Courtesy of Alex DiMeglio

Following the cancellation of most of the Whiffenpoofs’ international tour, Alex DiMeglio ’20+1 has been managing his responsibilities as the group’s music director while spending time at home. 

The Whiffenpoofs are the world’s oldest collegiate a cappella group, and its members take a year off from their studies between junior and senior year to tour nationally and internationally. This year’s Whiffs spent the second half of 2019 performing across the United States. However, the majority of the international tour scheduled to happen this summer has been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

As music director, DiMeglio’s role includes helming the group’s album production, directing rehearsals and choosing repertoire and soloists. From his home in Arlington, Virginia, DiMeglio is focusing on producing the Whiffs’ new album. 

“Despite the fact that our year has been cut in half, I’m hoping that we can still put out an album and that we and the world can have that for the rest of our lives. That’s the main point of focus,” he said.

Since the Whiffenpoofs annually replace all their members with a new class, DiMeglio is taking advantage of the extra time during these months to connect with the incoming music director of the Whiffs and impart his experience and institutional wisdom.

In August, the Whiffs will turn over their positions to 14 new singers, who will then begin their own tour. Because of this, it is difficult for the current Whiffs to reschedule their performances for a later date. 

“Generally, every year, in August the outgoing class of Whiffenpooffs ‘pass and be forgotten with the rest,’” DiMeglio said, quoting a line from “The Whiffenpoof Song,” “And that is what’s supposed to happen every year, and is what has happened.”

Still, the group’s members are considering the possibility of coming together for more performances during the breaks of next school year or next summer. 

In the meantime, DiMeglio is doing as much as he can to make sure the 2020 Whiffs’ album is completed. For a period of about three weeks in March, he and some other Whiffenpoofs were living in New Haven. While there, DiMeglio met one on one with the other Whiffenpoofs to record some tracks. Alongside that, he worked with a cappella sound engineer Ed Boyer, who is mixing the album.

“But honestly, is my day full of stuff to do right now?” he said. “Was it those past three weeks? No. Is it even less filled with stuff that I can do now? Yes. It’s not as if everything is humming along. There’s just a lot of time that we can’t necessarily be super productive with.” 

DiMeglio also mentioned that the group scheduled a significant number of performances during their fall domestic tour in order to have a less demanding slate of performances in the spring.

“In retrospect, thank God we did all those performances, because we can sit here and say we have performed for thousands and thousands, definitely tens of thousands of people,” he said. “We definitely got cut short, but I think we’re all really happy with the impact we made, with our song, bless, and maybe most of all we’re excited to continue the friendship we have made with each other as well as with some people who have hosted us.”

DiMeglio is appreciative of his experience in the Whiffenpoofs, as unconventional as it turned out to be.

“We will always be known as the coronavirus Whiffenpoofs,” he added. “We will be that class. If it was meant to happen, it happened. And for it to happen during Whiff year, we lose out on a lot of travel, but it’s not the end of the world. And we will remember going through this together. We have been through it together because of this.”

The Whiffenpoofs were established in 1909.

Marisol Carty | marisol.carty@yale.edu

This story is part of a larger series profiling Yale and New Haven community members during the COVID-19 pandemic. To read more, click here.