A Singing Valentine’s Day Tradition
Jen Espinosa arrived at 102 Thomas on Tuesday afternoon expecting to take a Bio 411 exam.She sat in her seat, a couple rows from the back, and took out a No. 2 pencil. Her professor, James A. Strauss, began handing out scantrons.
Then five male students wearing suits walked into the lecture hall. And the exam was delayed.
The well-dressed quintet has a name: They are The Dreamers, the official a capella group of Phi Mu Alpha, Penn State’s singing fraternity. And for the 23rd straight year, The Dreamers spread love on Feb. 14 by delivering singing Valentines throughout the day.
The routine is simple: The youngest member of The Dreamers—this time it was Brian Bender, a freshman who is also in the Blue Band—must walk in the classroom and ask the professor for permission to interrupt class. Once Bender got the OK, the rest of the group joined him and called the Valentine to the “stage.”
Most recipients, like Espinosa, have no idea it’s coming. Embarrassed by the attention, Espinosa refused to walk to the front of the room to be serenaded by The Dreamers — until Dr. Strauss made a serious threat. “You’ll fail this exam if you don’t get up,” he said, as laughter filled the room.
So Espinosa sat in a chair by the front podium and—with her hands over her mouth for most of the performance—listened as The Dreamers sang The Five Satins’ classic, Still of the Night.
“The mission of our fraternity is to advance music in America,” said Lando Landers-Nolan, Phi Mu Alpha’s president and business manager. “With the singing Valentines, it’s a good combination of our mission and fun—lots of bonding between the brothers.”
The fraternity has delivered singing Valentines for the past 23 years—ever since Phi Mu Alpha’s inception. They take reservations by email. Some requests, Landers-Nolan said, come in as early as October.
On Tuesday, the fraternity was scheduled to perform 14 times. It would have been more, but the group had to fit performances in with their own class schedules.
A singing Valentine goes for $15—with a few exceptions. Landers-Nolan got a frantic email Monday from a man in the United Arab Emirates. The man is mailing Phi Mu Alpha a check for $50 so that his Valentine got a song in her Comm 467 class on Tuesday.
For the most part, professors are OK with the brief deviation from the lesson plan. Sociology professor Sam Richards is a particularly big fan of The Dreamers. Landers-Nolan was in Richards’ SOC 119 class a few semesters ago, and after Valentine’s Day, Richards emailed Landers-Nolan some suggestions of songs he thought should be added to the repertoire.
Landers-Nolan said while he appreciated the input, the group didn’t make any changes. The Dreamers already have a repertoire of about 50 songs that everyone seems to adore.
-Emily Kaplan, intern