The University Glee Club of New York City was the vision and energy of John Tempest Walker, Jr., who in 1886 as the leader of the Alumni Glee Club of Columbia University, came up with the idea of a men’s glee club composed of college graduates living in the New York City area. Along with the other founding members – graduates of Cornell, New York University, Princeton, Rochester, Rutgers, Union College and Yale – the UGC was formally organized in 1894 “to encourage male voice singing of the highest excellence for university and college graduates and former students residing in or near New York City,” as stated in the UGC’s constitution.
The UGC’s first performance on May 8, 1894, which also doubled as an effort to recruit worthy singers from other colleges, took place in Mendelssohn Hall for the benefit of the University Settlement Association. On January 26, 1895, fifty-two singers from over a dozen colleges and universities performed the first formal UGC concert at Madison Square Garden, led by Arthur D. Woodruff, an esteemed musician from Columbia University and the UGC’s first principal pianist. In attendance were such luminaries as Mrs. John D. Rockefeller, the Hon. Joseph Choate, Chauncy DePew, J. Arden Harriman, the Hon. Seth Low, and William B. Hornblower. Mrs. J. Pierpont Morgan would sign on as an Associate Member of the UGC in time for the second concert in May 1895.
The spirit of the UGC has endured a unique strength, and one that has borne the highs and lows the last century. The fellowship that accompanies one’s membership or association with the UGC has continued to progress through the changes in the life of this great city and to bring happiness to its members, associate members, and friends for well over a century.