Some 300 people heard Polish piano virtuoso Ignacy Jan Paderewski play in the Chapel. From his Paris musical debut in 1887 on, Paderewski's virtuosityu had invoked intense popular admiration, sometimes bordering on mania. After his American debut in 1891, his friend Helena Modjeska reported, "Women are crazy about him. Critics praise him without limits. The only two things they criticize is [sic] his performance of Beethoven and his too large of a mess of hair."  Many in the audience came to Poughkeepsie on special trains.

The Vassar audience remained relatively calm until, near the end of his program, a student screamed out loudly, apparently setting off a minor craze. In its issue for March 6, 1902, under the title "Vassar Hysterics," the New York journal, The Independent, copied a note from The Cleveland Plain Dealer: "Snce the Vassar girl set the example it is the fashion now for young women to have hysterics when they attend Paderewski concerts." The informer,  The New York Times