John Grobma

This Friday, eight student vocalists will join members of the Yale jazz community in a concert organized by the Yale Undergraduate Jazz Collective. The event will be the first Jazz Collective performance to feature vocal talent.

The Jazz Collective was founded in 2012 by a group of undergraduates in order to “promote engagement with jazz on campus in the absence of institutional support for the study of jazz,” according to the group’s Student Performance Director Thomas Hagen ’20. Each year, the Jazz Collective brings several professional jazz musicians to campus for performances, masterclasses, and jam sessions. The group also coordinates student performances and the annual Jazz Festival at Yale, a multi-day event of jazz performance, training and collaboration.

“To be surrounded by people who are super passionate and invested in this, to be able to do these amazing things — bring world class artists in from New York, run a festival, play concerts with these great, brilliant people who are also great, brilliant musicians — those are just really special opportunities,” said Ben Grobman ’21, treasurer of the Jazz Collective. Grobman will also play the piano for Friday’s event.

The performance this weekend will feature eight vocalists — three members of a cappella group Shades of Yale, two from Doox of Yale, two from Mixed Company of Yale and one from the Whiffenpoofs — who will each solo on one song. Seven instrumentalists — including Hagen, Grobman and Jazz Collective President Hersh Gupta ’20 — will accompany the singers.

Hagen first decided to feature vocalists as a way to engage the larger student body in jazz music, noting that a cappella groups and other singing groups on campus draw large crowds. He saw the potential collaboration as a way to garner student enthusiasm for the Jazz Collective’s mission.

Grobman echoed Hagen’s sentiments, adding that he is “excited to integrate the Jazz Collective into the larger community of music enthusiasm.”

Many vocalists jumped on the opportunity to sing jazz with a full band. Shades member Cami Arboles ’20, who will sing “How High the Moon” on Friday, explained that jazz is a “collaborative art form” and that the combination of instrumental and vocal talent allows for increased freedom in performance.

“I think there’s actually something about the spirit of jazz that shares a lot in common with the spirit of Yale, in that I have always viewed the artistic scene at Yale as a very collaborative place,” Arboles said. “And that is jazz.”

Yale currently offers limited opportunities for students to engage with this genre in an academic context. Hagen explained that even the Yale School of Music lacks a jazz concentration and offers only one jazz-related course. Certain a cappella groups — including Shades of Yale and Proof of the Pudding — include jazz in their repertoires, but Hagen maintained that a cappella alone does not do justice to the possibilities and nuances of jazz that instruments allow.

“Jazz is as influential as any art form developed in the United States — or more — and one of the most valuable to the history of the arts in the United States,” Hagen noted.

“Sing Sing Sing: A Night of Vocal Jazz with YUJC” will be held in the Morse and Stiles Crescent Theater at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 29. Doors will open at 7 p.m.

Lindsay Daugherty |