“They just want to come back and sing with Mr. Sipe and he wants to sing with them.”
That’s the way organizing committee member Jane Stamper describes the event that will take place Saturday evening at Tecumseh High School.
All the Tecumseh Choir members who were students of John Sipe during his career at the school from 1956 to 1982 have been invited to participate. At least 314 have registered, with people coming from around the United States, plus Norway, Spain, Germany and Japan.
It all started when some of the people from the classes of 1971-72 and 1981-82 got together to see the presentation of the musical “The Boyfriend” at the school last year. Mr. and Mrs. Sipe went with them and talk about a reunion of choir members led to planning for the event over the past 14 months.
The event has grown so large, it has been moved from the high school’s auditorium to the gymnasium.
Sipe says he’s not aware of a previous reunion like this.
“I’m looking forward to renewing past relationships and making good music,” he said.
He modestly stresses he wants the event to be primarily about the choir members.
But Greg Cable, who has been chairing the committee organizing the reunion, said he told Sipe, “it’s also going to be about you.”
Cable called Sipe an exceptional teacher with high standards.
Stamper, who went on to become a music teacher as well, echoed those sentiments, recalling how the choir always performed significant material.
“Choir was always special to all of us,” Stamper said. “We knew we were doing quality literature.”
Both also mentioned the impact Sipe had on them and on many other students.
“He created the environment,” Stamper said. “Music enriched our lives and stayed with us no matter what direction we chose in life.
We are coming together this weekend to sing together and celebrate the joy of … music which we discovered many years ago at Tecumseh High School,” Stamper said. “It is a testament to the power of arts in education.”
Cable said Sipe’s influence touched many people and helped them go on to greater things and success.
Both Stamper and Cable told the story of a student with behavioral and even legal troubles who auditioned and joined the choir, but then quit. They related how Sipe encouraged him to return and stick with it.
That young man later earned a graduate degree and became a music teacher. He was one of the first to sign up to come to the reunion, but may not be able to due a medical condition.
Looking back on his long tenure, Sipe says he was very fortunate. “Teaching music, you have everything going for you. The students come to you because they want to be there.”
Stamper believes Sipe’s students were also very fortunate.
“He was very talented and was interested and cared about each of his students,” Stamper said.
The weekend will include rehearsals Friday evening, Saturday morning and afternoon, leading up to the 7 p.m. concert.
It’s free and everyone is invited to attend. Sipe will direct the choir, and will also serve as master of ceremonies, sharing stories about his former students and his career.
He pointed out the event has received “marvelous financial support that has been amazing to me.”