- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
By SARA K. TAYLORStaff writer
A part of Purdue University will be in town March 13 when the school’s varsity glee club performs.
The group’s trip from West Lafayette, Ind., was helped along by member William Thiedeman, a Maurice J. McDonough High School graduate and four-year member of the college’s glee club.
Each year, the group’s organizers try to travel to senior members’ hometowns or as close as they can get to perform, Thiedeman explained.
And since the club hasn’t been to the Washington, D.C., area since the mid-1990s, a stop in Southern Maryland was an easy fit.
The group also will perform private shows at the Pentagon and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, and other venues in the metropolitan area in between sightseeing.
It also helped that Thiedeman’s mom, Therese, is a member of the Chesapeake Choral Arts Society; New Life Church in La Plata offered space. It was Therese who introduced her kids — including daughter, Mary DeMarco-Logue, to the arts.
“My mom got me into singing and performing when I was really young,” Thiedeman said in a phone interview.
Therese, was the director of the Port Tobacco Players Encore Kids, when he was about 3, and his sister was 6.
Therese Thiedeman “dragged” her son to practice, his first “big break” coming as Boo, the littlest ghost, in a Comcast Cable show called “Kid’riffic” on which the Encore Kids performed.
In the beginning, Thiedeman wasn’t much of a singer.
“He couldn’t carry a tune when he was younger,” Therese admitted. “I thought ‘How did I have this boy?’”
However, as he got older, gained more experience, worked with voice coach Lisa Kay Morton and McDonough choir director T.C. Mazzeo, Thiedeman developed a voice and was a member of his high school’s Madrigal Lords and Ladies, the show choir, The McDoNotes and its men’s choir.
“He is naturally talented,” said Mazzeo, whose chamber choir and advanced women’s choir students will attend a workshop the glee club will hold before the concert. “He is dedicated and hardworking — just a phenomenal young man all around.”
A four-year member of the drama club, Thiedeman performed in eight productions including “Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “Beauty and the Beast,”and “High School Musical.”
He also chalked up stage time with the Port Tobacco Players, performing in “Suessical” and “Stalag 17,” (which co-starred his father in the elder Thiedeman’s one acting role.)
“I’ve never felt like I didn’t want to do it,” said Thiedeman, who was never forced to go to auditions or participate in shows. Indeed, performing became an escape in a lot of ways.
“It’s been my refuge and my rock,” he said.
With his high school career coming to a close, Thiedeman began looking at colleges.
His father, Edwin, earned his master’s in engineering from Purdue, so the family was familiar with the school.
Although it didn’t have a music major — Thiedeman pondered majoring in musical theater before deciding on a double major of mass communications and broadcast journalism — the school did have a strong musical tradition.
Purdue’s musical organizations — including six choral groups and a handbell choir — have served as ambassadors for more than 75 years, and the varsity glee club has existed for more than 115.
Under the direction of William E. Griffel, the glee club averages between 50 and 60 shows a year around the country and internationally.
The group performs everything from gospel to contemporary, Broadway and ballads, barbershop to folk to rock, Thiedeman said.
And within the group there are smaller ensembles that have their specialties, like 1950s music or contemporary gospel. Thiedeman is in Flashbacks — a group that sings 1970s and ’80s songs.
When the family went to visit the school, to see if Thiedeman wanted to commit and audition for the glee club, they saw the group rehearse and he was sold.
“I was blown away,” he said. “I like the style of the glee club and the songs they sing.”
The club also offered a Maryland kid who was far from home, an almost built-in group of friends and support system.
“We are a brotherhood,” Thiedeman said. “We get along really well.”
In addition to the concert, the club will conduct a workshop earlier in the day for choir students from Henry E. Lackey, La Plata, McDonough, North Point, Thomas Stone and Chopticon high schools. The finale of the concert will feature the club, the choir students and members of the Chesapeake Choral Arts Society.
The club, which has been called the “No. 1 glee club in the country,” by the late Erich Kunzel, conductor of the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, isn’t a staid group.
Although it prides itself on upholding long-standing traditions and being disciplined, the shows are lively and take listeners on a journey with many types of music.
“It’s an energy-packed show,” Thiedeman said. “We don’t walk, we run right at it. The shows are explosive. It’s a show unlike most things people have ever seen before.”