Every weekend at Yale offers some form of instrumental musical performance, but the opportunities run the gamut from jazz to modern rock. Let’s take a look:
Yale University Bands
An umbrella organization that oversees the Yale Concert Band, the Yale Precision Marching Band, and the Yale Jazz Ensemble. These groups receive Yale funding. Yale music staff direct these groups, although students also have leadership roles.
Yale Concert Band
A 70-member woodwind and brass ensemble, the Yale Concert Band’s concert programs include traditional marches, world premieres, and more theatrical pieces. Every September, the group participates in the “Music Shed” retreat at the Yale School of Music’s Norfolk Chamber Music Festival. The group also regularly tours Europe and Africa. Auditions occur at the start of the year. The band rehearses four hours each week and performs four times each year in Woolsey Hall.
Yale Precision Marching Band
Not a normal marching band, the YPMB is best known for its entertaining halftime show at the Yale Bowl during the fall season. Winter pep bands support the hockey and basketball teams, and other unconventional concerts spring up throughout the year at non-athletic events. Auditions are held at the start of the year (nobody is ever turned away), and the YPMB rehearses for two hours a week during the football season.
Drum major Jeremiah Quinlan offers a peek within the YPMB:
“‘So last year? At band camp –‘ Yeah, it’s just like that. Except with fewer flutes and more sex. And, ummm, no band camp at all, actually.
“Instead, YPMB does precisely whatever it wants. We run around. We play Nirvana. We build a 50-foot dragon that breathes real smoke and fire. In short, we are a scatter band and we are unlike anything you’ve seen before — or will again. While most marching bands spend their time on the field spelling their name in script while playing the complete works of Andrew Lloyd Webber, our announcers read comedy segments while the rest of us induce general mayhem.”
Yale Jazz Ensemble
A “big band” with concert programs ranging from swing to progressive jazz, the 18-member Yale Jazz Ensemble has appeared at New York’s Village Vanguard to warm up the crowd for the Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra. The group auditions in the fall and rehearses for two hours each week. In addition to several smaller local concerts, the Yale Jazz Ensemble performs one major concert each semester at Sprague Hall.
Yale Symphony Orchestra
Formed in 1965, the Yale Symphony Orchestra has evolved into a 90-piece undergraduate symphony orchestra that performs seven times each year. Conducted by Maestro Shinik Hahm, the orchestra rehearses twice a week for two and a half hours, performing each program after three or four weeks of rehearsal. Membership in the orchestra is by audition during the fall. Past soloists include Emmanuel Ax, Yo-Yo Ma and Frederica van Stade. The orchestra often tours in the spring, and has recently toured both Korea and eastern Europe.
Here’s president Claudia Stumpf’s inside view of YSO:
“Rehearsals end at 6:30 p.m., at which point the orchestra gathers to have dinner together. These dinners, combined with an extraordinary number of informal social gatherings and parties after each concert, create an awesome sense of community. YSO is an orchestra that plays at a very high level and demands discipline and focus. However, it is also an orchestra that is a social world. After all, the orchestra that parties together plays together!”
Yale Bach Society Orchestra
Established in the 1950s as an orchestra devoted to the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, the Yale Bach Society Orchestra now often performs music from other composers, too. The 36-member group performs thrice annually. Student conductors lead the group.
Yale Klezmer Band
The Yale Klezmer Band is a group of a dozen students who perform klezmer, Jewish folk and dance music that traces its origins to Eastern Europe. The student-run group, founded in 1992, performs semiannually on campus and numerous times throughout the semester at community gatherings. Auditions are held at the start of the year. Rehearsals are held once weekly.
Residential college orchestras
Several colleges have their own smaller and less-intense orchestral groups, although generally students from any college are welcome to audition. Practices generally are held in the college’s music rooms.
The Pierson Camerata formed in 1994 as a setting for students to play diverse music in relaxed settings. The group auditions each semester and rehearses once a week.
The Berkeley College Orchestra is Yale’s oldest student-run chamber orchestra.
The Jonathan Edwards Chamber Symphony is another laid-back classical music opportunities.
Yale College Composers’ Group
The newest instrumental group at Yale, the Yale College Composers’ Group formed in 2000. The group holds workshops weekly, where members present samples of their work for suggestions, and hosts several concerts each year featuring its members’ music.
Local rock bands
Many students form their own rock bands.
Here the inside view of Michael Scherzer, a member of General Tso and the Tenderbites:
“There is a thriving band scene here infused with diversity, and even though it may take a little detective work and a little patience, playing in a small group on campus is one of the most fun and creatively rewarding things you can do while you’re here. Besides, once you’re in a band, you earn at least two coolness points during your college career.”
Yale awards course credit for free music lessons. Interested students must audition at the Yale School of Music in September. Selected students are matched with music professors and graduate students. To participate, students must have completed or take concurrently Music 210 or 211. Even if a student does not qualify for lessons, he may still take lessons for a fee with the matched instructor.
Small ensembles and more
In addition to the numerous offerings above, many students form their own instrumental groups. Whether you create your own ensemble or join an established organization, there’s a group for everyone at Yale!
–Yale Daily News