For the first time in its history, the traditionally all-male Krokodiloes—the University’s oldest a capella group—gave a callback audition to a woman, though ultimately the group did not accept her, according to general manager Michael A. Paladino ’17.
Nora A. Sagal ’18, a self-described jazz singer with a low voice, received a callback from the Kroks on Tuesday evening after auditioning for both the Kroks and another all-male a capella group, the Din and Tonics. She did not receive another callback following her second audition with the Kroks, however.
“I thought it was unfair that I couldn’t try out for a group that I’ve always thought to be the best on campus just because I’m a woman,” Sagal said, referencing the Kroks. “My feeling on the entire matter is not that single-sex a capella shouldn’t exist, but that people with lower voices who want to be a part of groups like the Kroks or the Dins, with the proper ability and range, should be able to try out.”
Sagal said she was inspired, in part, to audition because of conversations within the campus drag group Hasty Pudding Theatricals, which last fall considered adding women to its all-male cast for the first time in its history before ultimately demurring.
Paladino said he and the other members of the Kroks were surprised that Sagal auditioned, but that she “has definitely sparked a serious conversation within the group.”
He said they chose not to give Sagal another audition because the sound of her voice does not match what the group was looking for. Paladino declined to comment further when asked if the Kroks would have admitted her should her voice have met their qualifications.
According to the a capella group’s constitution, membership “shall be open to all students in good standing currently enrolled in Harvard College, regardless of race, creed, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, or physical disability.”
Single-gender organizations at the College have come under scrutiny over the past year, particularly unrecognized groups such as final clubs, fraternities, and sororities. In May, Harvard announced a new policy that will, starting with the Class of 2021, bar members of unrecognized single-gender social organizations from being leaders of recognized clubs or receiving College endorsement for fellowships such as the Fulbright or Rhodes.
Paladino acknowledged that the Kroks had considered the College’s stance towards single-gender social organizations.
“We realize we are an all male institution at the College, and that there are cultural shifts occurring on campus,” Paladino said. “That is definitely factoring into our conversations, which have only just begun.”
Sagal did not receive a callback from the Dins. According to president Jacques Berguig ’18, the group’s constitution does not allow for women to join. Berguig said she “delivered a phenomenal audition” but that the group could not let her join.
“We thought it was a totally unfair call to call Nora back knowing it’d be impossible for her to become a member of the group at the end of the process,” Berguig said.
He added that the group had previously discussed letting female students into the Dins with its alumni council.
“We did not think it would happen as soon as this year, and so we were unprepared to react adequately,” Berguig said. “This is a conversation that is very much on the table, and the thing with the issue is that it’s more delicate than it seems, because all-male a capella, as well as all-female a capella, are separate genres, styles, and sounds of their own.”
Sagal is currently a member of the Opportunes, a co-ed a capella group.
In 2013, two women auditioned for Yale’s all-male all-senior Whiffenpoofs, an a capella group, for the first time since 1987, according to the Yale Daily News. They were not admitted.
—Staff Writer Derek G. Xiao can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @derekgxiao.
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