Ed Ayers

Ed Ayers

1971, Bachelor of Music Education


Forever singing Heidelberg

“Sweet Alma Home” is a little bit sweeter this time of year.

At least once a day, I think about the words or I sing it or listen to it, so it’s a part of my being,

says Ed, who returned to campus for Alumni Weekend to again organize and conduct the Alumni Choir.

For the past 20 or so years, a collection of former Concert Choir members has relived their glory days by performing at the annual Alumni Weekend luncheon. Early on, the draw was the chance to once again sing for the legendary Dr. Ferris Ohl. Ed understands that; he was among those singers. He also understands that he now stands where a giant of Heidelberg music once stood, and that’s not only humbling but a huge honor.

“I like to think what I’m doing is exactly what he taught me to do,” Ed says. “I direct in his style. I suppose if you looked at a film of him conducting the alma mater, we’d probably look just alike.”

Honoring his mentor and father-figure in this way allows Ed to carry on an important Heidelberg tradition while giving something back to his alma mater. “I’m just helping to keep the tradition going, and that’s important. That’s why I don’t give it up and why I keep coming back.”

The choir has been in Ed’s blood since he was a high school senior auditioning for Dr. Ohl back in the mid-‘60s. “Dr. and Mrs. Ohl listened to my audition. He says, ‘Baritone, eh? Not a tenor?’ That all changed that day.”

When Ed arrived at Heidelberg, there was never any doubt he’d be in the choir. His freshman year, he also joined the Singing Collegians. “Dr. Ohl asked me to be in Collegians, and for a freshman, that wasn’t always the case, so I was very pleased,” he recalls. For the next four years, Ed performed with the choir and also held offices each year. Choir tours – both domestic and international – remain some of his fondest ‘Berg memories – “a multitude of experiences you couldn’t get anywhere else.”

“Audiences were always receptive and we were always on our best behavior. After all, we were ambassadors of the school, and Dr. Ohl made sure we understood that.”

By conducting the Alumni Choir – and especially “Sweet Alma Home” – Ed pays tribute to his mentor, role model and friend.

My parents sacrificed a lot to send me to Heidelberg. I was not the best student, but Dr. Ohl saw to it that I came to Heidelberg, so I owe him everything. He got me there. He mentored me. Beneath that rough exterior, I found a warm and caring man who made sure that I got more than an education.

As one of the School of Music & Theatre’s most fervent supporters, Ed travels to Tiffin frequently to fulfill his role as president of Berg Bravo!, formerly the Friends of Heidelberg Music. It’s his second time leading the organization, and an important part of his personal philosophy of giving back. “I am drawing on my own experiences and the things that Ferris Ohl taught me. I was a music student for four years and now I’m an alumnus. I worked very hard for my degree. Heidelberg owes me nothing. I owe it,” he says.

Whenever he’s in Tiffin on Berg Bravo! business or for an alumni event, he stops by to visit his beloved friends, Ferris and Dorothy Ohl, pie in hand. It’s the least he can do for the couple who molded him to be the musician and man he is, and to honor their enduring friendship.

Ferris and Dorothy were ever close to his heart when he conducted “Sweet Alma Home” at the Alumni Weekend luncheon and at the Heritage Society dinner two days before. “It just warms my heart,” Ed says. “It reminds me that I’m part of something that is very, very good.”

Sing till the echoes bring back the lay! Sing Heidelberg!


“10 Questions”

  1. Domestic or international choir tour? Domestic

  2. Favorite Concert Choir performance venue? Heidelberg Castle

  3. Soloist or chorus member? Chorus

  4. “Sweet Alma Home” – singing or directing? Both

  5. Favorite performing artist or act of all time? Opera singer Jon Vickers

  6. Artist you’d bay big bucks to watch perform? ‘Berg alum and opera singer John Hines, ‘90

  7. Car you learned to drive in? 1958 Chevrolet station wagon

  8. First classic car you owned? 1955 Cadillac Fleetwood

  9. Dream car you wish you owned? Another 1955 Cadillac Fleetwood

  10. Favorite cuisine? French food

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