Constance “Connie” Chase grew up in Franklin, Virginia, with her two older brothers and a younger sister. Her father sold Virginia pork products, and her mother was an elementary school teacher who had attended the Women’s College of North Carolina, the predecessor of the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. Before she turned five, her mother enrolled her in piano lessons against her instructor’s advice, but Connie turned out to be a gifted pianist, and eventually a flautist. When it came time for college, she applied to several schools, but she ended up attending her mother’s alma mater, UNC Greensboro, where she majored in music. While she was teaching music in a public school in Fayetteville, North Carolina, she met her husband, who was serving as a Field Artillery Officer in the 82nd Airborne Division. While they were stationed in Germany, a friend asked her, “Why aren’t you singing [professionally].” When they returned to the states, she earned a Master’s Degree in Voice Performance from Hunter College, City University of New York, while her husband was teaching in the Department of Behavioral Sciences & Leadership at West Point for the second time. At West Point, she began performing with the West Point Band. After her husband retired, they moved to Connecticut, and when a job opened up in 1999 for a new West Point Glee Club Director, the Band Commander reached out to Connie. For the past twenty years she has been directing the Glee Club, serving as a high-profile ambassador for West Point.
In this interview, she talks about her childhood, her family, growing up in a small town in the Virginia tidewater, and developing a talent and love for music. She discusses her education and the schools she attended, as well as writing a book, with Shirlee Emmons, “Prescriptions for Choral Excellence.” She describes her life as an Army spouse and her tours in Germany and West Point. She devotes the majority of this interview to recollections from her two decades as the director of the West Point Glee Club. She describes two events after the terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001. Ten days after the attacks, the Glee Club performed with the Boston Pops, and the standing ovation the Cadets received was an emotional moment. A year later, the Glee Club performed at the site of the World Trade Center in New York City with the Marine Corps Band, and the Cadets were able to interact with many family members of those who died in the attack. She describes the composition of the Glee Club, some of the challenges inherent to operating at the Military Academy, and the standards the Cadets uphold. She outlines a typical performance schedule for one year of singing engagements, highlighting some of the people they perform for and the venues at which the Cadets perform, like the Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall, and Skywalker Ranch. She outlines the Glee Club’s repertoire, listing some of the traditional songs they sing (“The Corps,” “Alma Mater,” and “Benny Havens”), favorite patriotic songs (“America the Beautiful” and “The Armed Forces Medley”), and special songs they’ve performed (“Mansions of the Lord,” and “Till the Last Shot’s Fired” by Trace Adkins). Finally, she reflects on what West Point means to her after two tours as a Military Spouse and two decades as the Director of the Glee Club, and ends by recalling some of the relationships she’s formed with Cadets.