Sigma Alpha Iota

Sigma Alpha Iota (ΣΑΙ) is an International Music Fraternity. Formed to "uphold the highest standards of music" and "to further the development of music in America and throughout the world", it continues to provide musical and educational resources to its members and the general public. Sigma Alpha Iota operates its own national philanthropy, Sigma Alpha Iota Philanthropies, Inc. Sigma Alpha Iota is a member of the National Interfraternity Music Council and the Professional Fraternity Association.



Sigma Alpha Iota (Alpha Chapter) was founded on June 12, 1903 at the University School of Music in Ann Arbor, Michigan by seven women: Elizabeth A. Campbell, Frances Caspari, Minnie Davis Sherrill, Leila Farlin Laughlin, Nora Crane Hunt, Georgina Potts, and Mary Storrs Andersen.

The next chapter of the fraternity, Beta, was chartered in 1904 at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. Chapters have now been chartered at over 300 universities, conservatories, and colleges.

Title IX and membership

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, enacted on June 23, 1972, prohibits discrimination based on gender in educational programs receiving federal funding. This prohibition extends to professional societies for students enrolled at universities that receive federal funds for student financial aid or other programs. However, social organizations, such as social fraternities and sororities, are specifically exempted. In order to remain a fraternity of women, Sigma Alpha Iota petitioned for an exemption from Title IX from the U.S. Department of Education as a music fraternity that would initiate only women at the undergraduate level, and men and women at the professional level. In 1981, the fraternity was officially granted exemption from Title IX by the DOE to remain single-sex as a social organization. Sigma Alpha Iota International Music Fraternity remains a member of the Professional Fraternity Association.

SAI Philanthropies, Inc.

Created in 1974, Sigma Alpha Iota, Inc. is the charitable arm of the fraternity. Its mission is to "promote all aspects of music creation, performance and scholarship; and encourage service for and through music on the campus, in the community, in the nation, and throughout the world." SAI Philanthropies, Inc. funds a wide range of projects. This includes grants to individual SAI collegiate and alumnae chapters; grants for chapter-run community outreach programs; and grants, scholarships, loans, and awards to individual members. It also funds the publication of Pan Pipes, the fraternity journal.

MacDowell Colony, Pan's Cottage

Pan's Cottage (left) and Colony Hall at the MacDowell Colony.

SAI Philanthropies also supports Pan's Cottage, a house at the MacDowell Colony for Creative Artists in Peterborough, New Hampshire. The cottage was donated by SAI in 1918 and houses artists in residence. Pan's Cottage can accommodate up to 12 artists and is the largest residence at the Colony. SAI also provides continuing financial support to the cottage, including utilities, general repairs, and replacement of furnishings. SAI also supports the greater MacDowell Colony, including $75,000 donation in 2007 to restore and preserve Edward MacDowell's music room at Hillcrest Farm.

Inter-American Music Awards

The Inter-American Music Awards is a triennial competition for young composers from North, Central, and South America. The first award was presented in 1948. Selected by a panel of well-known composers, the winning composition is premiered at a Sigma Alpha Iota National Convention and is published by C. F. Peters Corporation under the direction of Sigma Alpha Iota. The composer receives a monetary prize and royalties are shared between the composer and Sigma Alpha Iota.

Support for musicians with special needs

Since 1959 SAI Philanthropies, Inc. has assisted blind and musicians with visual impairments by contributing to the Braille Transcription Project and Bold Note Music Project, which help transcribe music into formats more easily accessible for the vision impaired.


Since 1963, SAI's People-to-People project has provided material assistance (instruments and accessories, scores, books, teaching materials) and encouragement to schools, music organizations, and musicians in developing countries. Musicians in more than 75 countries have received aid through this program.


“The VISION of Sigma Alpha Iota International Music Fraternity is to be recognized throughout the world as the foremost fraternity that

• Supports and encourages women musicians of all ages, races, and nationalities

• Supports and promotes successful and innovative educational programs in music for all stages of life

• Cultivates excellence in musical performance

• Promotes programs and activities that stress the love and importance of music in our lives

• Recognizes technological advances in the field of music

• Dedicates financial resources that ensure the continuation of programs necessary to support the objectives of the fraternity in perpetuity

• Has as its members people who exemplify professional and ethical behavior in the spirit of the Sigma Alpha Iota founders.”

Symphony (by Esther Requarth, Nu Chapter)

To study and practice the goodness of life, the beauty of art, the meaning of music.
To sing the song of sincerity and universal peace.
To speak the words that build, that bless and comfort.
To play the harpstrings of loving kindness, tolerance, appreciation, and genuine gratitude.
To strive for the joy of simplicity, for the noble, to be faithful over a few things
To listen, to be still and know the harmony from within.
To falter never in seeking loving service, wisdom, and understanding.
In a word, to be loyal to Sigma Alpha Iota and her teachings; to find joy, hope, inspiration; to remember that "every good gift and every perfect gift is from above" and "whatsoever ye do, do it heartily as to the Lord, and not unto men."
And again to practice.
This is to be our Symphony.

Famous members of SAI

Sigma Alpha Iota has been honored to welcome a multitude of artists from all walks of life, including musicians, teachers, composers, and conductors. Here are just a few of the many men and women who have been honored with Distinguished Membership by Sigma Alpha Iota:

Member Laureates

This category of Distinguished Membership given to "an initiated member of the Fraternity who has achieved international distinction in the music profession. She may be a performer, composer, teacher, author, musicologist or philanthropist."

Sheryl Crow

Initiated as collegiate sisters

Honorary Members

Honorary Members are women who have "achieved international distinction in the music profession who is [are] not an initiated member of Sigma Alpha Iota. She may be a performer, composer, teacher, author, musicologist, or philanthropist."

Marian Anderson in 1940

National Arts Associates

Distinguished membership given to "a man or woman who is nationally recognized for distinguished contribution to the arts."


Mamie Eisenhower, patroness, Epsilon Beta chapter (Gettysburg College)

"A woman actively interested in community musical affairs, in the endeavors of the collegiate or alumnae chapter, and the purpose of the Fraternity, who has been invited by a collegiate or alumnae chapter to join SAI."


Collegiate chapters

(* Inactive Chapter, ** Closed Chapter)

Alumnae chapters

(* Inactive Chapter, ** Closed Chapter)

Uses material from the Wikipedia article Sigma Alpha Iota, released under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license.