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Sisterhood and love of music are pillars of the women’s group Sigma Alpha Iota at UNC

Iota Tau poses with instruments at their chapter meeting on Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020. Iota Tau is the all female-identifying UNC chapter of Sigma Alpha Iota, an international music fraternity.

“Love and roses.” 

This is the saying that encompasses Sigma Alpha Iota’s value and symbol as an international women’s music fraternity at UNC. 

Sigma Alpha Iota at UNC is best known for hosting receptions after performances in the music department. But there are currently 30 members of Sigma Alpha Iota involved in an organization and sisterhood that extends beyond the reception halls. 

Like some other Greek organizations, Sigma Alpha Iota holds an annual recruitment, they have pods and big and little pairings. They also hold weekly chapter meetings where they incorporate “musicales” — performances and presentations by members. 

“We are based in music, everyone has one common thread that is so special,” said Sigma Alpha Iota’s Greek Music Council Representative Tessa Castlebury.  “We are focused as a group on the betterment of our community, and it’s nice to be in a great group of people.” 

The Greek Music Council at UNC consists of four music-based fraternities. The council puts on events for and maintains communication with all the involved organizations. 

Castlebury said their organization is currently the largest of the four, despite having nearly half the membership they had four years ago due to several large classes graduating.

The only membership requirement is having taken one college level music class, so many members are also a part of UNC bands or other music groups. The openness of the group allows for creative diversity — members can play a wide range of instruments, including oboe, piano, mellophone and more. 

Sigma Alpha Iota even has its own subgroup of women who formed an a cappella group called Beauty Shop. 

“Music has always been a big part of my life,” Castlebury said. “I wanted a core group of friends with similar interests, volunteering, music and sisterhood — SAI is all of those things.”

President Kaitlyn Davis said she enjoys that Sigma Alpha Iota has a strict anti-hazing policy and that all of their events are dry. She said drinking isn’t an expectation as it seems to be in other Greek organizations. 

Emily Kramer said she appreciates that the fraternity is an interest-based group. She said she enjoys spending time with her sisters in a low pressure environment where "The Bachelor" watch parties, ice-skating escapades and highlighting sisters of the week all add to the fun dynamic of the group. 

“On a campus this big with this many people and so much diversity, everyone needs to have somewhere they belong,” Davis said. “SAI is a great part of that web of clubs.” 

Philanthropic work is another unifying basis for sisters in Sigma Alpha Iota. They volunteer their time in three main ways: playing music and exposing children to instruments at Kidzu, hosting Girl Scouts events and making meals for those at the State Employees’ Credit Union Family House at UNC Hospitals. 

Sigma Alpha Iota also hosts fundraisers, such as Pie-an-SAI where students paid to pie a sister. Castlebury said a police officer on a Segway even pied her to aid in the fundraiser. 

At the end of each year, the Sigma Alpha Iota chapter at UNC donates revenue from fundraising to Sigma Alpha Iota Philanthropies Inc. This philanthropy makes music for those with vision impairments and creates artist retreats, all with the overall goal of providing ways for music to impact more people. 

Bringing women and music together is one of the pillars of this fraternity. 

Claire Hernandez, vice president of ritual, said she has grown more confident as a musician due to the support of her sisters. 

“SAI is important at UNC and in our community because it promotes women in music,” Hernandez said. “It’s an important form of expression, which women were historically excluded from. We encourage musical excellence in all women, regardless of race, nationality or age.”

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