The Harvard Din & Tonics are Harvard University’s signature all-male a cappella singing group, known around the world for their rich tradition of musical and performance excellence. With a repertoire centered on the American jazz standards of the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s, these Harvard gentlemen — who perform in white tie, tails, and lime green socks — have an enviable reputation for their impeccable musicality, snappy choreography, and hilarious antics.
The Din & Tonics have existed in several incarnations during their history, beginning as the Dunster Dunces in 1946. The Dunces—an old-fashioned, barbershop-inspired singing group—performed around the Harvard campus until the 1960s, when they disbanded, leaving behind a treasury of recordings and jazz arrangements that would subsequently form the basis of the Din & Tonics’ repertoire.
A decade later, in 1979, a small group of undergraduates founded a new a cappella singing group at the Phillips Brooks House in Harvard Yard. Formed as a public service activity of the Phillips Brooks House Association—Harvard University’s central service organization—The Harvard Din & Tonics began to perform for the university community and local charitable organizations.
After one particularly successful performance in the Dunster House dining hall, an enthusiastic tutor presented the group with the Dunces’ abandoned collection of sheet music and recordings. The rest, as they say, is history.
Today, the Din & Tonics are recognized as one of the world’s finest collegiate a cappella singing groups. Though the group’s commitment to public service and to the Harvard community has never waned, the Dins now enjoy a worldwide audience for their performances. In addition to singing across the United States, the Dins tour to Bermuda each year and around the globe every other summer. Some notable performances include:
- In July 2010, the Dins performed for thousands at the World Expo in Shangai, China, as part of a 10-week, 16-country world tour.
- The Dins were featured in the 2003 New Line Cinemas production of Mona Lisa Smile, which starred Julia Roberts, Julia Stiles, and Kirsten Dunst. The group also performed at the film’s gala premiere in New York.
- In February 2002, the Dins were joined on the stage of Harvard’s Sanders Theatre by ten-time Grammy award-winning vocalist Bobby McFerrin.
- The Dins have sung the national anthem for the Boston Celtics, the Boston Bruins, the Boston Red Sox, the New York Yankees, San Francisco Giants, the Tampa Bay Lightning, and the PGA’s Ryder Cup.
- Over the years the Dins have been privileged to perform for jazz vocalist Ella Fitzgerald, actresses Julia Roberts, Sharon Stone, Jessica Lang, and Kathleen Turner, comedian Jackie Mason, Maestro Keith Lockhart of the Boston Pops, world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma, jazz pianist Herbie Hancock, as well as the governor of Bermuda and the U.S. ambassadors to Germany, Greece, Nepal, Ireland, Morocco, Norway, Italy, Belgium, and Australia.
The Din & Tonics also boast a proud tradition of recording their music. Since the release of In The Beginning in 1984, the group has recorded 15 albums. Their most recent studio album, Easy Being Green, was released in July 2014.
In 35 years of singing jazz a cappella, The Harvard Din & Tonics have built a remarkable reputation, at home and abroad. And though the class of their performance is unquestioned, the Din & Tonics show no sign of ever losing the youthful energy that has always made their performance so appealing. The Dins are certainly “a cappella, with a twist!”