Chat with...Nick Massoud, Westporter who sings in Yale’s a capella group
Published 12:00 am, Friday, October 20, 2017
WESTPORT — A singing tour of all six inhabited continents and your hometown sounds like the kind of opportunity accessible only to celebrity pop stars, but it’s par for the course for Westport native Nick Massoud and his a cappella group, the Yale Spizzwinks.
In keeping with the Spizzwinks “promise” to each of its members, Massoud, a Yale University junior, will return to Westport on Saturday for a hometown concert.
The Spizzwinks, founded in 1914, is America’s oldest underclassman a capella group and has performed for former Vice President Joe Biden, former Secretary of State John Kerry, Italian Prime Minister Mateo Renzi, Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yan Dong, Lady Gaga and most recently, First Lady Melania Trump.
While in Connecticut, the Spizzwinks also have a stopover scheduled for Cheshire, the hometown of Massoud’s fellow classmate Hudson Lee. That concert will take place Friday evening, right before the a capella group heads to Massoud’s childhood stomping grounds.
Hear them sing
St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, 59 Main St.
Friday, Oct. 20; 7:30 p.m.
$15 general admission; $10 students, seniors
Assumption Church, 98 Riverside Ave.
Saturday, Oct. 21; 7:30 p.m.
$15 general admission; purchase tickets at spizzwinks.ticketbud.com or at the door
Q: How long have you been singing?
A: I’ve been singing since about sixth grade. In middle school, I got involved in musical theater at Bedford. I did the Bedford show and really enjoyed that.
When I got to high school, I first joined Staples Players and then was accepted into the Orphenians Choir, Staples select choir, my sophomore year.
Q: What was the process of joining an a cappella group at Yale?
A: Yale has something like 16 a cappella groups. Auditions are the first month of school and they take a really long time. It’s chaotic. I auditioned for eight groups and got lucky because the Spizzwinks was the group I wanted to join. Over the course of three weeks, you go through auditions, call-backs, and have meals with people in each of the groups. In the final week, you get offers from the group and join the one you’d like to be in.
I knew I wanted to be in the Spizzwinks because of the people. I really liked the guys in the group. They seemed like genuinely nice people who were really excited about the stuff they did.
Also because of the travel. I really love travel. I’d actually done a bit of traveling with my singing group in high school. Back in my senior year, the Orphenians took a trip to San Francisco to compete in the National Chorale Festival. I thought that was so much fun and wanted the opportunity to do that more.
Q: How often does the Spizzwinks practice and perform?
A: We do three rehearsals a week. Two of those rehearsals are full group. They’re two-hour practices each. Then we do one hour in our section and then beyond that we do about two or three gigs each week.
We’re a totally self-funded, nonprofit organization, so we support ourselves in traveling around the world and sharing our music by performing concerts in schools and nursing homes and clubs and then public concerts like the one in Westport.
Q: Do you enjoy performing so often?
A: I really enjoy it.
In high school, you work for three months and then perform one concert and that’s it. I think there’s something really developmental about performing for audiences all the time because that’s really where you get to try things out and grow as a singer and see how audiences respond to different things that you do.
Q: You’re the Spizzwinks business manager, what’s that role like?
A: There’s two lead roles in the organization. We don’t have a president, so we have a business manager and a music director and they share responsibility. I’m in charge of all the business stuff.
When I was in high school, I ran an organization called “Top Hat Tutors,” which is a tutoring organization in town. I thought it was really cool to be involved in a business and try to think about the ways we could expand our operations.
For me it’s been really cool to jump into this organization and not only be able to sing and travel, but also to combine the business stuff that I’d done in high school with singing.
Q: You’ve met a lot of famous people as part of the Spizzwinks, who have you enjoyed meeting most?
A: I think Lady Gaga was really cool to meet. She was really kind and friendly and very encouraging of what we were doing. She probably sees a lot of groups perform and despite that, she still went the extra mile and said that we did a really great job and she loved our performance of her song, “Born This Way.” For her, knowing that something like that would mean a lot to us and is super easy for her to say, was a really cool experience.