Victoria Opthof-Cordaro ’06 and Bill Schroeher ’66 may have been born 50 years apart, but they have a lot in common, as they have discovered since moving to the small town of Easton in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley.
In 2011, Bill and his wife, Carol Clark Schroeher ’66, retired and moved to Easton, where they became members of the First Presbyterian Church. A lifelong choral singer, Bill joined the church’s choir — and he met Victoria, a fellow chorister, who had moved to Easton only one year earlier.
Soon thereafter, Carol noticed a car with a Wagner College bumper sticker in the church parking lot.
That’s how Victoria and Bill discovered they were both Wagner graduates — and that they also shared the Wagner Choir experience.
Victoria sang alto in the Wagner Choir from 2002 to 2006. A music minor (political science major), she also played French horn in the concert band. Bill majored in English at Wagner and sang baritone in the Wagner Choir from 1962 to 1966, except for a break during his sophomore year.
In another coincidence of life paths, Victoria earned a JD, from Pace University’s law school. She practices law in Easton. Bill also earned a JD, from Fordham. Although he did not go into the practice of law, his legal knowledge frequently came in handy as he worked in banking and finance.
Bill and Carol lived in New York, New Jersey, and Virginia — and wherever they went, Bill sang in the church choir. But in all of his years of singing, Bill can’t recall ever having sung with a fellow Wagner Choir alum until he met Victoria. Now, they enjoy comparing notes about their shared choir experience.
In the 1960s, Bill recalls, the choir rehearsed every morning at 8 a.m. in the old music building, located where the football field parking lot is now. He remembers then-choral director Sigvart Steen standing at the door, smiling.
“That would have never worked in my day,” says Victoria about those early-morning hours. During her era with the choir, rehearsals happened on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays in the afternoon. She recalls that if she ever skipped a Friday rehearsal to travel home for the weekend, Choir Director Roger Wesby would send her a message inquiring as to her whereabouts.
In both eras, touring was a memorable experience: singing at churches where the members housed and fed the students, in the Midwest and Western states in the 1960s, and along the East Coast in the 2000s. No matter where the choir went, “we were a traveling vanguard for the College,” Bill notes. “Dr. Wesby uses the choir as a promotional mouthpiece for the school,” Victoria agrees.
Ironically, they realized that Bill heard the Wagner Choir on tour when Victoria was a junior — he and Carol attended the choir’s March 2005 concert at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, in which Victoria sang second alto.
They realize that the sound of the choir has changed, in keeping with the types of singers among the student population. In the 1960s, Sigvart Steen insisted on a pure, light singing style. “No vibrato in the sopranos, he wanted a tone that was clear as a bell,” Bill recalls. In subsequent years, the theater major (launched in 1969) started attracting a different type of singer to the College. “Roger [Wesby] showcases the powerful theater voices that are in the program now,” Victoria says. (You can hear audio on our website to compare the sounds of the Wagner Choir then and now: recent audio clips and past recordings, including a 1964 record.)
Both of them agree that what keeps them singing is the personal challenge of learning new music and the joy it brings to others. “It’s inspirational for people, and that’s why I like to do it,” says Victoria. “When people say how much it means to them, it touches you.”
— Laura Barlament, Editor, Wagner Magazine