Event Spotlight: Connections and Camaraderie Through Song

Event Spotlight: Connections and Camaraderie Through Song

By Sandra Huffman ‘86

a cappella • \ah-kuh-PEL-uh\ • adverb or adjective: without instrumental accompaniment

The Ten Tones have returned! This much-loved a cappella ensemble originated in the late 1950s and provided entertainment through musical performances on campus and regionally for several decades. According to its former and current members, the group embodies the core of what Wilson is: a welcoming mixture of ages, abilities, and interests that inspire, encourage, and support each other through music.

Former members of the ensemble were thrilled when they heard the news. “Ten Tones was a lifeline for me during my college years, providing the opportunity to enjoy something that was fun, challenging, fulfilling, and a source of great friendships,” said Carol Carlson Auger ’68.

Dillon Beede, director of choral activities and chair of music, explained that the new a cappella group evolved from a recruitment effort for the College’s new show choir. While the show choir was not yet ready to start rehearsals, there was enough interest to start a student a cappella group and when it came time to name the group, they collectively chose Ten Tones.

“We had been talking about a name to give the group and Dillon said the former a cappella group was called Ten Tones. Then, why would we call it something else?” said Reagan Bush ’24, a current Ten Tones member. Bush also said she likes the connection the group has with past members and in being a part of the College’s musical history.

How It Began
The first reference to the Wilson College Ten Tones appears in the April 10, 1959 issue of The Billboard, the student newspaper. The paper announced the Ten Tones would entertain during a party for prospective students. “I remember when I visited Wilson before applying to the college and heard the Ten Tones sing. I knew then that I wanted to be part of that group,” said Patricia Schuetzler Howard ’73.

The a cappella group first came together as a club in 1958, originally organized by Grace Berner Hartdegen ’59. The group, sometimes comprising 12 members or as few as five, always kept the name Ten Tones. All students were welcome to audition for the group in the spring of each year. Those selected to join brought their own thoughts on which songs to perform and their stylistic musical interpretations. “I remember being very nervous when I auditioned and thrilled when I made it,” said Holly Hord Perry ’62.

In the early years, the group often sang calypso songs, by singers such as Harry Belafonte. They sang a cappella, or with guitar accompaniment if someone in the group knew how to play. They performed on campus during special events, like dance mixers or May Day, occasionally venturing off campus to perform for
the local community.


The organization was entirely student run—from auditions to musical arrangements, recordings, and image. Club members traveled to studios in NJ and Harrisburg, Pa. to record several albums between 1960 and 1970. They also invested in their own wardrobes, which evolved from pedal pushers and madras tops to Wilson blazers, matching sweaters, or handmade dresses.

“When I joined the group, everyone dressed alike; so, each of us was given a dress pattern that we agreed upon, and that we had to sew ourselves or have made by a seamstress, each one in a different color,” said Carol Hauptfuhrer ’69.

Changing with the Times
The selection of music evolved with the changing social discourse of the late 1960s. While earlier groups concentrated on selections from the 1940s and 1950s as did most college a cappella groups of that time, the Ten Tones introduced songs such as the signature “Beacon Street Blues,” or hits like “House of the Rising Sun,” and “Blowin’ in the Wind.”

“When Carolyn Staniford Sollis ’70 and I took the lead of Ten Tones in 1969, we updated the repertoire considerably to reflect the times in which we were living. And, thanks to the musical genius of Carol Tschop ’72, we had an original song or two in the mix,” said Jill Hobson Kassis ’70.

The group also expanded its performances by accepting invitations to perform in eastern Pa., NJ, and NY, including a performance at The University Glee Club of NYC. Sometimes, they combined talents with other groups, such as two Princeton University a cappella groups, the Tigertones and Nassoons. The Princeton groups not only inspired the name Ten Tones, they also had a song called “Tigertone Blues,” which the Wilson Ten Tones of the late 1960s adapted into “Chambersburg Blues,” an audience favorite.

