On Feb. 18, the Whiffenpoofs and Whim ’n Rhythm — Yale’s two all-senior a cappella groups — announced their classes of 2022, tapped via an entirely virtual process.
The Whiffenpoofs and Whim ’n Rhythm typically give several performances throughout the year, record an album and go on tours. But their incoming classes face an uncertain semester.
“I’m excited about the prospect of being part of the Whiffs this upcoming year,” Ryan Bronston ’22+1, said. “It’ll definitely be different from most years — we’ll still be dealing with COVID — but I’m sure we’ll find new and creative ways to stay active as a group.”
This semester, the Whiffenpoofs’ audition process was conducted entirely over Zoom. Still, the group included elements of the traditional audition process, including warm-ups, pitch-matching exercises, blending exercises and a solo. Similarly, Whim ’n Rhythm also conducted their selection process over Zoom.
“I was incredibly impressed with the group’s adaptability, organization and efficiency throughout the audition process,” Whim tap Fiona Benson ’22 said. “They had materials ready for a standard audition and we did it all through Zoom and recorded the entire process.”
Whiffenpoof tap Samantha White ’22+1, who auditioned for both the Whiffenpoofs and Whim ’n Rhythm, said that both groups were striving to make auditions “as accessible as possible” given limitations due to public health.
Incoming Whim business manager Stefanie Grau ’22 said that even though auditioning virtually was a “different” experience, she felt the energy in the Zoom room was “palpable.” Grau added that members of Whim used the Zoom chat and react features, which helped ease her nerves and made her virtual experience as “fun” as an in-person audition.
In 2018, the Whiffenpoofs tapped their first female member, which was followed by accepting multiple non-male singers for the first time last year. This year marks another important turn in Whiffenpoof history, as business manager Syd Bakal ’22 is the first non-male Whiffenpoof to hold a leadership position.
“I am so grateful to the recent generations of women and non-binary people in the Whiffenpoofs who have made this a possibility,” Bakal said.
Bakal also noted that the incoming Whiffenpoofs hail from 13 different musical groups on campus, marking the most cross-group representation a Whiffenpoof class has held. For instance, Rachel Ababio ’22 is the first Whiffenpoof from The New Blue while Kohsuke Sato ’22 is Pitches & Tones’ first Whiffenpoof.
Grau said that given many students’ decisions to take gap semesters this year, eligibility for the Whiffenpoofs and Whim ’n Rhythm was expanded to students who had between one and three semesters left at Yale.
Traditionally, the Whiffenpoofs take a leave of absence to go on tour and produce an album. Whim ’n Rhythm singers do not take a year off, but instead tour during breaks and produce an album. This upcoming year, the groups are prioritizing health and safety concerns, but hoping for the possibility to tour and perform live.
Despite the novelty of the audition process and uncertainty about the future, incoming members feel a range of emotions, from overjoyed to excited to shocked.
“When I first heard the wonderful news, I was literally at a loss for words in the sense that I was unable to form coherent sentences,” incoming Whiffenpoof Wen Long Yang ’22+1 said. “I FaceTime-called my best friend who had just been tapped by the Whims. Because we were overwhelmed by all of the positive emotions, we were trying our best to squeeze in between the squeals and laughter ‘I love you’ and ‘I’m so proud of you.’”
Grau said that given the disruptions and difficult circumstances brought by the pandemic, becoming part of Whim ’n Rhythm was a highlight of her junior year.
White said that she was “really, truly stunned” to hear the news. She added that even her dog seemed excited when she conveyed the news to her family.
“I’m just really excited for the possibility of singing with other people again,” White said. “Music is so healing, and singing is such a joyful practice. I’ve missed it a lot, and I can’t wait to return to it as things get safer.”