Keeper of the Plans

The story behind my barbershop-quartet proposal in NYC

It’s not often (really, ever) that I write a personal column for The Eagle, but upon the urging of several friends, I’ve decided to share this story in the hope that it might brighten your day.

You see, I knew for months – perhaps even years – that my girlfriend, Sydney Daigle, was the one I wanted to marry.

It was simply a matter of how and when to propose – and how to make it a moment she would never forget.

Over Thanksgiving, I was afforded the perfect chance to do so in New York City’s Central Park. You can watch the video attached to this column for the evidence.

But give me a chance to explain the story behind the proposal, as it was a rather intricately orchestrated process.

First, why was I in New York?

Well, the Chorale and Troubadours at my alma mater, Newman University, were invited to sing at Carnegie Hall recently as part of a concert to celebrate composer John Leavitt’s 60th birthday and 30th year of publishing music.

As an alumnus, I was invited to sing as well and recognized it as a romantic opportunity – after all, the Newman Chorale was what brought Sydney and me together as a couple.

I wasn’t immediately inspired to do the barbershop quartet thing, but it was an early idea.

Over the summer, I contacted three of the guys who would be traveling to New York with me – both good friends of mine and Sydney’s – and we began rehearsing.

We had never sung barbershop before, and we pulled it together in about three rehearsals – secretly, of course.

A couple of those rehearsals happened two floors below Sydney’s apartment, so I was really hoping she wouldn’t walk into the parking lot and see my car or hear the singing.

Then came the matter of documenting the proposal.

As a journalist, my profession is documenting happenings – I couldn’t miss documenting my own proposal.

Luckily, I found a New York City photographer, Vlad Leto, who specializes in photographing surprise wedding proposals. There was a New York Times article written about him. Only in New York can you find such a profession.

He had availability the day before Thanksgiving to photograph my proposal, and I booked him at a reasonable price.

The day of, I was nervous, even though we had dated for almost two and a half years and she had hinted to me many times prior that she was thinking about marriage.

I couldn’t eat. I sat in my hotel room and paced the floor, trying to memorize what I was going to say when the right time came.

We met up with the three guys in my barbershop quartet – Josh Baalmann, David Baalmann and Alec Hampton – at the Cop Cot after wandering through Central Park for about 30 minutes. I had to walk pretty much cross-armed the whole time to disguise the bulge of the ring box in the jacket.

Many tears were shed, she said yes, and the whole thing went off without a hitch.

Fun fact: The Newman Chorale and Troubadours have traveled to New York to perform at Carnegie Hall three times now. On each of those trips, a couple who met in the chorale got engaged. I guess you could call Newman’s director of music, Deanne Zogleman, the matchmaker.

Now I’m a happily engaged man who has (I hope) a pretty unique engagement story to tell the kids one day.

And all it took was a fateful trip to New York, a few really good friends and just the right girl.

But enough about me.

I want to hear your best proposal stories.

Leave a comment on this story or drop me a note at, and I may feature your proposal story in an upcoming column.

Matt Riedl: 316-268-6660, @RiedlMatt