Q&A with the Whiffenpoofs of Yale

We are winding down our 2011-12 season, and my oh my how it has just flown by! But, before we welcome the Artosphere Festival to Northwest Arkansas, we've got a few more shows to share with you (yes, Mary Poppins is one of them! Pssssttttt...there's not too many tickets left for that show so you might want to act fast!).

The Whiffenpoofs of Yale will be serenading Northwest Arkansas on Friday, April 6 at the Arend Arts Center in Bentonville. This concert is part of our 10x10 Arts Series, with tickets starting at just $10. Did you know you don't have to subscribe to the series to get that awesome price?

The "Whiffs," as they are affectionately known, are an a capella group of senior Yale men that have been singing the classics for over 100 years. When you've been around that long, you know what you're doing, and these guys are phenomenal. We are thrilled to bring this talented group of young men to our area, and at the low price of $10 no less!

Last week we had the pleasure of doing a short q&a with the Whiffenpoofs' World Tour & Publicity Manager, David Martinez. Wondering where the name 'Whiffenpoofs' came from? Read on to find out!

1. What band/group would you most like to collaborate with?

I think it would actually be really interesting to do a genuine collaboration with our sister group, Whim n' Rhythm. Although we do concerts together throughout the year, it's rare that the Whiffs and Whim sing the same song together, and I think singing with a group of singers as talented as the combined forces of the Whiffs and Whim would be exciting and different.

2. Do all Whiffenpoofs major in music? If not, what are you studying?

Although I am not currently a music major, I thought for about a year that I would try to double major in Political Science and Music, and I took classes with the aim of achieving that goal. Ultimately, though, I decided that I was getting a lot of musical fulfillment singing in an a cappella group as an extracurricular activity. I decided that I wanted to focus academically elsewhere, so now I'm doing Political Science & Economics!

3.What was your reaction when you learned you had been accepted to one of the most prestigious Ivy League schools in the US?  How did you celebrate?

Elation! I applied early action to Yale, so it was the first school that I heard back from. It was such a relief to know that even if all else failed, I would still be going to one of the best schools in the country with an incredible extracurricular scene in music and theater. Once I decided to attend, I couldn't wait. Throughout the summer I devoured all the information I could about Yale, which built up to an incredible first month there.

4. We hear you each have a Whiffenpoof nickname. What is yours and how did you get it? What would Walton Arts Center’s Whifenpoof nickname be?

My nickname is a pretty simple pun: David "Kwik-E" Martinez. It's just a reference to a Simpsons convenience store, I believe. I think the Class of 2011 were a little lazy in coming up with our nicknames!

As for the Walton Arts Center... Perhaps Walton "If you'll not careful, you're gonna break h-" Arts Center, or Walton Arts "Decent and De-" Center, or Walton Arts "Cotillion's Where We'll Pre" Center.

5. What song not currently in the Whiffenpoof repertoire would you like to see added and why?

My a cappella resume is actually a little bit different from that of most of the other guys in the group. I spent my first three years at Yale in a coed group that focused on a broad range of music that included a lot of contemporary pop, so I've always been partial to more upbeat, contemporary music. I'm a big fan of Janelle Monae, so maybe a cover of "Cold War" or "Open Happiness." Maybe some more recent musical theater, although that's often difficult to divorce from the plot of the show and place in the middle of an a cappella set!

6.What is a Whiffenpoof and why is that the name of the a cappella group?

A handsome, intelligent, charming young man who sings in white tie and tails!

In all seriousness, though, I believe the term "Whiffenpoof" was first heard in an operetta around the turn of the 20th century. The operetta was based off of the comic series Little Nemo, and in it there's a scene where three men are sitting around ice fishing. They don't seem to be catching any fish, so they turn to bragging about previous feats. "I've caught a swordfish before!" claims one, while another says he's caught a whale. The third one, not wanting to get shown up, trumps them all. "That's nothing. I've caught a Whiffenpoof." Apparently, a Whiffenpoof is a mystical dragonfish that sings for food and drink.

Well, one of our founding members thought that was a great name, especially since the group at the time was doing exactly that -- singing for food and drink. He proposed "The Whiffenpoofs" and the name stuck. We still sing at that same tavern/bar 103 years later, though most of us are pretty convinced that if they had known they'd be sticking us with that name for a century, they may have reconsidered.

Many thanks to David for taking the time to answer our questions. We hope you'll join us this Friday for a show that's sure to entertain!