70, to Celebrate Rich History
Jennifer Gabrielle ’06
On a sunny day
in 1936, while attending a picnic with students from their
brother school, Yale University, a few Smith students were
inspired by the sounds of the Yale Whiffenpoofs, the nation’s
oldest collegiate a cappella group, still performing today.
The Smithies of
70 years ago returned to campus with the strains of a cappella
still in their ears and determined to form their own singing
group. The Smiffenpoofs (now nicknamed the Poofs) was born.
later, the Smiffenpoofs—the nation’s oldest female
college a cappella group—are still going strong. They
will celebrate the group’s anniversary this Friday,
April 28, with a “Poofs on the High Seas” a cappella
invitational at 7:30 p.m. in Weinstein Auditorium, Wright
Hall. Admission is $2.
in which the Smiffenpoofs will be joined by the Megalomaniacs,
a coed group from Colby College, and Nice Shoes from Mount
Holyoke College, is a stepped-up version of the Poofs annual
spring jam, says Jennifer Paul ’07J, assistant business
to make it a little bit bigger for our 70th,” she said.
“We’re trying to get the Yale Whiffenpoofs.”
invited nearly a dozen group alumnae back to campus to perform
alongside the current troupe. Yumi Aikawa ’04, for example,
will fly in from Berkeley, California.
still very much a part of the a cappella scene,” says
Paul. “She founded and is now singing in Rapid Transit,
a San Francisco/Bay Area a cappella group.”
kinship stays with members after they graduate, Paul says.
“I talked to an alum from the class of ’68, and
it’s great to see, they’re just as enthusiastic
now as they were then. They still remember their parts and
all the words. The pride that people take in it, and a sense
of community [is] my favorite part of being in the Poofs—sharing
will perform two debut arrangements by Louisa Sullivan ’09,
of Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” and Imogen
Heap’s “Hide and Seek.” They will also sing
past favorites like Patty LaBelle’s “Lady Marmalade”
and Seal’s “Crazy.” Of course, the night
would not be complete without the Richard Rodgers classic
“Manhattan,” a group standard. “That’s
the song we invite alums up on stage to sing with us because
everyone knows it,” says Paul.
spring jam, the Poofs will sing on Saturday, April 29, at
3:30 p.m. in the College Club for Simply Smith, an Office
of Admissions event, and again at 10:30 p.m. in the Campus
Center Carroll Room for the Smith College Senior Ball.
During this year’s
reunion events on May 20, the Poofs will extend their 70th
anniversary celebration with a larger gathering of alumnae,
joining the classes of ’41 and ’56, and participating
in a musical event from 3 to 4 p.m. in Sage Hall called “Did
you sing at Smith?” which will feature members of various
vocal ensembles from all class years. The Poofs will then
perform as part of Illumination Night at 8:30 p.m. that evening
along the lantern-lit college paths.
As they always
have, the Smiffenpoofs these days stick close together through
their years at Smith, says Paul. “[We’re] a very
large, happy family,” she says, “but like any
family, a little dysfunctional. We spend so much time together,
we get to know all our idiosyncrasies. It’s a really
The Smiffenpoofs’ storied history is documented in the
Sophia Smith Collection, which contains old rosters, pictures
and records of past performances, as well as some of the group’s
traditions. At least through the 1960s, says Paul, the selection
process “may have been more like rushing, like you would
for a fraternity or sorority. [But] like we do now, it seems
Poofs have always been sung-in by surprise.”
One of the most
significant changes over the years is the group’s repertoire.
“In the last 20 to 30 years, we’ve started singing
more contemporary songs,” explains Paul. As a cappella
has gained popularity on campuses nationwide, the Poofs were
among many who chose to cater to the tastes of a younger audience.
look forward to celebrating their history along with those
who have contributed to it, says Paul. “It’s an
incredible honor to be able to say I’m a part of a group
that’s been a pioneer in its field. It reflects my experience
here at Smith, where I feel like I’m surrounded by a
lot of people doing incredible, ground-breaking things. It
also gives me a real sense of history at school here.”
Part of the Smiffenpoofs
commemoration, the group’s newest album will include
recordings dating back as far as the 1970s, says Paul. The
CD, currently in the mixing process, is expected to be released
in time for reunion.
For more information
on these and other upcoming events, visit