to foster excellence, learning, and global understanding
in all people through the power of music,
in particular the music of the African Diaspora.
Shades is an a cappella vocal group at Yale University with a repertoire rooted in music of the African Diaspora. Shades was started in 1988 by Titilayo Ngwenya and a group of Yale freshmen at the Pre-Registration Orientation Program (PROP) for students of color now known as Cultural Connections. The other founding members were: Jimi Raines Jr., Curtis Etherly, Creswell Formey, Michelle Meertens, Linda Barry, Kimberly D. Dixon, Lillyanne Alexander, Karen Bowser, Mignon Washington, Terry Camarillo, and Tonya D. Farmer.
Shades’ popularity caught on in those first years like a wildfire. No other group was bringing soul to the campus. No one even knew it was missing until Shades sang—and moved! The founding members had grown up listening to the Marvin Gayes, the Arethas, the Makebas, the Mario Bauzas, the Mahalias, so they brought an authentic soul sound and choreography that broke all ivy league molds.
The music was powerful. It touched people, and the founders knew they had something special. Other students followed—each year making Shades their home, leaving their mark, carrying on the vocal tradition. The songs, signature choreography, style, and sensibilities have been passed down for over 20 years.
We celebrated our 20th anniversary by inviting all the alumni back to New Haven for a big celebration. We will continue to build lifelong relationships among our members through social activities, outreach initiatives, and singing, singing, singing.
Shades Alumni Today
In April 2014, Shades celebrated their 25th anniversary and again the alumni returned to Yale campus to celebrate each other and the music.