Fraternity offers alternative Valentine’s Day option

2/11/2009 | By: Jon Fortenbury  |

Candy, flowers, teddy bears, and expensive dinners — these remain Valentine’s Day traditions. They’re predictable, and expected. A group of college students arriving unexpectedly to sing “Afternoon Delight” to your grandma or significant other is not so predictable.

Providing a less traditional Valentine’s Day gift, the University of Nevada, Reno’s music fraternity Phi Mu Alpha will be selling singing telegrams this week. The telegram costs $15 for 15 minutes, including driving time if it’s off-campus. The organization will be selling telegrams in front of the Joe Crowley Student Union on Thursday, Feb. 12, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. or by appointment through Saturday, Feb. 14.

“We want to provide an alternative to the stereotypical teddy bear,” said Jeffrey Shelffo, the Phi Mu Alpha music director and a 21-year-old music education major. “And it’s fun to embarrass people.”

Consisting of about four to eight male students, the group has a set list of five songs, which range from “My Girl” to “Let Me Call You Sweetheart.” They plan to perform on Friday from 9-11 a.m. and 1–7 p.m. and on Saturday between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. They’ll schedule later if people request it.

The proceeds go to Washoe County School District and Sinfonia Educational Foundation and are used to promote music programs. The money earned also helps fund the Larry G. Holloway Memorial scholarship, a $1,000 University scholarship given to incoming freshmen.

Phi Mu Alpha mostly consists of music majors. Provoking more than just laughs with these telegrams, Phi Mu Alpha deliver quality performances.

“It's a wonderful use of our unique talents,” said Matthew Jacobson, the 21-year-old president of Phi Mu Alpha who’s majoring in music and philosophy. “Among fraternities, the singing and musical talents are not widespread. In our fraternity, however, we emphasize a love of music and enjoy sharing it with other people.”

In addition to enjoying singing the telegrams, the fraternity also benefits in another way.

“It promotes awareness of our fraternity on campus,” Jacobson said. “Because we don't have a house, it's harder for people outside the music department to discover we exist. It’s a good outreach.”

Paige Lassiter, a 19-year-old business management major from Reno, thinks the telegrams are a great idea. Though she doesn’t plan on buying one for her boyfriend, she thinks her mother would love it.

“It's thoughtful,” Lassiter said. “Depending on whom they're singing to, it can be really funny and entertaining.”

The fraternity accepts cash or checks. For more information or to buy a telegram, contact Jeffrey Shelffo at (775) 830-1304 or by email at


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