Courtesy of Neha Blatt

One year after Yale’s two all-senior a cappella groups reversed 109 years of tradition and opened their ranks to students of all genders, Neha Bhatt ’20 became the second woman — and the first woman of color — to be accepted into the Whiffenpoofs, the historically all-male a cappella group.

“I’m proud to be a face that is a woman of color in a space in which, even two years ago, you would never have seen this,” Bhatt said. “Every step is a step, and I’m excited to be one of the first to experience that.”

On Thursday, 28 juniors joined the ranks of Yale’s two all-senior a cappella groups — the culminations of Yale’s extensive undergraduate singing community. The Whiffenpoofs called Bhatt yesterday morning to notify her of the acceptance. According to Bhatt, the call woke her up, and her only reaction was “complete disbelief.” Bhatt will be the only woman in the Whiffenpoofs’ class of 2020.

Bhatt is currently the musical director of co-ed a cappella group Mixed Company. She said that she auditioned for the Whiffenpoofs because she was drawn to itsmusical style and long-standing traditions. Like many prospective Whiffenpoofs, Bhatt was excited by the prospect of touring the world with a close-knit group of peers for an entire academic year.

Bhatt noted that current Whiffenpoof Sofia Campoamor ’20 — the first woman to join the organization — inspired Bhatt to audition for the historically “white male institution” by breaking down an important barrier. Campoamor is Latina but told the News that she does not identify as a woman of color.

“I’m really thankful to have seen an example,” Bhatt said. “It’s a lot easier to believe you can do something if there’s one person who’s already done it.”

Whim ’n Rhythm, the traditionally all-female senior a cappella group, announced last year that it would evaluate prospective members without regard for gender and instead focus on vocal range. The group admitted only women last year and will remain all-female for the 2019–2020 season.

Lili Clark ’19, current Whim ’n Rhythm business manager, and Nick Massoud ’20, current Whiffenpoofs business manager, both declined to disclose the number or gender breakdown of auditionees.

Alex DiMeglio ’20, who will serve as the music director of the Whiffenpoofs next year, said that he wants to encourage more vocal collaborations with Whim ’n Rhythm under his leadership. DiMeglio also expressed enthusiasm for Bhatt’s place in the group, calling her acceptance “another step in the right direction” for the Whiffenpoofs.

Current members of both all-senior a cappella groups emphasized the talent and potential of their incoming classes. Each conducted one round of auditions before deliberating to decide the final admits.

“They’re pretty exceptionally talented,” said current Whiffenpoofs Music Director Jacob Miller ’19. “So few of them have sung together, so I’m excited to see what they do.”

Clark said that the new Whim ’n Rhythm singers “come from a very wide variety of musical backgrounds that allow them each to bring different strengths to the table.”

The Whiffenpoofs was founded in 1909, and Whim ’n Rhythm was founded in 1981.

Lindsay Daugherty | lindsay.daugherty@yale.edu