Brother Percy Jewett Burrell – Commemoration Year 2014

February 10th marked the 137th birthday of Percy Jewett Burrell! Please join us in celebrating his life, as we also commemorate the 50th anniversary of his passing. Please scroll down to see how you, your alumni association, or your chapter can take part in these festivities.


In honor of the 50th anniversary of Percy Burrell’s passing, President Mongiovi has issued a formal proclamation naming March 22 an official day of remembrance of Brother Burrell. To see the full proclamation, click on the link below. And stay tuned to Sinfonian news channels in the coming days as we unveil a complete list of contests and celebrations honoring Brother Burrell.

Burrell Anniversary ProclamationPDF



March 22, 2014 will mark the 50th anniversary of Brother Burrell’s passing. On or near that date, we are asking every chapter historian to present a program honoring the life, contributions and writings of Percy Jewett Burrell for the chapter’s education. Historians are encouraged to submit both programs and documentation of the event to the National Headquarters by March 31, 2014. The three best programs will be recognized with formal awards. 

We have always emphasized the need for continuing “collegiate member education” beyond the probationary period. This observance is intended to produce material that will meet bring all brothers into contact with Percy Jewett Burrell’s thinking, writing, teaching and leadership. Our Sixth Supreme President served what has become the third longest tenure of any president at seven years, but Brother Burrell holds the record for most terms served. We often forget that he served at a time when the Fraternity held annual elections, and so Burrell stood for election 7 times, and won every election. (Brother Archie Jones served 5 contiguous 2-year terms from 1950-1960 for 10 total years in office. More recently, Brother Richard Crosby served 9 years, with one triennial term from 1994-1997, followed by two additional contiguous terms from 2003-2009.) 

Burrell’s major writings have been available for years under Resources at Additionally, anyone who has attended a Fireside Conference or the Fraternity Education Pre-conference sessions at Leadership Institute will be a good resource for Burrell material. The Historian will first need to study the available resources, and then begin to prepare a program to present what he has learned, and what he believes (or what the chapter believes) are the most important things a brother should know about Percy Jewett Burrell. 

For years I have heard from chapter historians that they have trouble defining what they should do in the office. Brothers, this is a perfect opportunity for you to rise to the occasion and set a standard for future programs designed to increase fraternity education at the local level. The attached idea sheet should get you some starting ideas, but don’t limit yourself. Sinfonia has always emphasized creativity in our brotherhood, and we are confident that you will honor Brother Burrell and the Fraternity by your inspired contributions. 

We’ve listed some basic ideas on the Activities Sheet below to get you started, but these are by no means an exhaustive set of possible options, and are meant only to be discussion starters. 


– Prepare a 15-20 minute slideshow presentation in PowerPoint or similar presentation tool covering a brief biography of Burrell, including photographs, a list of his Fraternity offices and accomplishments, and selected quotations. 

– Present the major writings of Burrell to the chapter, having selected chapter officers or alumni brothers read important portions aloud. 

– Ask each brother to pick the Burrell quotation that he finds most important, or most inspirational, or to just pick his favorite Burrell quotation, and share it with the chapter, explaining why it appeals to him and what it means. Use these examples to branch into a broader discussion of what Burrell has meant to Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, led by the historian. 

– Find the Memorial Service performed at the dedication of the Fraternity’s monument to Brother Burrell in Watertown, MA in 2004, and perform it in a formal setting as a remembrance of Burrell. 

– Present the Presidential Messages in which Burrell writes on the meaning and application of the Object, and discuss as a chapter how his interpretation can be applied today, at the chapter and local level. 

– Research Burrell’s contributions as a director and organizer of community pageants across America, and check to see whether a community in your vicinity staged such a pageant. Work with the town’s Historical Society to research your local connections with Burrell, and see if you can uncover any previously undiscovered archival materials, then present your findings to the chapter. Focus specifically on the ways that Burrell “lived the Object” through his pageant work with communities across America. 

– Lead the chapter in a discussion of the ways Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia has changed in the last 100 years since Burrell finished his final term as Supreme President, and discuss how the changes align with Burrell’s thinking, or differ from the Burrell approach. 

– Research the instances where Burrell’s written thoughts became preserved in Fraternity tradition, and educate the chapter on these lasting contributions to Sinfonia. Track his writings and compare with the Memorial Service for Ossian E. Mills, and identify the elements of the Ritual that stem from Percy Jewett Burrell’s writing or teaching. 

– Research the state of American college and university music programs in 1914, and do some research on the expansion of Sinfonia during Burrell’s tenure. Discuss whether expansion of American music programs in the years to follow occurred as a result of the Sinfonia’s expansion, or in spite of it. This could even be staged as a friendly debate, with 3 brothers speaking for each side of the argument and the chapter deciding the argument by vote. 

– Work with the theatre department or local costume shop to research popular styles of dress and hairstyles of 1914, and take a period photo of the chapter as it might have appeared in 1914, including your best “look-alike” Percy Burrell. Use early convention photos and chapter portraits as your model. If your chapter was active in 1914, research local archives and see if you can find actual chapter portraits from the era, and recreate them. Anything from 1905-1920 would be acceptable. 

– Plan a formal reception for after the historical program. Order a “Burrell Portrait” cake from a local baker. Research the tradition of formal banquet toasts. Brother Burrell was renowned for his toasts, but we do not have any written examples. Create your own special toasts to Brother Burrell to cap the event. 

These are just some of the ideas you might incorporate into your local commemoration. Make it a formal celebration, and dedicate the day to it. March 22 is a Saturday this year, so you should have several options if you plan ahead. The commemoration does not have to be on the actual date, but we would prefer it if you can possibly arrange to do so. If March 22 is not an option, perhaps you can pick the chapter meeting date occurring closest to the Commemoration date. 

Please be sure to involve probationary members in all activities that do not concern the Ritual, and to reach out through your ARO and PAC to involve chapter and area alumni in your celebrations. We hope that every chapter will embrace this opportunity, and that historians will work together with the chapter, and with their brother historians from other chapters, to make this event a fitting national recognition of our considerable debt to one of our most influential brothers.

Mills: …sometimes I have thought, after listening to Brother Pendleton talk to me in my office about his vision of Sinfonia becoming a Greek letter fraternity, that perhaps, say fifty years from now, it might stretch across the country; that perhaps he did not have such a – as you say, pipe dream, after all. I hope Sinfonia will expand for the sake of what has proved so good and wholesome for you young men studying music here at the Conservatory, that Sinfonia can prove likewise in other schools and other cities. Young men I find are only different up to the time that the Sinfonia spirit touches them. Then they are changed, as I have seen it. They become better men, and I am sure better musicians too.

from “Sinfonia Birthday” by Percy J. Burrell