Alley Cats tap first woman
With last week marking the end of this season’s a cappella rush, Ryann Schaffer ’27 is now the first female member of the Yale Alley Cats amid a larger push for gender diversity in a cappella.
Ariane de Gennaro
When Ryann Schaffer ’27 matriculated to Yale this fall, she knew she wanted to be a part of Yale’s a cappella. What she didn’t know, however, was that she would end up the first female member of the Yale Alley Cats.
Prior to this year’s a cappella rush cycle, the Alley Cats were one of two a cappella groups out of the total 17 registered with the Yale Singing Group Council that still consist of no female members.
“I signed up to audition for fun at first,” Schaffer told the News. “Up until I heard I got a callback, I did not think much of it. I loved the Alley Cats, but I just didn’t think they were actually going to accept a girl.”
One year since a cappella groups droppedgender labels
The Doox of Yale were the first group to drop their all-male label six years ago and tap a woman. All groups, however, have officially dropped gender labels under the Singing Group Council’s new 2022 guidelines. Singers are now identified instead by the vocal parts in the group. The Baker’s Dozen is the only group that has all-male members.
Additionally, three of the soprano and alto — also known as SSAA — groups are still comprised of all non-male members: Something Extra, the New Blue and Proof of the Pudding.
Proof of the Pudding dropped the all-female label in the spring of 2022 prior to the Yale Singing Group Council’s decision. The other previously all-female groups followed suit.
“Something Extra has provided a community [for me] of singers and a community of people looking to create a space that feels intentionally safe and supportive of female-identifying people,” Lara Yellin ’25, a member of Something Extra, told the News.
Yellin did emphasize that Something Extra is no longer an all-women’s group; they are open to all auditionees every cycle as long as they can sing in the SSAA range.
Other students have told the News that the larger a cappella community, still has room to improve in terms of making these spaces more accessible and inclusive for those in the minority gender of the larger group or those who identify as non-binary.
The Alley Cats
Although the Alley Cats officially dropped their all-male label last year, the group did not tap any female members in the 2022 a cappella rush cycle.
“This has been a serious conversation in the Cats for the past two years,” Musical Director of the Alley Cats Logan Foy ’25 told the News. “However, last year we did not end up tapping a female into the group; not because we weren’t open to it, but because we didn’t find anyone that fit our group musically and socially.”
While the Alley Cats removed their all-male label, similar to Something Extra, the musical composition of the group remains the same with a range reserved for basses and tenors.
Schaffer told the News that she sings tenor. During the a cappella rush process, she said she only looked at auditioning for TTBB, or tenor and bass, groups and SATB, or soprano, alto, tenor and bass, groups.
This year, Foy told the News the group received multiple auditions from female-identifying singers; however, they received fewer female auditions than other TTBB groups such as the Doox of Yale or the Spizzwinks.
“If you see a group of twenty men go on stage, as a woman, even if you fit the group musically, you might not know what to think,” Co-President of the Alley Cats Joey Cumpian ’25 told the News. “I suppose we’ll see if that changes next year now that we have female representation in the group… our policy on who we decide to tap will always be about musical fit, social fit, and being a Cat. That doesn’t have to do with gender.”
Although the group did not comment when asked by the News to specify number of women they called back after the first round of auditions this year, Foy said it was “significantly less” than the number of men who received callbacks. The reason for this, Cumpian said, was that the pool of female auditionees was much smaller.
Entering into the previously all-male space, Schaffer said that she was “scared at first.” However, she told the News the response has been overwhelmingly positive both from current members and Alley Cat alumni.
“It feels more like a family than a frat,” Schaffer said.
The Alley Cats were founded in 1943.