So I did the math. There are 13 “official” underclassmen a cappella singing groups at Yale, each with about 15 to 20 members. That 13 doesn’t even include the two senior groups and the “alternative” groups not subjected to the strict guidelines of the Singing Group Council (Magevet, shalom). So, you do some broad estimations and a quick division problem on your calculator widget, and it turns out that roughly 7 percent of all Yale undergrads spend a good portion of their week singing in a semi-circular formation or ’shoe, as you will.
Now maybe 7 percent isn’t exactly a staggering figure. What is perhaps more impressive is the pervasiveness of a cappella at Yale, especially during the first few weeks of school. This instrument-less culture seems to really grind some gears. Even as a member of a group, I’ll gladly bemoan the absurd and oftentimes corny nature of Yale a cappella, complete with its umbrella organization, the SGC.
“There’s a what?” my normie friends ask. “A singing group council? What the fu–?”
But let’s stop them there — and take a step back. I thought about a cappella a lot during a cappella rush this year, and it is my understanding that Yale’s own brand of a cappella crazy results from the extreme ratio of |# of singing groups : # of Yale undergraduates|. But wait a minute, Yale, collegiate a cappella has its roots firmly planted in New Haven soil, so the cultivation of a cappella culture (even in its overgrown state) deserves to be recognized as a natural ecological process. SCIENCE!
But maybe this Kapok tree of everything from pop rock to “traditional” jazz branches needs some pruning.
I used to complain about the number of groups, because they cause multi-group “Jams” to stretch longer than a Grateful Dead concert, without psychedelics to help transform time. But this week, I had an epiphany. EPIPHANY! True, not all a cappella hopefuls make the “band.” But the sheer amount of open slots each fall allows more students to exercise their passion for music a few times a week, creating tight harmonies and tighter friendships. Tight.
Of course with this many groups comes great inter-group competition during the audition season. But even as the SGC is forced to take arms at petty group rivalries, after tap night you’ll be hard pressed to find an upperclassmen a cappella singer who won’t tell you sincerely “We got the best kids this year.” And I think that’s pretty cool.
So Yale, the next time you want to write off a cappella as way lame, CHECK yourself.