Each year during Family Weekend, student performance groups reap the benefits of sold-out concerts and shows as relatives flood campus, eager for entertainment.
This year in particular, many groups reported ticket shortages and sold-out performances. Some even had to rent significantly larger venues for this year’s concert — the a cappella group The Baker’s Dozen, for example, relocated from the chapel of St. Thomas More to the more spacious New Haven Center Church on the Green.
Unlike the rest of the year, when performances are generally targeted at students alone, Family Weekend acts as a major fundraiser for dance teams and a cappella groups, many of which do not regularly charge admission to their various shows. With many groups putting on their first fall performances on the occasion, money brought in during Family Weekend through ticket and album sales will often act as a cushion for months to come.
“[The money] acts as a buffer for us until our semester shows in November,” said Joana Andoh ’17, who dances in Steppin’ Out, Groove and Rhythmic Blue. “The money goes towards costumes for the Fall Show, initiations and other group activities to usher in the new taps.”
Zachary Kayal ’17, business manager of a cappella group Mixed Company, said Family Weekend performances are financially sustaining for a cappella groups, as the groups generally earn enough revenue to rent out a performance space, purchase a sound system, print tickets and hold after-parties.
Caroline Andersson ’15, co-president of SO and the former business manager of Proof of the Pudding, said Family Weekend is especially important for dance teams that don’t perform as often as a cappella groups. As the dance team considers competing and traveling more often, she added, every extra bit of revenue counts.
Small-scale costs that go towards publicity materials add up quickly, RB president Nicole Feng ’16 said. But despite the expenses, she added, these groups generally do more than break even.
“Family weekend is our second largest fundraiser,” Feng said. “The [Off Broadway Theater] rental fee is $200, and publicity also costs. […] Still, we do end up coming out with a lump of dough at the end.”
To cut down on a show’s cost — namely, paying for performance space and stage crew — many groups choose to combine their acts in one joint concert. For example, the Duke’s Men and Mixed Company performed together on Friday night, thus cutting each group’s rental fee for Sheffield-Sterling-Strathcona Hall in half.
RB did something similar by holding collaborative performances with Yale Jashan Bhangra and SO on Saturday. Beyond cutting costs, this technique attracted such a large crowd that the groups had to turn many people away for this year’s performance. The overflow, however, was likely caused by a glitch in ticket distributions, concert-goers said, as the groups had rented a more spacious venue anticipating a large audience.
Simon Schaitkin ’17 of the Duke’s Men said the group’s Family Weekend joint concert with Mixed Company generally brings in two to three times the funds of a normal concert. Schaitkin added that the cost of renting out SSS was small compared to other performance expenses.
“I think we paid $70 for eight hours [of rental space], which is really a small fraction of what we end up making,” Schaitkin said. “To give you some idea, we would make that back if 10 students bought tickets at the door. The bigger costs are things like hiring a sound engineer. That sets us back a bit.”
But not all groups approached Family Weekend as a major financial booster. Tangled Up In Blue, Yale’s undergraduate folk ensemble, only charged parents for tickets, contrasting with most groups which charged both parents and students.
Rachel Yalowitz ’17 of TUIB said that the group mainly views Family Weekend as an opportunity for their new taps, the “tuiblets,” to perform for their families and friends for the first time in a more intimate setting.
“That’s why we booked Slifka for the performance, instead of SSS 114,” said Yalowitz.
Due to its large endowment, the Yale Glee Club rarely charges admission for its performances, Irene Connelly ’17 said. Connelly said that unless a particular concert venue requires that the Glee Club sell tickets, all performances are free of charge.
Connelly added that this weekend’s joint concert with Yale Concert Band and the Yale Symphony Orchestra almost filled Woolsey Hall.
In 2009, the name “Parents Weekend” was officially changed to “Family Weekend.”