Hamilton-based musician and singer Bruce Ward recalls a life-changing encounter back 45 years ago, when I was an eager young college junior at Colgate University.

“I slid my skinny six feet, two inches down into the passenger seat of my Colgate music professor’s tiny sports car, and started off on an adventure that I am still enjoying today,” he recalled of that fateful trip in 1973.

They set off on the first of many hour-long commutes to Syracuse where that instructor, Timothy Adams, was the first conductor of the then-brand new Syracuse Vocal Ensemble.

“It was an organization formed with high ambitions - to become only the finest a cappella choral ensemble in all of central New York, to be composed of then-16 of the finest singers that could be found,” Ward recalled.

Ward said he sang enthusiastically with the group for two years until he graduated and moved to other areas of the country, but never forgot the thrill of singing with that amazing group of musicians. Then, Ward’s circumstances brought him back to the group 25 years later in 2001.

It was an emotional experience, Ward admitted.

“I literally welled up with tears at my first rehearsal back, profoundly moved by the joy of hearing such beautiful singing immediately, even as the group sight-read its way through the season’s repertoire for the first time,” he said. “In the interim years I had sung in, and even conducted, many other choral groups of all kinds, but still the Syracuse Vocal Ensemble was the finest of all.”

Today, after 15 years back with the group, Ward is now president of the organization, responsible for leading it forward into a bright future … one he said will be filled with “more of the best choral music ever written anywhere, sung by the finest singers that can be found within a 100-mile circle in central New York.”

“The organization remains healthy and strong, with a fine mix of new voices as well as singers who have been with the group for years, and a new artistic director with exciting plans for our future,” Ward said.

The Syracuse Vocal Ensemble will perform at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 20 at Pebble Hill Presbyterian Church and 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 21, at the OCC Recital Hall, Academic II Performing Arts Center, both in Syracuse.

For more information, visit: syracusevocalensemble.org.