A Harmonic Convergence of Friends

I can tell you without a doubt that the experience of singing at Yale in a group that you love is one that cannot easily be matched or trumped. When I get to sing with my a cappella group, Shades of Yale, not only do I have the chance to hang out with people who form another family for me, but also I get to share messages of beauty, perseverance, happiness and warmth with each performance. This year, I was lucky to have my winter break bookended by extremely memorable events with Shades.

Abdul posing with two other members of "Shades".

Just before winter break, Shades was given the opportunity to perform with the Grammy Award-winning Beninese singer and activist, Angelique Kidjo, during her visit to Yale University. To say that the concert with her was amazing would be a gross understatement because by the middle of the concert there was a HUGE dance party in the middle of Woolsey Hall (a space more accustomed to calmer, applause-only audience participation). As Angelique Kidjo’s backup choir, Shades not only fulfilled our mission of singing beautiful music of the African diaspora, but also got to see a diverse array of Yale students enjoying and learning from the various songs that we sang with Ms. Kidjo. The concert was a essentially a musical Master’s Tea with each break between the songs used to give depth and meaning to why a song is meant to lift people up or to make them think of how to make the world better. I looked at all the faces of my fellow Shades members and could feel the happiness and pride in being able to stand on a stage, being part of such messages and doing this all together as one big family with a similar goal.

During the last two weeks of winter break, Shades had a winter tour in San Francisco because one of our members is from the area and wanted us to see her hometown. The city was fun and beautiful, but it paled in comparison to every moment I got to share with Shades. From performing at local schools in the Bay Area to running around in parks to playing endless Super Smash Bros. tournaments, each experience was a chance to become closer with people who I already cherish from our memories made at Yale. Being on the West Coast for the first time definitely made me happy, but I can easily say that going anywhere with Shades will make the location ten times better.

"Shades" at a church performance.

Shades is just one example of many groups and clubs that can elevate someone’s Yale experience. All the moments, relationships and awe-inspiring days that can occur with the friends you make in groups like this can truly make Yale a place that is excellent way beyond its academics. Yale is experienced differently for everyone, even for each member of Shades, but one common theme is that Yale students learn about science and humanities from their classes just as much as they learn about life and personal growth from their friendships.