Tyler Miles: Alley Cat on a mission
Whether singing in the Alley Cats, Zooming with his first-years, or reading a peer’s thesis, Tyler Miles ’20 makes it a priority to cultivate community.
So, for the Saybrook College first-year counselor (FroCo), the transition to digital mentorship as Yale finished the spring semester online was less challenging than you might expect. “By the time the Dean’s Office contacted us, we had already started scheduling Zoom check-ins with our kids,” he said. “The trust we built the rest of the year didn’t just drop off in the last quarter. People are still involved, and really care about being there for each other.”
In his own first year at Yale, Miles, an African American studies major from Lower Merion, Pennsylvania, was inspired by a singing FroCo to join the Alley Cats, one of Yale’s oldest a cappella groups. Membership in the all-male group would help define Miles’ Yale experience. In addition to five hours of weekly rehearsal and multiple concerts on and off campus, the baritone joined six international Alley Cats tours, visiting 10 countries. The group’s rendition of Sam Smith’s “Latch” was among his favorites.
Singing was about more than performing, though. It was through the Alley Cats that Miles made some of his closest Yale friends and favorite memories. “We were connected through singing, but it was so much more than that,” he said. “They became my family.”
The Alley Cats gave Miles a platform for projects outside Yale as well. During his second year with the group, he created a new position called the community outreach chair. As the inaugural chair, he put on benefit concerts for Puerto Rican hurricane relief and for New Haven women’s shelters.
“A cappella helped me connect different aspects of my activism that otherwise would have stayed separate,” he said.
Miles was also a Mellon Mays Fellow at Yale. The fellowship, open to students of color interested in entering academia, provided him the opportunity to conduct the self-directed research that eventually became his thesis in African American studies. Both the fellowship and his cohort helped him make the most of academic life at Yale, he said. “They helped me find a critical gap in the academy I was interested in being able to fill.”
Yale’s African American studies department is small — there were 10 other seniors in the major — and Miles found it to be a nurturing community. “We took care of each other in order to do our meaningful work,” he said, “We were all in it together.”