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Spotlights

Otterbein Cardinal couples remain friends through the decades, travel to Italy

Otterbein Cardinal couples remain friends through the decades, travel to Italy


In the 1970s, a group of alumni came together through their shared love of music. In 2017, that same group came together once again for a trip to Italy. They say Otterbein was more than an education for them, it was an experience — one that created lifelong friendships and musical memories.

Cabot and Heather Rea ’78 recount their story:

Magical harmonies once heard — and felt — at Otterbein over four decades ago echoed again in late October through the golden vineyard-covered hills of Tuscany. Twelve former Concert Choir members — plus a few spouses — spent 10 days reconnecting in their rented hilltop villa near Arezzo, Italy. These enduring harmonies and friendships were forged by the shared experience of singing and touring together during the ’70s. All agreed that those choir tours were THE MOST MEMORABLE times — both sweet and powerful — of their college experience at Otterbein.

Jill Leasure ’75, our unofficial “choir mom” who organized the first Otterbein Alumni choir in 1976, planned the Tuscany trip along with close friend Sandy Gooding. We took day trips to Florence, Pisa, Cortona, San Gimignano, Siena. Daily, we visited magnificent cathedrals, museums, piazzas, castles and vineyards and then would return “home” to our villa for a made-from-scratch Italian dinner.

We shared a glass of wine (or two), laughed at old choir tour stories, toasted former directors Bill Wyman and Dennis Kratzer, and paused to remember fellow singers who have passed on. We then gathered around Lyn Corbin Seip ’75 at the piano and read through a dozen songs from our years at Otterbein. No sheet music was needed, however, for “The Lord Bless you and Keep You,” “Peace I Leave With You,” “Silent Night,” or the “Otterbein Love Song.”

Singing together again reminded us of one of life’s lasting joys. We couldn’t have known back in the ’70s the lifelong friendships and memories we were creating through the power of music. We were also gaining experiences outside of the classroom which contributed to developing the whole person; still a product of an Otterbein education.

All of us still participate in choral music, whether professionally or as a hobby. Through Otterbein’s Concert Choir we learned teamwork. A choir is a team — not unlike a sports team — with the same goals of working together and striving toward perfection. We learned to navigate through personal differences and collaborate on a quality product.

Choir tours exposed us to travel and to people and cultures outside of small-town Midwest. Choir tour is a perfect built-in PR opportunity for a university — traveling students often perform in the hometowns of alumni, and are housed with local residents. Audiences in other states and even internationally are touched by these young peoples’ performances, bringing exposure and name recognition to the university. Alumni are pleased to reconnect with the school when the choir visits their hometown. 

Otterbein has progressed in many important ways since those years. We hope that as growth continues and new horizons of technology and science elevate Otterbein University to new stature, the musical echoes of her heritage will not be forgotten, but encouraged.  

Science has recently discovered that as a choir performs together, the singers’ heartbeats come into sync with each other. We are grateful that Otterbein gave us that experience many years ago. We are also confident that “hearts in sync” can still benefit the future students of Otterbein University as well as the future citizens of the world.