Surbhi Bharadwaj

Cami Arboles ’20, the 2017–18 pitch for the a cappella group Shades, has been singing all her life.

When she was younger, singing gave Arboles the chance to “pour [her] heart out through music.” Part of her early inspiration came from her older sister, a jazz guitarist with whom she performed and recorded music. Arboles also gained exposure to music by singing in church and taking classical voice lessons.

These varied musical experiences all embody the aspect of music Arboles says she enjoys most: collaboration.

“Music is its strongest when it is a collaboration,” she said. “It’s just better with more people involved.”

At Yale, Arboles has expanded her interest in musical collaborations to her work with the a cappella group Shades. As the pitch of Shades this year, Arboles has arranged music and led the group’s rehearsals on its repertoire in genres such as rhythm and blues, soul, pop, jazz and gospel.

Before she arrived at Yale from her home in southern California, Arboles said, she did not intend to join an a cappella group. She noted that her perception of a cappella stemmed from its representation in popular culture and her knowledge of the Whiffenpoofs, which provided what she described as a “gendered image” of a cappella.

But when she heard Shades perform and learned about its mission of celebrating music from the African diaspora, she was inspired to join the coeducational singing group.

Arboles said that due to the music Shades sings, the group offers a “special spiritual experience.”

In addition to singing in Shades, Arboles takes voice lessons with Yale School of Music assistant professor of voice Janna Baty.

Studying with Baty has allowed Arboles to continue her classical training. In these lessons, Arboles has recently worked on Italian arias, which contrast significantly with the music she sings with Shades.

Still, Arboles said, learning about proper vocal techniques through her lessons with Baty has helped her a cappella singing.

Baty said the techniques she discusses with Arboles, such as solid breath support, clear pronunciation and tone production without tension, apply to all styles of singing.

When she leads rehearsals, Arboles aims to help her colleagues in Shades use techniques that protect their vocal chords. She added that singing a cappella music is “not the most efficient” style of singing, as it can quickly exhaust a singer’s vocal chords.

Ashtan Towles ’19, another member of Shades who served as pitch during the 2016–17 academic year, noted that Arboles introduced new rehearsal techniques such as practicing “sirens,” in which singers “[imitate] what sounds like an ambulance siren” in order to warm up their voices.

Arboles has also participated in musical theater, and recently performed in a production of “Fun Home.” She said the storytelling element of theater draws her to the genre.

That storytelling also applies to the music she loves, Arboles said.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s an Italian aria or a jazz standard or an indie rock alt ballad or Ariana Grande or Whitney Houston or Kendrick Lamar or a Shades spiritual,” she said. “All great music tells a story.”

Julia Carabatsos |