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Yale School of Music launches its first massive open online course

MacArthur Fellow Sebastian Ruth teaches "Music and Social Action" on Coursera platform
February 22, 2016
Sebastian Ruth

Sebastian Ruth

The Yale School of Music is pleased to announce the launch of its first massive open online course (MOOC), “Music and Social Action.” Taught by MacArthur Fellow Sebastian Ruth, the course asks vital questions about musicians’ responses to the condition of the world.

Sebastian Ruth is the founder and artistic director of Community MusicWorks, a nationally-recognized organization that connects professional musicians with urban youth and families in Providence, Rhode Island. It has been hailed as a “revolutionary organization” by the New Yorker and in 2010 received the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award, conferred by First Lady Michelle Obama.

Ruth has received a “genius” grant from the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship for “creating rewarding musical experiences for often-forgotten populations and forging a new, multifaceted role beyond the concert hall for the twenty-first-century musician.” Community MusicWorks was the inspiration for New Haven’s own Music Haven, which provides free instruments, lessons, classes, and ensemble and leadership development opportunities to young people (ages 6–18) from low-income New Haven neighborhoods.

Sebastian Ruth’s free online course offers students around the world an opportunity to learn from this leading educator and thinker. The multimedia course includes not only thoughtfully crafted lectures and engaging assignments but also historical photos and audio clips. VIEW

The course asks vital questions such as: Do musicians have an obligation and an opportunity to serve the needs of the world with their musicianship? Are we looking at a dying art form or a moment of re-invigoration? The course itself, as well as the impact of organizations such as Community MusicWorks and Music Haven, argues the case for re-invigoration.

Sebastian Ruth is the Yale College Class of 1957 Visiting Professor of Community Engagement at the Yale School of Music. His appointment is part of the Music in Schools Initiative (MISI), an ongoing program of activities that include educational collaborations with the New Haven Public Schools, a biennial Symposium on Music in Schools, and the Morse Summer Music Academy, in addition to the visiting faculty post. As part of the Music in Schools Initiative, numerous graduate teaching artists work with full-time certified music teachers in the New Haven Public Schools and teach in the All-City Honors Ensembles and other after-school programs. Read more about these programs HERE.

Course Description:
Music and Social Action

What is a musician’s response to the condition of the world? Do musicians have an obligation and an opportunity to serve the needs of the world with their musicianship? At a time of crisis for the classical music profession, with a changing commercial landscape, a shrinking audience base, and a contraction in the number of professional orchestras, how does a young musician construct a career today? Are we looking at a dying art form or a moment of re-invigoration?

In this course we will develop a response to these questions, and we will explore the notion that the classical musician, the artist, is an important public figure with a critical role to play in society. The course will include inquiry into a set of ideas in philosophy of aesthetics; a discussion about freedom, civil society, and ways that art can play a role in readying people for democracy; discussion on philosophy of education as it relates to the question of positive social change; and an exploration of musical and artistic initiatives that have been particularly focused on a positive social impact.

Guiding questions for this course inquiry will include: How can classical music effect social change? How has music made positive change in communities around the globe? What can the field of classical music learn from other movements for social change? How have educators and philosophers thought about the arts and their connection to daily contemporary life? Each class will explore one critical question through lectures, discussions, interviews, or documentaries.

About Sebastian Ruth

Sebastian Ruth is the Founder and Artistic Director of Community MusicWorks, a nationally-recognized organization that connects professional musicians with urban youth and families in Providence, Rhode Island.

Community MusicWorks has been called a “revolutionary organization” (The New Yorker) that builds cohesive urban community—through music education and performance—that transforms the lives of children, families, and musicians in underserved urban neighborhoods of Providence, RI. CMW’s programming includes a full season of chamber music performances and commissions by its twelve musicians in residence and guest artists; a free, robust music education program for 125 neighborhood young people; workshops, student concerts, and community dinners that involve families and the wider community; and fellowships and training programs that prepare a next generation of musicians to pursue socially-engaged music making.

