“A legacy we’ll always prize” is a fitting phrase for the Vandaleers to send off the University of Idaho’s graduating seniors with year after year.
These are the final words of “Here We Have Idaho,” UI’s Alma Mater and one of three songs the UI premiere touring choir always sings during commencement.
“Nostalgia is kind of the theme of the day, and particularly for a Vandaleer,” said Madison Teuscher, graduating UI senior and Vandaleers President. “Because not only are there alumni who are there, these are the same songs that we, you know, I’ve been singing the same (three) songs at commencement for four years now.”
Every year, graduating members sing alongside their Vandaleer “family” for the last time during commencement, Teuscher said.
Vandaleers member and UI junior Olivia Kennedy, said little practice is needed for this final performance, as the group sings both the Alma Mater and the Fight Song at events throughout the year.
Teuscher said being part of the Vandaleers was a “defining part” of her college career, as it has been for others. Kennedy said the choir is a tradition all alumni remember from their time at the university.
“I’m not exaggerating at all when I say a 75-year-old woman will walk up and say ‘Oh, I was a Vandaleer,’ and, you know, ‘where are the altos?’” Teuscher said. “And that legacy of what the Vandaleers is, and the greater Vandal family, is super present at commencement.”
Kennedy said there is “a lot of camaraderie,” especially within the sections. She said she met her best friends and her boyfriend through the Vandaleers.
This year, there will be an added layer of nostalgia for the group. Not only will this be the last time they sing with their graduating members, but they will also say goodbye to Vandaleers conductor Dr. Michael Murphy, who led the choir for nine years. Murphy is leaving UI to pursue his career in Texas, Teuscher said. She said no one is chosen yet to fill the position.
“He is just phenomenal, that is a grade-A person right there,” Teuscher said. “Him and his family really have been incredibly supportive of me throughout my entire college career.”
She said she also participated in UI Women’s Choir, conducted by Murphy’s wife Claire, who is also moving. Teuscher said she would’ve been sad to see them leave if she wasn’t graduating.
“Luckily I’m kind of in a place of emotional privilege as you will, because I’m leaving,” she said.
Kennedy said, as a theater major, she encourages music and non-music majors alike to audition for the group, and if they don’t get in, to audition for the other UI choirs and fill the positions graduating seniors are vacating.
“It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s also a lot of fun,” she said. “It’s the best college experience.”
Teuscher said graduating leaves her with mixed feelings.
“While I absolutely love the family that I have here, their ultimate goal for me is then to kind of spread my wings,” she said. “And I’m finally actually doing that.”
Nina Rydalch can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @NinaRobin7