With the crowd screaming, a row of bright spotlights focused in on the vibrant yellow jackets worn by the 13 current members of UR’s oldest all-male a cappella group, the Yellowjackets. The spring semester’s concert would be unlike any other Yellowjackets performance. ‘It’s going to be a night of music for a very important cause,” Yellowjacket business manager and sophomore Aaron Sperber said.

The show was sold-out, and over 900 people anxiously squirmed in their seats, awaiting what was to come.

‘People bought tickets even if they couldn’t come in order to support the cause,” sophomore Yellowjacket Daniel Rubenstein said. ‘Because of how moved we were by Zander’s unfortunate news, we felt that all the effort and time spent on Harmony for Hope was well worth it.”

If you have never seen the Yellowjackets perform, it is truly an indescribable experience. Each member of the group brings a unique presence to the stage. ‘I loved the fact that in addition to their incredible voices, during a bunch of the songs they started to dance and just have a great time up there,” sophomore Arielle Hoffman said.

Saturday night was a special show and probably the Yellowjackets’ most exciting one yet. Called Harmony for Hope, the event was more than just a concert; it was a night dedicated to spreading hope. In honor of alumnus Zander Hunter ’08, a former Yellowjacket, all of the night’s proceeds went toward cancer research and treatment at the Wilmot Cancer Center.

‘In the fall, after one of our rehearsals, Zander came in, sat down and told us about how he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins Lymphoma,” sophomore Yellowjacket Christopher Young said. ‘Ever since then, we were inspired to put on this show.”

‘Tonight is all about a wonderful cause,” Congressman Eric Massa said, who attended Harmony for Hope with his family. ‘It’s an honor to be here to carry this message of hope back to Washington.” Massa was joined by several revered guests including University Vice-President and General Secretary Paul Burgett, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Jonathan Burdick and Dean of Eastman School of Music Doug Lowry.

Being a part of the Yellowjackets is almost like being a part of a second family, and these men wanted to help their brother the best way they knew how singing. Leading the Harmony for Hope project, Sperber teamed up with the current members of the group to plan a successful night.

But it didn’t stop there.

Not only did all 13 current Yellowjackets take part in this project, but former Yellowjackets members wanted to get involved as well.

‘I said I’d be glad to call and talk to my fellow, original Yellowjackets,” Jerry Gardner, a former Yellowjacket who is currently on the University’s Board of Trustees, said. ‘I got 10 originals to sign a letter encouraging all Yellowjackets to contribute, and if they could, attend the concert.”

Founded in 1956, the Yellowjackets branched off of the men’s glee club and began singing mainly as a barber shop group until developing into a strictly a cappella group. ‘Being a part of the Yellowjackets means more than one would ever expect,” sophomore Yellowjacket Daniel Rubenstein said. ‘What sets being a Yellowjacket apart from any other group I’ve been a part of is its rich tradition and history.”

Clearly, being a Yellowjacket means being part of a lifelong group. Gifted with their musical talents and stage presence, their dedication to one another certainly cannot go unnoticed. Using these proceeds to help with cancer research is the main goal; however, spreading hope throughout the packed auditorium was a simple, yet extremely significant, objective of the evening as well.

‘Time after time we ran through the songs, adding style ornaments here, “Shoo-be-do-wahs” there, dynamic volume swells and choreography,” junior Yellowjacket Herbert Reilly said. ‘It was a time-consuming process, especially when I had an upcoming physiology exam in the back of my mind. But when that one chord rings out clear and true and the blended harmony echoes back from the ceiling in perfect silence, I got goosebumps. As the day of the show approached and those tight choruses become second nature, our excitement built up to show the campus and community not only what we sing, but why we’re singing it.”

Doing everything it could to make Harmony for Hope an unforgettable event, the Yellowjackets arranged for 4:2: Five, the popular, five-part, male a cappella group based in Orlando, Fla. to perform several songs at the concert. Half of the group’s CD sales from the night went toward the Wilmot Cancer Center, as well.

Performing for a cause that affects so many people must create a rush of emotions when up on stage. Even as a member of the audience, you could feel the enthusiasm flowing down into the crowd.

‘It’s an incredible honor to be in a room filled with such hope,” Massa said. ‘We can find a cure starting right now, and we will.”

The total sum raised is not definite yet, as the group is still accepting donations online at http://www.jackets.org until April when it will be performing for the Wilmot Cancer Center and displaying its check for the Center.

Singing being the best way they knew how, the Yellowjackets were determined to make their concert one that would make a difference and a night to remember.

Greenberg is a member of the class of 2011.



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