With a cappella rush now in full swing, groups have noticed a drop in interest and participation compared to years past.
Though members of a few groups such as the Alley Cats noted an increased number of rushees, the majority of groups reported a significantly lower level of interest. According to Christian Probst ’16, a member of the Duke’s Men, the number of people who signed up to rush the group on the night of the Dwight Hall Jam was 69, compared to 85 last year. Atissa Ladjevardian ’16, president of Redhot & Blue, echoed this sentiment, saying her group saw a drop of around 30 rushing compared to last year. While some a cappella singers said they are not worried because rush numbers fluctuate year to year, others attributed the decline to factors ranging from poor advertising to competition between groups.
“[The drop] doesn’t really say anything about how a cappella is doing at Yale, but rather the class of 2018’s interest,” said Jae Seong No ’15, a member of the group Society of Orpheus and Bacchus and co-chair of the Singing Group Council, which oversees the a cappella rush process. “The fluctuation is not so drastic that we’re too concerned.”
Some singers interviewed said the strict advertising rules imposed by the SGC upon a cappella groups were detrimental to the popularity of rush this year. The SGC regulates publicity for all a cappella groups in order to prevent unfair competition.
No said the SGC has always struggled with publicity because rush is so early in the year, and it is hard to know which freshmen may be interested in the a cappella community — making it difficult to target outreach efforts.
Probst added that the only real way for individual groups to publicize themselves is by word of mouth, and that strategy does not always reach freshmen.
Still, some singers said the competitive nature of a cappella rush may intimidate freshmen and discourage them from rushing. A group may take only a handful of singers from a pool of possibly more than a hundred rushees, and the rush process can be very stressful for those involved. Just a year ago the Singing Group Council moved to shorten and streamline the rush process, partly with the aim of making it a better experience for freshmen.
“It is a crazy time because people are getting used to college and classes and they have to do this in the first two weeks of school,” Probst said. “It’s really awful for the freshmen.”
Though Shannon Compton ’18 was initially interested in participating in a cappella at Yale, she said she found the rush process daunting because of the prospect of many rounds of auditions and other obstacles.
Instead, she said chose to consider other musical opportunities on campus.
“I’m someone with more interest than experience, so I didn’t think the rushing experience would be good for me,” Compton said.
A cappella members interviewed said the competitive vibe also creates a divide among the groups who compete to attract the same singers, and can lead to a tense atmosphere that may seem unappealing to freshmen.
Ladjevardian admitted that she wished the atmosphere were more positive, adding that rush can quickly turn negative and slanderous.
Daniel Dangaran ’15, former rush manager of the Alley Cats, said that each moment of rush is carefully planned out, from what the group is wearing to who is singing the solo.
“There’s obviously tension,” Probst said. “Everyone wants good people and no one wants to be in a bad position with people they didn’t actively want. It’s a very hard situation because we are a close-knit community of people with the same interests, and because of that it does cause people to say and do things they normally wouldn’t do.”
Still, a cappella singers said they are not too concerned because there are still enough people auditioning for all groups this year to fill the available slots. If the numbers continue to decline in the future, No said the SGC will be forced to evaluate possible ways to reverse the trend.
Fifteen a cappella groups are registered with the SGC.