Tag Archives: Nick Massoud

Nick Massoud: A Whiffenpoof Comes To Westport

Last year, Nick Massoud was a Spizzwink.

Singing with Yale University’s elite 13-member a cappella group, he performed in Europe, China, New Zealand, Indonesia, Hawaii, Iowa — and before a sold-out, hometown audience at Westport’s Seabury Center.

What could Nick possibly do for an encore?

Poof!

Back in his Staples High School days, when he was looking at colleges, Nick heard the Whiffenpoofs sing. They were a major reason he decided to apply to Yale — and, once accepted, to attend.

Self-described as “the world’s oldest and best-known collegiate a cappella group” — which is probably true — the Whiffs are 14 seniors who leave school for a year. They travel the world, singing for alumni clubs, schools and organizations, and in public concerts.

The 1913 Whiffenpoofs.

(They have a fondness for nursing homes too. During World War II, Whiffs’ songs hit the pop charts. Many current nursing home residents learned those tunes then — or heard them from their parents.)

Cole Porter was a Whiff. So was Connecticut Senator Prescott Bush, father of one US president and grandfather of another.

Obviously, you don’t just sign up and join. The audition process is rigorous.

Nick Massoud

Last spring, Nick auditioned with a solo rendition of “Mona Lisa.” Then he sang a Whiff standard — “Shall I, Wasting in Despair?” — to see how well his baritone blended with other voices.

Then came another hour-long interview — because Nick was auditioning not only as a singer, but for the role of business manager. He’d done that with the Spizzwinks, so he already had experience organizing a world tour.

The Whiffs loved Nick’s voice, and his business plan. They liked his responses too to questions about how he’d deal with the media. This is a big moment in the group’s 110-year history: For the first time ever, there is a female Whiff.

Once he was “tapped” for membership, it was an easy decision to defer his studies for a year. Nick says his parents were supportive — “maybe even jealous” — about his opportunity to travel the globe, singing, “before I start an un-musical job for the rest of my life.”

Nick has mapped out an arduous schedule for the Whiffs. Four major tours take them to 15 countries, on 6 continents.

The 2019 Whiffenpoofs. Nick Massoud is kneeling, on the right.

Right now, they’re in the midst of winter performances. They’re booked in Denver, Dallas, San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco — and Westport.

The local performance is set for Saturday, February 2 (5 p.m., Christ &  Holy Trinity Church).

On February 14, Nick brings his group back to town again. They’ll perform at Staples — his alma mater — for his former teacher Luke Rosenberg’s choirs and choruses. Staples Players will be there too — Nick was a noted actor, back in the day — and English teacher Brian Tippy may bring his classes. After all, he’s a former Whiff.

So is State Representative Jonathan Steinberg. Who knew?

When they’re not singing, the Whiffenpoofs enjoy local attractions. In Boulder, they went hiking. Nick Massoud is 5th from left.

As Steinberg, Tippy and Prescott Bush prove, there is life after Whiffenpoofs. So what will Nick do, when he returns as a senior next fall?

He’s a global affairs major. He interned last summer with Boston Consulting Group. They’ve already offered him a job in New York, after he graduates.

Boola boola!

(For tickets and information on the Whiffenpoofs’ February 2 Westport concert, click here. In the video below, Nick Massoud is at the far left.)

 

Nick Massoud’s Spizzwinks Circle The Globe — And Find Westport

There are nearly 20 a cappella groups at Yale University.

With his strong musical background at Staples High School, Nick Massoud could have auditioned for any. But he was drawn to the Spizzwinks.

The group offered something unique: During each member’s 3 years, they tour all 6 inhabited continents. And they perform in each member’s hometown.

Nick Massoud

Music was always part of Massoud’s life. He played in Betsy Tucker’s Long Lots steel band. He sang in musicals at Bedford Middle School, and with Staples Players.

Orphenians — the high school’s elite singing group — became his family.

Two years ago, director Luke Rosenberg’s group was invited to San Francisco. They sang at Chanticleer’s National Choral Festival. As they drove around the city and out to the redwood forest, they kept singing.

Massoud — who was also involved in Wreckers InTune, the debate team and JSA, and served as president of Top Hat Tutors — realized he could not give up music in college.

Spizzwinks are no part-time commitment. Last year they performed 97 concerts, at schools, nursing homes, churches and clubs. The non-profit choir is entirely student run. Members plan international tours, raise money, and handle logistics.

The Spizzwinks sing for Joe Biden and John Kerry. Nick Massoud is in the center — wearing a blue Yale tie.

“I saw an opportunity to use a lot of the skills I picked up running Top Hat, in a musical setting to facilitate 2 things I love: traveling, and singing with friends,” Massoud says.

Now, as a junior majoring in global affairs — with a concentration in international development — he is the group’s business manager.

He’s performed with them in China, Europe, New Zealand, Indonesia, Iowa, Hawaii and Alaska. They’ve sung for Joe Biden, John Kerry, the Italian prime minister, China’s vice premier, Lady Gaga and Melania Trump.

The Spizzwinks and Lady Gaga snap a selfie.

This year they’re scheduled for Morocco, Chile, Argentina and South Africa.

This month, he brings the Spizzwinks to Westport.

Sure, every member hosts the group at some point. But Massoud thinks the concerts in his home town are special.

“Having met so many people in college, I realize that growing up in a place that supports the arts so significantly is rare,” he says.

“Thinking back on it, it’s crazy that we could sell out the Staples auditorium 7 or 8 times for shows. It says a lot about our community. I’m excited to show my closest college friends the support Westport gives to the arts.”

The Westport schedule is packed. There’s an evening concert at Assumption Church (details in the poster above), a performance and master class at Bedford, and a session with the Staples choir.

That does not allow much time for Massoud to show off Westport. However, he will make sure to take the Spizzwinks to Sherwood Diner.

That’s where he and his fellow Players headed after every show — often in full makeup.

Massoud has traveled the globe with his group. However, he says, “bringing the Spizzwinks to my home, and showing them my community, feels like the most important thing I’ve done with them.

“I can’t wait to introduce them to some of my friends, and to the amazing, inspiring arts teachers in our schools.”

(Click here for the Spizzwinks’ new album, “Hometown.” Click below for their version of “Cry Me a River” — featuring Nick Massoud.)