Family Weekend puts pressure on student performance groups

This year, parents descended on campus much earlier than in the past, forcing student performance groups to scramble to prepare the usual jam-packed Arts Calendar.

Yale scheduled this year’s Family Weekend for Sept. 27–29 — two weeks earlier than last year. Since the rush process for student groups involved in activities like a cappella and sketch comedy concluded only a few weeks ago, groups had significantly less time to welcome new members and prepare for their first major shows of the year. Group members interviewed said the schedule change did not affect the quality of their performances, although the shorter preparation timing created significant stress for many members.

Duke’s Men of Yale musical director Truett Davis ’16 said all members of his group, including the newly initiated freshmen, have been rehearsing for up to three hours every day for the past few weeks.

“I felt a little bad their first introduction to the group was this hectic rush of rehearsals,” Davis said.

Though the concert was ultimately a success, the freshmen members of the Duke’s Men may have felt more comfortable with the songs if there had been more time to rehearse, said Christian Probst ’16, another member of the group.

Red Hot Poker, a sketch comedy troupe, found itself with only a week and a half of preparation time, compared to over a month in previous years, said Jacob Dawe ’15, director of the group. New members dealt well with the time pressure, he said, and the final performance was not negatively affected.

Some groups limited their repertoires to include less new material and shortened their performances for Family Weekend this year.

Davis said that the Duke’s Men decided to not sing any new songs for this year’s concert so that they could devote time to preparing their freshmen members, while Something Extra member Gina Starfield ’16 said that her group performed fewer songs than in previous years. This choice allowed them to concentrate on their singing skills, she said.

Improv groups in particular faced additional challenges.

“A cappella recruits have not learned any of the material, but they are all singers,” said Philip Jameson ’16, pianist for Just Add Water. “In improv, most of them have not done it before.”

Though new members of student groups said they felt pressured to learn the new material quickly, they said they were still able to bond with the rest of their groups in time for Family Weekend.

Trey Pernell ’17 said he felt comfortable with the rest of the Duke’s Men as early as 20 minutes into Tap Night.

Though faculty members interviewed said they are generally not affected by Family Weekend, history professor Kathryn Lofton told the News in a Monday email that students may have benefited from having Family Weekend earlier this year because the event did not conflict with studying for midterms.

“My one sense from talking to parents this weekend is that they prefer coming earlier,” said Lofton.“When parents weekend is near midterms my sense is that they encounter their kids in a more anxious state.”

Next year’s Family Weekend has not yet appeared on Yale’s provisional calendar for the 2014-’15 academic year.

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