“It’s very light, it flows very well. But it also has an element of strength and power.”
That’s the voice of Sofía Campoamor ’19, the first woman admitted to the Whiffenpoofs, the world’s oldest collegiate a cappella group, in the words of a fellow member of her tap class, Emil Beckford ’19. The two have sung side by side for the past two years in Mixed Company — the first all-gender a cappella group at Yale, where Campoamor serves as the music director.
On Feb. 1, Yale’s two all-senior a cappella groups, Whim ‘n Rhythm and the Whiffenpoofs, announced in a joint Facebook post that they were abandoning their single-gender traditions and would begin considering singers of all genders for admission. After two weeks of auditions and deliberations, the Whiffenpoofs decided early Tuesday morning to admit a female singer for the first time.
Campoamor composed her first songs as class assignments in middle school. Her first work was about the chemical element platinum, and her second about the Greek epic the Odyssey. She went on to take composition classes at Yale and decided to major in music during her sophomore year.
“It just works really well for me as a way to express and to process things in my life,” Campoamor said.
It has been a tradition in recent years for members of the Whiffenpoofs to take a year off from school before their senior year for an international tour. Campoamor, who is set on a career in music, will be the first woman with the opportunity to tap into the resources and reputation of the century-old group.
Given that Campoamor has composed or arranged some of the songs that Mixed Company sings, Nancy Walecki ’20, an Alto II in Mixed Company, said it will be interesting to see whether Campoamor writes anything for the Whiffenpoofs’ repertoire.
“She’s an incredibly musical person,” Walecki said. “She immediately knows what the music on the page wants to say and how best to say it.”
In general, Campoamor brings a lot to the table, said Mixed Company Soprano I Kira Sze ’21, who complimented Campoamor’s ability to sing in a wide variety of musical styles.
Key among Campoamor’s many skills as a musician and vocalist is her huge vocal range. For Mixed Company, Campoamor sings Soprano I. But for the Whiffenpoofs — which will continue to be “TTBB, or Tenor I, Tenor II, Baritone and Bass, despite its new all-gender status — she will sing Tenor I. Aïssa Guindo, a Mezzo/Alto I in Mixed Company, likes to joke that Campoamor’s range “doesn’t really exist.” During rehearsals, she can at one moment sing in what Guindo described as an “amazing” head voice and at the next, effortlessly sing the alto and bass parts to help those vocal sections learn a given song.
Campoamor’s voice — “soothing, warm and comforting,” in Guindo’s words — reflects the kind of person she is, according to friends of Campoamor interviewed by the News.
“She’s just a ray of light. She cares so much about the people around her,” Walecki said.
Members of Mixed Company interviewed said Campoamor goes out of her way to check in on other singers in the group. Emma Rutan ’21, Tenor I in Mixed Company, said that when she joined the group last fall, Campoamor was one of the first people to approach her and ask how she was doing.
Sze said Campoamor makes rehearsals a “warm, comforting” environment for everyone involved. When Sze was having difficulties sight reading, she said, Campoamor met with her outside rehearsals to work through parts of songs.
According to Guindo, Mixed Company spent over four hours discussing senior a capella and upcoming auditions on its recent winter tour. During this time, Guindo said, Campoamor expressed how passionate she was about seeing “actual, longlasting change” within the Whiffenpoofs and senior a capella at Yale.
Campoamor is an accomplished composer, vocalist and musician, as well as a good person, her friends and fellow singers say. With her admission to the Whiffenpoofs, she assumes a new role — trailblazer.
“If there’s a woman that should be making history,” Walecki said, “It’s Sofía.”
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