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Vassar Night Owls Lift Their Voices and Campus Spirits

As legend has it, the Vassar Night Owls, an all-female jazz a cappella group, was founded after some students were quarantined on campus in 1942. One version of the legend contends it was a polio outbreak while another says it was rubella. And while Vassar’s official history contains no mention of a quarantine that year, the Night Owls legend goes like this: A few adventurous students, dressed all in black, snuck out of their dorms to serenade the quarantine students, and the Night Owls were born.

The Night Owls, in a recent performance in the Villard RoomPhoto: Photo and video courtesy of Lindsey Sample ‘20

To this day, the Night Owls (whose alumnae include actress Meryl Streep ’71) dress in black whenever they perform—with one exception. Not everyone in the group donned black clothing for a remote performance of Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right,” dedicated to the students who have had to remain on campus following the COVID-19 outbreak. The performance was recorded and edited by Night Owl Lindsey Sample ’20 and posted on YouTube last week.

“We chose this song because it is a favorite of many folks in the group, and it's a bit sentimental, and sad, but somehow also uplifting,” Sample said, “which we thought was a good choice for the current climate.”

Members of the Night Owls are:

  • Ariana Smith '20, Charlottesville, VA
  • Sabrina Stacks '20, Newton, MA
  • Lindsey Sample '20, Atlanta, GA
  • Emma Robinson '20, Springfield, IL 
  • Maisha Lakri '21, Cambridge, MA
  • Alexa Elias '21, New York, NY
  • Helen Johnson '21, Decorah, IA
  • Elena Rey '21, Los Angeles, CA
  • Delila Ames '22, New York, NY
  • Alexandra Ashworth '22, Orange  CT
  • Gracie Nayman '22, Winnetka, IL
  • Tessa Hyatt '22, Natick, MA
  • Eloise Allen-Bowton '23, Sydney, AUS
  • Madison Maiella '23, Dorset, VT
  • Maya Wilson '23, Berlin, VT
  • Cameron Saltsman '23, Marblehead, MA