The campus choir with 130-year heritage

John Wiles has been teaching at UNI for 13 years. This year is his first as the conductor of the Cecilians.


John Wiles has been teaching at UNI for 13 years. This year is his first as the conductor of the Cecilians.


Cecilians will perform Oct. 27 in the Great Hall in Gallagher Bluedorn 

For most people, music is just a small part of their daily routine – for others it is their life. Now to musicians, it could be singing, playing an instrument or even writing music for those who want to play it. Those who are part of the Cecilians will happen to know all about that. 

The Cecilians are more than just a treble choral ensemble – they are “committed to creating an inclusive community of strong, proud treble singers through songs,” said John Wiles, Ph. D. 

Wiles, the conductor of the Cecilians, has been teaching for 13 years for the University of Northern Iowa, however, this is his first year working with the Cecilians. He mentions that he feels very fortunate to work with such amazing students. 

The Cecilians are strongly committed to inclusivity; they are strong in connection as well. On Oct. 21, they performed for an audience of parents during family weekend.  

Although many families traveled to the Northern Iowa campus, there were accommodations for students who did not have the opportunity to bring their families to the performance. For the students who did not get the opportunity to be reconnected with their families during that time, they had the option of livestreaming the event. According to Wiles, the concert had gone really well during family weekend due the Cecilians’ constant hard work – they worked hard to achieve the fantastic vocals by challenging themselves.

The chorus sang four different songs. The opener and closer were “flashy to open and close with, something that challenges the singers from the rich choral history of repertoire, and something that the singers could sing in a heartfelt way,” mentioned Wiles.  

“Overall, the Family Weekend Concert went better than I had hoped. I think that audiences prefer concerts with lots of variety and textures, so having three separate choruses was something everyone appreciated. There was a comfortable vibe in the room – nothing too stodgy. The concert was more of a ‘sharing’ than a formal event, even though everyone was dressed nicely! We’re looking forward to doing it again next year,” said Wiles. 

The Cecilians have 130 years of heritage, being one of the oldest continuously operating musical ensembles on campus. As one of the main choral ensembles on campus, they sing throughout the academic year and tour internationally every other year.

Despite these 130 years of heritage, there haven’t been many traditions passed down to them, but they have had change. One of the biggest changes for them was changing their name to the Cecilians from the Women’s Chorus. “It’s a way for us to be a more inclusive ensemble,” Wiles says. 

The Cecilians are composed of students from different academic disciplines and academic classifications. “There is no audition necessary to join the Cecilians,” Wiles mentions. 

Students from different communities feel welcomed; being able to make connections with music is important. For those that dedicate their time on campus preparing for performances, music means so much more than putting on a performance. It is a way of expression. 

 “I’m glad that I’m able to create music with a lot of people because I came from a small community,” said freshman Holly Beauchamp. 

The students and staff express themselves through the music that is being performed. The Cecilians are the University of Northern Iowa’s voices of music. 

The Cecilians are performing again on Oct. 27, at 7:30 p.m. in the Great Hall of Gallagher Bluedorn. Be sure to catch their performance then.