As the decade of the 1970s evolved, so did the Ten Tones. The group continued to add new songs to its repertoire, like the popular Crosby Stills Nash “Teach Your Children” and Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”

Adventuring…to Disappearing

The Ten Tones remained strong in the 1980s when it added new renditions of songs like Billy Joel’s “The Longest Time.” They also continued to sing signature songs and Wilson favorites, like “Beacon Street Blues,” “I Wanna Go Back,” and “Il Fait Si Beau.”

Ellen Chen-Cooper ’85 shared, “Sometimes we would practice in the stairwells of Thomson Hall, where the acoustics were really good. (It) helped us fine tune our errors. We’d record ourselves on cassette tape and listen for ways to improve our sound.”

Ten Tones continued to perform for local organizations and on campus during events like Vespers and prospective student days. It also traveled to sing for Wilson alumnae groups. One highlight in the 1980s was a trip to Manhattan where the group sang at a reception arranged by the Wilson Club of New York City. Approximately 70 alumnae, trustees, and parents were present and several alumnae who had once been Ten Tones also joined the group to sing a few familiar songs.

Unfortunately, in the late 1980s, participation in the group waned, possibly because of revisions in the creative arts curriculum and changes in student interests. After 1990, the Ten Tones disappeared from the College yearbook and newspaper altogether, leaving only the concert choir to perform until Fall 2023, when the new a cappella group formed, bringing new life to the legacy of this group.

A New Mix

The current Ten Tones will study and prepare a cappella style music for seasonal performances, in addition to special Wilson College events and regional audiences, much like the old group did, but with some modern twists.

Today, the current goal is to have three ensembles running at Wilson—concert choir, show choir, and the a cappella choir. The concert choir, formerly the Wilson College Choir, is now the Cumberland Valley Chorale at Wilson College, a standard traditional choir that welcomes participants from the greater Chambersburg community. The show choir, Renaissance, is a high-energy ensemble that gives students the opportunity to explore stage craft in conjunction with singing and dancing. The style and participation in both choirs create limitations in traveling and external performances, where the Ten Tones a cappella ensemble can shine.

“I hope our group becomes bigger and that we have the opportunity to sing more often. I love performing, so I hope we do lots of that too,” said Chelsea Zimmann ’26, a current Ten Tones member.

While the Ten Tones currently exist as an extra-curricular activity, the plan is to have the group evolve into a curriculum element starting in Fall 2024. “If students are going to be here learning music and performing for things like Baccalaureate and Wilson choral concerts, students should get credit for all that work and learning that they are doing,” said Beede.

The excitement around the revitalization of the group is encouraging for its new members who love meeting and talking with former Ten Tones. “It’s nice that this is a thread—a way for those of us to connect with strong women of the past who have been part of something like this,” said Bush.

Beede agrees and says he enjoys connecting current students with those who know the lineage and tradition of the group. He and the current members would welcome alumnae to teach them some of the traditional Ten Tones songs. And it sounds like there are alumnae excited to oblige. “You will enjoy the support and encouragement and enthusiasm from those of us who have been in your shoes,” said Wilson College Trustee and former Ten Tones member Judy Kreutz Young ‘63 during a recent rehearsal.

The current Ten Tones are Reagan Bush ’24, Erin Gohegan ’26, Emily Reeder ’26, Chelsea Zimmann ’26, and Molly Proctor ’27. Their repertoire includes “I Want it That Way” by the Backstreet Boys, “True Colors” by Cyndi Lauper, and the Wilson College Alma Mater.

A Few Weddings…

Winnie Plager ’60 said the Ten Tones performed at the wedding reception of Grace Berner Hartdegen ’59. “Everyone loved it as did we,” she said.

Seven Ten Tones also performed at the December 1985 wedding reception of Ellen Chen-Cooper ’85. “It was unplanned, but after my husband’s old high school barbershop quartet sang an impromptu number, we just had to upstage them with “Everybody Loves a Lover.” Pictured L-R Deborah English Hammond ’87, Ellen Chen-Cooper ’85, Cathy Schmearer Lawson’86, Brenda Shaffer ’86, Christel Bauer ’84, Cynthia Aleszczyk Murphy ’87, Alexandra Ellis Harvancik ’86.

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