Lorenzo Arvanitis, Contributing Photographer

Since the pandemic began, on-campus music groups have not been able to continue operations in their traditional way. Several groups — including the Yale Glee Club, Yale Concert Band and Yale Symphony Orchestra — instead conducted virtual auditions and rehearsals and introduced new initiatives.

“I think that we did the best thing that we could have done given the circumstances,” said Stella Vujic ’22, student president of the YSO. 

This year, the YSO began its audition process in July instead of August to plan for the virtual semester. Interested musicians submitted recordings of themselves playing orchestral excerpts and a solo piece.

Vujic explained that sound quality on Zoom can vary depending on a musician’s instrument and equipment. Because of this, she said, it was both convenient and equitable to ask for recordings instead of live Zoom auditions.

Similarly, the YCB asked for recordings of two audition pieces and a solo piece. Students were also asked to meet with Director Thomas Duffy for an online interview.

YCB Publicity Chair Miriam Huerta ’22 said that with the new audition process, students could audition and participate in the band regardless of where they were. But this left students without access to instruments at a disadvantage.

“The Yale Concert Band provides instruments to all students who do not have their own,” Huerta said. “However, it was significantly more difficult to grant musicians access to instruments given the current situation.”

The YGC conducted virtual auditions around Labor Day weekend. Auditions comprised individual recordings and Zoom interviews. Students auditioning also had Zoom meetings with student officers to chat and ask questions about the group.

Assistant conductor of the YGC Joe Lerangis MUS ’25 said using technology for auditions makes it an “equalizer” in some ways.

“One of the silver linings was that when you’re all in boxes, everyone’s just kind of equal until they open their mouths and sing,” Lerangis said. “No one’s been coached for the audition. No one can really project any more confidence than the next person.”

Despite not being able to rehearse in person, music groups have found ways to welcome and engage their new members virtually — including creation of “families” that are small subsets of the larger ensembles.

For the first time, YSO launched a “YSO families” program, which puts groups of students together in varying combinations. Vujic said this gives members the opportunity to socialize with students from different class years and musical sections.

Likewise, YGC has a “families” program which pairs new members with a set of “parents” — current Glee Club members. YGC President Divine Uchegbu ’21 said that the families allow members to keep in touch with each other. She said some families met for socially distanced meals on campus.

“Even though we’re a musical organization, we’ve always placed a lot of importance on the social aspect of the group,” Uchegbu said. “Even though music making looks different, there’s still different aspects of the group that we can highlight to make sure that that same feeling of the group remains. Maybe now I don’t know people as well as musicians, but I know them just as well as people.”

YCB also has a “band families” program. Huerta said new members of YCB have engaged with the rest of the band by attending weekly Zoom meetings and virtual game nights. Duffy said YCB meets each week for Zoom sessions on the wind band’s history and music by composers of color.

In addition, musicians maintain social contact during virtual rehearsals and meetings. Music groups are incorporating new initiatives for members this year. The YCB, YSO and YGC invited guest speakers to speak with members during rehearsals and meetings. For example, composer Derrick Spiva Jr. spoke to YGC about his piece “A Vision Unfolding,” which the YGC is currently learning. Pulitzer Prize Winning Composer Caroline Shaw also spoke to the YGC.

Lerangis said members have been reading short stories aloud to practice speaking with conviction and acting, which are important parts of choral music.

“We’re just building the plane as we fly it,” Lerangis said. “The main goal is just always to make sure that this is a boon to people and it’s something that helps them get through their week. That’s what we’re all aiming for.”

Marisol Carty | marisol.carty@yale.edu