Song Award
2019 | "Give Your All to Beta Theta Pi" by Carl E. Bolte Jr., Missouri '51
2018 | "The Beta Dragon" by Mayan Essak, Lawrence '20 (Listen); "Sons of the Stars" by Derek T. Ludwig, Willamette '20 (Listen)
2017 | "From Classic Halls" by R. Bray McDonnell, George Washington '19 (Listen)
Shelby L. Molter Song Competition
2019 | Kettering B
2018 | High Point; John Carroll
2017 | Case Western Reserve
Whitman Choral Cup
2019 | Colorado Mines
2018 | Lawrence
2017 | Kansas