Chasing Away the Rainy Day Blues with Some Bluegrass from Yale University

Yes, Norfolk Academy students were feeling a little blue on Tuesday morning, but it had nothing to do with the downpour and forecast for more to come; Tangled Up in Blue, Yale University’s folk singing group, had faculty and students clapping along to bluegrass and folk tunes.

The 13-member musical group includes Zachary Kreiser ’15, whose activities while at Norfolk Academy included lacrosse, swimming, Model United Nations, and even a short-lived satirical newspaper, but never any singing.  “I did not see myself as a singer,” he said.

Yet, he was intrigued by Yale’s active music scene, and when he went to a concert by Tangled Up in Blue, he was inspired to try out, because “it looked so fun to be in a band.” For the audition, he practiced the Johnny Cash classic, “Ring of Fire,” in empty classrooms “in the dark,” hoping that no one would see him. Even after practicing, he felt like it was a very, very long shot, more like doing something a little bit crazy as a freshman with little to lose.

To his surprise, he got a call-back, for which he performed “Fire and Rain.” He said, laughing, “I think they needed a bass, and they saw me as a project they could work on.”

Kreiser said that students can get locked into an identity in high school, but college offers an opportunity to move in new directions. “There is less of a definition of ‘cool’ at college,” he said. “You can find your own way to see yourself as skilled at what you do.”

Tangled Up in Blue, which includes students playing violin, guitar, banjo, and ukulele, has two-hour rehearsals twice a week. That schedule leaves Kreiser, a junior majoring in computer science, with some additional time to work at The Rumpus, a humorous publication where he is co-editor-in-chief. The 30-member staff of the newspaper, which bills itself as “The only magazine at Yale about stuff at Yale,” recently celebrated its 25th anniversary.

Another Yalie with Norfolk Academy Bulldog roots—Joe Bedford ’14, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering—came to campus for the performance. Bedford, who is home on spring break, is an ROTC scholar and will head to Pensacola for flight school after graduation.

After performing songs by Crosby, Still, Nash & Young, Gordon Lightfoot, and the Darrell Scott version of Brad Paisley’s “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive” in a jam-packed 45-minute concert, the group closed out with one of Kreiser’s favorites, “Wagon Wheel” by Old Crow Medicine Show. “This is a song that got me into folk music,” he said. “They used to play it at my summer camp as a slow song to dance to...and you should feel free to get up and dance.”

To learn more about Tangled Up in Blue, visit the group’s website.
    • Yale's Tangled Up in Blue

      Nelly Kane by Yale's Tangled Up in Blue