Yale Schwarzman Center Celebrates Opening

Natalie Judd & YSC
Commons, YSC opening celebration, 11.5.22, photo: Lotta Studio

As Chibueze Crouch '14 and aerial artists from the innovative vertical dance company Bandaloop descended elegantly from the rafters of Commons, Yale a cappella group Shades of Yale performed “Following Fears” and "God Is Joy." These artistic feats featuring Yale alumni and current students set the tone for an event of appreciation and celebration on Saturday, November 5, honoring Stephen A. Schwarzman ’69 for his pathbreaking $162.8 million gift toward the renovation and re-envisioning of Yale Schwarzman Center (YSC) and a broad community of students, faculty, alumni, donors, staff, and New Haven community leaders who have been integral to the Center’s launch. Nearly 330 invited guests were in attendance including more than 60 student artists and student performers who activated every YSC space with their talent and work that evening.

“The event provided an opportunity to express appreciation to Mr. Schwarzman and all who have made the Schwarzman Center possible,” said Yale President Peter Salovey. “It also was a celebration of education and the arts, in keeping with Schwarzman Center’s promise to provide a creative and inspiring space for students, alumni, and artists to explore boundary-breaking work and performances.”

The evening featured many student-led groups with performances by the Whiffenpoofs, the Yale Gospel Choir, the Yale Jazz All-Stars, and YSC artist-in-residence and renowned tap dancer Dormeshia accompanied by Taps at Yale, whose members range from first years to graduate students. “Desire Lines,” a student exhibition blurring the lines between space and urban planning, was featured in the Presidents’ Gallery while Professor Ben Verdery led Ulysses Quartet in performing “Quintet for High Strings” by YSC artist-in-residence Bryce Dessner’s ’98 ’99MM in The Dome.

Guests were invited into Commons for dinner by the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and greeted by the night’s emcee, 2022 Olympic skating champion Nathan Chen ’24. Yale President Peter Salovey gave opening remarks followed by Yale College Dean Pericles Lewis and Stephen Schwarzman himself, who surprised the audience with a gift of a four-song performance by EGOT-winning, critically acclaimed, multiplatinum singer-songwriter John Legend. Legend was not the only EGOT in attendance, as songwriting powerhouse duo Robert “Bobby” Lopez ’97 and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, who have earned double EGOTs for their contributions to film and theater scores, entertained with some never-before-heard musical selections during dinner, which featured the extraordinary culinary talents of Yale Hospitality.

Rafi Taherian, associate vice president, Yale Hospitality, said, “In the last year, Commons has upheld the tradition of creating exceptional and diverse experiences to break bread as a community. The addition of programming centered around the arts only amplifies the vibrant hub that is the Yale Schwarzman Center. The culinary arts are a mainstay of the shared daily experience at Yale, including food literacy programs and special events. Above all, it’s so much more than the food; we not only break bread but also break boundaries together—forever a part of the legacy of this iconic space.”

This appreciation event, which was delayed for more than a year due to the pandemic, was punctuated by video messages from Robert A.M. Stern Architects (RAMSA), musician and multi-instrumentalist Kevin Olusola ’11, best known as the beatboxer of the three-time Grammy® Award-winning and multi-Platinum-selling a cappella quintet Pentatonix, and actress/producer Lupita Nyong’o ’11 MFA. The evening culminated with a musical selection by Brandon “Taz” Niederauer ’25 and a rollicking dance party in the Dome featuring DJ Kfeelz of Miss/chief Collective.

“This special event was a true testament to the Schwarzman Center’s ability to build and strengthen communities via the performing arts, and a credit to the remarkable individuals and organizations who realized a vision seven years in the making,” commented new YSC Executive Director Rachel Fine, “We look forward to carrying this vision forward through a range of outstanding university and public programs that bring people together—within and beyond Yale—for discovery and for humanity.”