“Why I Remain Close to Lehigh” is a collection of feature stories about Lehigh University alumni volunteers and their motivation to stay involved with their alma mater. The group of alumni were interviewed by Klaudia Jazwinska ’18 and Carina Bonasera ’19.
Steve Bartosik has only missed one Reunion Weekend since 1978, and it was because he was on tour.
One of only a few Lehigh graduates of his era who went on to pursue a career in music, Bartosik graduated in 1977 with a bachelor of arts degree in history. Though at the time Lehigh didn’t offer a music major (nor was he considering music as a career choice), he said he had plenty of opportunities to perform.
“There were a million little ensembles and bands,” he said. “I had rehearsals seven days a week for something. So in that way, I got so much playing in – I got so much hands-on stuff. It was terrific.”
Bartosik – who is now a freelance musician – played drums for the Marching 97, concert band, jazz band, wind ensemble, percussion ensemble, and student musicals. He said his experience performing at Lehigh certainly laid a foundation for his career as a professional musician.
Since then, he has toured the entire country, performing in venues ranging from the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles to the Moose Lodge in Scranton, Pennsylvania; along with more than 20 Broadway shows and the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall.
But he comes back to Lehigh every year to play with the Alumni Marching 97 and the Alumni Big Band Swing, which he organized at the request of the Alumni Association in 1979. The committee had an idea for more alumni-centric entertainment for Reunion Weekend so “we put together an all alumni 18-piece band and rehearsed a little bit,” he said. “It seemed to work well, because we’re still invited back after all this time.”
Bartosik said it’s great to reunite with members of the Lehigh community, both young and old. Last year, the “elder statesman” band member was from the Class of 1951, while the youngest was a student from the Class of 2018.
“It’s great to see that expanse of people,” he said. “That’s seven decades of Lehigh getting back for Reunion Weekend, just in the band.”
He said the opportunity to play with the Alumni Band and entertain the crowds is why he keeps coming back to Lehigh. He fondly recalled one particularly memorable alumnus, Eugene Chovanes ’50, who passed away just last year.
“For the past 20 years, maybe more, he came to every Reunion and would dance all Friday night to the big band music — and if nobody else was going to dance with him, he would dance by himself,” said Bartosik. “Then he would return Saturday to move along with the marches and Lehigh songs of the March 97. Eugene had so much fun. He made the most of his Alumni Weekend – it was incredible. He gave us inspiration. It’s guys like that that you come back for.”
Bartosik encourages other alumni to come back to campus to Reunion to reconnect, visit some of their “old haunts,” and see how the school has changed since they graduated. After people come back once, he said, they see that it’s fun and they continue to return.
“I had a reason to come back – it was the band,” he said. “Other people have their own reasons to come back. Lehigh is a great ‘rah-rah’ school. They love their alumni.”