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Name That Note (Or Else!)

“Do you sing?” It seemed like an innocent enough question, heard everywhere on Old Campus during the first week of September. And sure, I could sing a little. Sure, I could perform goofy skits on Yale life. A cappella singing seemed like the thing for me. With wide eyes and high hopes, like hundreds of other freshmen, I signed right up for Singing Group Rush.

The auditions themselves, I thought, would be relatively painless. I showed up ready to sing a couple of scales, belt out “Me and Julio,” and be ushered out in a wave of good wishes and complimentary M&M’s. I expected the entire routine to take no more than 15 minutes. While the scales and solo went off as planned, I was totally unprepared for the apparent centerpiece of the a cappella audition experience: the random-chord-note-pick-out. For this exercise, the auditioner is treated to the sound of three arbitrary notes on the piano—played simultaneously—and is asked to sing one of them. I could occasionally find the top and bottom notes, but trying to pick out the confounded middle note was far, far beyond my ability. I would close my eyes, force out a totally inaudible sound, and whimper my apologies on my way out. It was dreadful.

You might think that would be enough evidence that a singing group was not in the cards for me. On the contrary, it would take another three weeks of “rush meals” to fully verify my rejection. Required by the official Singing Group Rush Rules and Regulations, rush meals are the opportunity for members of singing groups to get to know their groups’ “rushees” one-on-one.

As I sat around Commons or a college dining hall making small talk with various singing group members I would rarely see again, I came to realize two things. First, all around me, hundreds of my fellow Yale freshmen were undergoing nearly identical dining hall experiences. They were talking to singers about the merits of Directed Studies, comparing notes about residential colleges, and hoping desperately to impress the Singing Upperclassmen.

Second, most of these freshmen could probably pick out the middle note.

Apparently I was right. My Yale a cappella experience, by the numbers—Groups rushed: three. Absurdly early rush breakfasts: too many. Callbacks: two. Visits on Tap Night: zero.

Tap night this year was as exciting as every year. After gathering at High Street Gate for the traditional rendition of “Wake, Freshman, Wake,” singing groups dashed around Old Campus with their group’s “Tap Cup” in hand. There were shrieks of joy and fits of tears. There was the Mory’s tap song repeated to infinity. Many rushees happily drank from their respective Tap Cups and headed off to their new group’s tap night party. Some, like me freshman year, watched.

But I’m not complaining. The experience gave me a brief insight into a major part of Yale culture, the singing group scene. I met lots of fellow singers. And in the end, I did score lots of free M & M’s.  the end


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