Sigma Alpha Iota: Women in Music Giving Back


The Campanile in November, taken from the southeast.

Mikaila Gondreau

Sigma Alpha Iota, (SAI), a service-based Greek organization, is empowering women in music and giving back to the community through their unique philanthropy projects.

The 105-year-old international music fraternity is well-known for their service to the community and their efforts to better the lives of individuals within it through music and sisterhood. The Sigma Lambda chapter at Iowa State is showing how their efforts are making a difference on a local and international scale.

The chapter originated as Lambda Mu (Love of Music) at Iowa State on Nov. 6, 1912 when a group of women formed a local group to promote interest in music among other female students. They first appeared in April 1924, serving as the ushers at a recital for Sigmund Spaeth. SAI is still ushering concerts at the Martha Ellen-Tye Recital Hall to this day.

Soon after, in 1925, Lambda Mu was accepted as an official part of Sigma Alpha Iota International Music Fraternity and became the Sigma Lambda Chapter of SAI.

Fast forward to today, there are currently 15 members of SAI in the Sigma Lambda chapter, eight of whom have leadership positions.

Skylah Rachel is a senior in music and the president of the Sigma Lambda chapter. She enjoys the unique qualities of having a leadership role.

“If you’re really wanting leadership positions and a small type of atmosphere, this is what you should join because you get to know everyone on a really personal level,” Rachel said. “If you love music and want to share it with people, that’s the biggest reason why women want to join.”

On top of being able to put an SAI leadership position on a resume, the women of SAI get to have a part in impacting the country and even the world. SAI holds an annual spring benefit concert to support Sigma Alpha Iota Philanthropies, Inc. This non-profit organization was created in 1974 to support the educational and charitable goals of SAI through many philanthropies and support the art of music. Chapters of SAI from all over the country raise money to fund projects made possible by Sigma Alpha Iota Philanthropies, Inc.

Another way the women of SAI are helping out the national community is through a program called Bold Notes. The purpose of Bold Notes is to provide large-print versions of scores, method books and sheet music to visually impaired musicians. Rachel mentioned they will hopefully be starting this project in the next few weeks.

Although impacting the U.S. and the world through their efforts is a large part of their mission, the women of SAI believe bettering the Ames community is just as important.

“Individual chapters like college chapters and alumni chapters, do their own thing to give back to their local communities in ways that the national chapter can’t,” said Morgan Muell, senior in biology and vice president of membership for the Sigma Lambda chapter.

Every year, SAI also puts on a Toys for Tots Benefit Concert which features performances from ISU students and faculty. This concert is to help the Toys for Tots campaign distribute toys to kids around Iowa.

Along with the annual Toys for Tots Benefit Concert and the spring benefit concert, SAI has a few smaller projects in the works. The women of Sigma Lambda have begun collecting Box Tops for Education to donate to local elementary schools to raise money for their music programs. They also donated $400 to the ISU Symphony Orchestra this semester to support their funding for a composition. Outside of the music realm, the members of SAI enjoy making and sending uplifting cards and tie blankets to hospitalized children.

“The service component is so huge compared to other organizations. It really gives you something to talk about that you’ve done with your time for someone else who needs it,” Muell said.

Samantha Schmitz is a junior in music and the philanthropy chair for Sigma Lambda chapter. Schmitz enjoys being apart of this organization not only for the community service, but for the ways in which it pushes women forward.

“It’s about service and empowering women,” Schmitz said. “Especially in the choral world…it’s very male dominated, like you see a lot of choral conductors are men. So to be able to honor women who have made contributions to music and to show them that you can do this and we are here to support you, it’s just a really great thing.”

The Sigma Lambda chapter is hoping to reach out to even more nationally based philanthropy projects in the coming years.