By Emily Larkin, Managing and Online Editor
When she greets her new class of Chorale singers each year, Director of Music Deanne Zogleman always makes an announcement her students probably aren’t expecting.
“Welcome to Match.com.”
But it’s an apt warning, Zogleman says, especially because over the years, so many of her students have found love - and often marriage - after meeting in her class. Over the last 14 years, she estimates, 11 couples who sang together in her chorale class have gotten married. Many more have dated or formed lasting relationships.
Zogleman earned roaring laughter from the crowd at last semester’s alumni concert when she explained the significance of one of the songs the group was about to sing: “The Wedding March.”
“We only thought it was apt to do this song because of the number of couples who fell in love in Chorale and got married,” she said.
The long list includes Wichita Eagle reporter Matt Riedl and his wife Sydney (Daigle); Director of Alumni Relations Ray Williams and his wife Rachel (Stanley); photographer Jenna (McCulley) and her husband Cliff Fox and newlyweds senior Taylor (Rose) and junior Drew Entz.
Even Zogleman’s own daughter, Sara, a sophomore, found love in Chorale with freshman boyfriend Richard Avelar.
“It’s lovely to see couples get together any time, but to know that you may be a little part of it is special,” Zogleman said.
Zogleman attributes the many relationships formed in Chorale to the style of the class and the connections that are built.
“I stress family.That can be distant family or close family. When you are in that atmosphere, you are freer,” she said. “You are not stuck behind a desk. You’re talking to one another, so you tend to get to know each other better.”
In honor of Valentine’s Day, here’s a closer look at some of the couples who have met during their time in Newman’s Chorale.
Rachel and Ray Williams
Alumni Ray and Rachel Williams attribute the first nudge toward their relationship to being dance partners. Ray and Rachel, who graduated in May of 2013, married in October of 2014.
“Deanne actually paired us up as dance partners that very first semester he was in Chorale in the spring,” Rachel said. “So, we had been hanging out all of fall semester and then she paired us up to do the mambo.”
“And I worked my ass off to make sure I would stay her dance partner. A man that can dance is semi-impressive in a choir setting,” Ray said.
“You might end up dancing together,” Zogleman said with a chuckle. “I’ve had a few couples get together because they built that trust through dancing.”
Unlike most couples who meet during the class, Chorale snuck its way into Ray and Rachel’s story.
“He ended up joining Chorale to spend more time with me,” Rachel said.
“100 percent,” Ray said with a grin, sliding his arm around her waist. “Not saying I had an ulterior motive, but I definitely did.”
Rachel said Chorale helped the pair maintain their relationship throughout and beyond college because of the amount of work that went into each event they did.
“Over four years, we shared so many experiences together- all of the shows, several trips, putting in so much work,” she said. “There’s a special bond between people who perform together and that definitely connects people on more than just surface value.”
Ray said Chorale helped make the college experience feel more manageable.
“Chorale was our small campus family,” he said. “I felt more connected to those folks than I did anyone else because we all knew what we were going through together.”
Taylore and Drew Entz
A simple flirtation- that’s how things started for Taylore and Drew Entz.
“At our Christmas concert last year, I found out that Drew played an instrument. So I started, I don’t want to say harassing him,” Taylore said.
“She was harassing me,” Drew said with a laugh.
Taylore said that she gave Drew trouble about not being in band.
“He had a crush on me...And then he just started mysteriously showing up in the music library every night,” she said.
“There were many times that everyone was up there until like 3 a.m., and everyone knows good relationships start at 3 a.m,” Drew said with a hearty chuckle.
Zogleman said that’s where she saw the first sparks of a relationship ignite.
“It’s always fun to watch the first flirtation. Most of the times I clue in. Sometimes I’ve been surprised,” Zogleman said.
Taylore said she was aware of Chorale’s reputation to produce couples, but she never thought she would be a part of one.
“I knew about it, but I was a junior, so I was like, ‘I’ve already met everybody. It couldn’t happen to me,’ but psych.”
Drew said that people in Chorale share one key interest.
“We’re not all necessarily the same majors; we have lots of people from different places, but the fact that we all doing music together is our common thing,” he said. “That commonality helps jumpstart friendships and relationships which is evident in how these relationships are interwoven in the program.”
The couple said that music is a large part of their lives inside and outside of the classroom.
“If you open our door, we are always just staring into each other’s eyes singing John Legend,” Taylore said laughing and grabbing Drew’s hand. “No, we just kinda mess around and sing silly. It’s a lot of eyebrow action.”
“So you know it’s sarcastic,” Drew added. “I have a tendency to play a lot of singable music. I like to jump in occasionally. You like to jump in occasionally. Sometimes we jump in at the same times and harmonize real nice.”
Sara Zogleman and Richard Avelar
Sara said she remembers feeling an immediate attraction to Richard.
“When I saw “Godspell” last year, I fell head over heels for him,” she said.
Richard credits the Troubadours retreat for the beginning of the pair’s connection.
“We went to Christy’s house to go swimming,” he said. “I was still trying to get to know everyone.”
“I kept throwing things at him accidentally,” Sara added with a laugh.
Richard chuckled. “I thought she was flirting with me.”
Zogleman said it was Sara’s dog Sadie who initially knew they were meant to be.
“At the initial cast meeting for Mamma Mia, a ton of people were in the music library, and Sara brought Sadie. I was watching Sara and Richard flirt with each other, but I was also watching Sadie,” she said. “Sadie went right to Richard, and I thought, ‘And he’s the one.’”
“She was in love. Sadie knew,” Sara laughed.
Sara, who has grown up seeing Chorale couples year after year, never expected that she would be a part of one.
“I definitely did not think it, especially coming in freshman year,“ Sara said. “But my mom has definitely said it before like, ‘Oh, you’re going to meet your honey in Chorale. I’ll make it happen.’”
The duo said music is built into their relationship.
“I sing to Sara,” Richard said.
“All the time,” they said in unison.
“I sing a lot of Broadway show tunes or some love-dovey songs,” Richard said. “When I want to be goofy, I’ll pull out the fun, energetic ones. I always love singing to Sara.”
Sara said Chorale allows students to see one another in a different light.
“I would say from watching it throughout the years, I can see that mom makes this program more of a family and sets up more one-on-one time for us, which brings us together,” she said. “You kinda just get to see a new side to people than you would just see in the hallways because not everyone goes around singing and being happy.”
In the past few years, Chorale has taken three trips to New York City to sing at Carnegie Hall. On each of these trips, Chorale members have gotten engaged.
“It was lovely to be in on it. I actually babysat all the rings of the engagements in New York, so the girls wouldn’t find them.”
Zogleman said anyone is invited to join Chorale.
Who knows what they might find?.
“For those of you who love to sing, come join us in Chorale because you never know,” she said. “Your life might not be changed only by music.”
PHOTO: RAY AND RACHEL WILLIAMS were paired as dance partners in Chorale their freshman year of college, and the rest was history. Courtesy Photo, Rachel Williams