University of Rochester

EVENT: University of Rochester YellowJackets Receive Key to Rochester

December 9, 2011

Rochester Mayor Thomas S. Richards recognized the University of Rochester YellowJackets for their contributions to the city during a ceremony at 1 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 9, in Hirst Lounge in Wilson Commons on the University's River Campus. As part of the ceremony, Richards presented the members of the YellowJackets, the University's oldest male a cappella group, with a key to the city of Rochester.

"The YellowJackets have spent countless hours working with youth here in our city and have taken their mission across the world to Kenya," said Richards, who also is a University Trustee. "We are proud that they are making lives more fulfilling through their commitment to music and education. That's why it is an honor to present the University of Rochester YellowJackets with a key to our city."

For Pittsford native Aaron Sperber '11, who has been a member of the YellowJackets for five years, receiving a key to Rochester is an unparalleled honor.

"We have had the privilege of traveling far and wide to share our music and our message, and while being on national television was an honor that we only dreamed of, nothing is quite like home," said Sperber, an international relations major in the College and a vocal performance major at the Eastman School of Music. "As proud Rochesterians, we found that more exciting than the glamour of Hollywood is the knowledge that we are representing all the people who have supported us and made us who we are."

Jamal Moore '11, also a voice performance major at Eastman and a four-year member of the YellowJackets, agreed.

"Being given a key to the city is an amazing honor that few people receive," Moore, a native of Augusta, Ga., explained. "I am so grateful that we were selected as the latest recipients of it."

The YellowJackets, who recently competed on NBC's hit reality television show The Sing-Off, have a history of community service in the city. Over the last decade, they have performed concerts and hosted workshops throughout the Rochester City School District.

In 2009, the group organized the Harmony for Hope concert in honor of one of its members, Alexander Hunter, who was undergoing treatment for lymphoma. Through a benefit concert, the YellowJackets raised funds for the James P. Wilmot Cancer Center.

This past summer, the group traveled to Maseno, Kenya, on a goodwill tour and musical exchange. The group spent three weeks in the African village, where they conducted workshops in the village schools, learned traditional native songs from local children, and taught students popular songs from the United States. Additionally, the group participated in community outreach, working with victims of AIDS through the nonprofit organization Joining Hearts and Hands. For the group, the trip underscored the importance of music programs in schools as a way of providing students with a fun, creative way to engage in learning, said Sperber.

This fall, the YellowJackets took that message to heart and teamed up with the Rochester City School District to create an extra-curricular a cappella group at the World of Inquiry School. Nearly 100 students at the school spend two hours every Thursday with the YellowJackets, learning a cappella arrangements and vocal performance tips. The group, called ROC-appella, will join the YellowJackets on stage at two sold-out concerts on Dec. 11. See a video about the partnership here.

For photos or video footage of the Dec. 9 ceremony, call Melissa Greco Lopes at 585.276.3693 or email