As an active performing violinist and violist, Sebastian has performed in recent seasons in Providence, Boston, Los Angeles, Banff, and New York. Sebastian has collaborated with the Borromeo, Kronos, Muir, Miro, Orion, and Turtle Island String Quartets; pianist Jonathan Biss, violist Kim Kashkashian, oboist Frank Rosenwein, and violinist Jonathan Gandelsman of the Silk Road Project.

Sebastian graduated from Brown University in 1997, where he worked closely with education scholars Theodore Sizer, Mary Ann Clark, and Reginald Archambault on a project exploring the relationship between moral education and music, and with members of the Charleston String Quartet in Brown’s chamber music program. Influential music teachers have included Michele Auclair, Lois Finkel, Pamela Gearhart, Kim Kashkashian, Eric Rosenblith, Rolfe Sokol, and Mela Tenenbaum.

Since 2013, Sebastian has served as a Visiting Lecturer at the Yale School of Music, designing and teaching courses on the connection between music and civil society.

Sebastian serves on the advisory boards of the Sphinx Organization and of Music Haven, a non-profit organization in New Haven, Connecticut modeled after Community MusicWorks.

In 2010, Sebastian visited the White House to receive the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award from First Lady Michele Obama on behalf of Community MusicWorks. In 2012, Sebastian received an honorary doctorate in music from Brown University, and was named by Strings Magazine as among the 25 most influential people in the string music world.

Sebastian is a recipient of the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship for “creating rewarding musical experiences for often-forgotten populations and forging a new, multifaceted role beyond the concert hall for the twenty-first-century musician.”

COMMENTS ( 11 )

Is there an option for graduate credit for this course?

February 24th, 2016 | Julie Schramke

Great composers – Beethoven, Verdi, Wagner (regrettably), Stravinsky – formerly led not only the Art but also public opinion and social/political trends. No composer today remotely occupies such a leadership role. Composers and composing have been banished to the periphery. The Art today is led by conductors and business executives; i. e., creativity and imagination have given way to ‘interpretation” and marketing. Those now personifying Music (in the public’s perception) contribute little to the future of the Art and exert scant influence beyond the immediate requirements of their jobs.

February 26th, 2016 | Stanley Friedman

Yes, I agree with Stanley implicitly. The ‘creators’ no longer occupy a place of any relevance. We are considered ‘alternatives’, even anachronistic beings living in an idealistic dreamworld. But I must however attribute much of the blame upon sterile academism in our field. Audiences are not warming to ‘atonality’, ‘serialism’ and extreme avanguarde. We have fallen from a pedestal of beauty. Truth is, many contemporary compositions are ugly, and people still flock to the mausoleums of music (major concert halls over the world) to hear the composers of the past. We must ask ourselves why. We composers need a good session of self-criticism and review. Perhaps by doing so we will regain our rightful place in the musical world? Perhaps if we look more towards establishing a connection with our listeners, rather than appeasing our fellow peers, we can finally contend the sceptre from the conductors and businessmen? Just a suggestion. I may be dead wrong.

February 27th, 2016 | Gaby Kapps

thank goodness you are offering this.
So importantly and sorely needed. I believe it will bring back the incredible essence of music to our society.

thank you

February 28th, 2016 | Joan Raeburn Holland

I am Interested in the program. Thanks

February 29th, 2016 | Amely Guanipa

I believe Gaby Capps’ comment is dead right!

March 2nd, 2016 | Joan Garrett thompson

Thank you, As a social worker and composer I had been seen the both sides of society. Music and professional in music needs to be an active part in social change. I am very please to know this is happening and it is share to the public. Thank you

March 2nd, 2016 | PAOLA M MARQUEZ

As a musician, piano instructor, I am fascinated with the concept of the course, and the critical questions it asks. I am also a teacher of literature, and am interested in the intersection of the spoken word with music. I studied English, art and music simultaneously, but no one was drawing any parallels that I was feeling, yet had no avenue to articulate. I would love to explore all of these strands of thinking, performance and art with social activism, so essential to the present day.

March 3rd, 2016 | Kathleen Barthelemy

I am interested in this course. Send me information on Fall 2016
and Spring 2017 “on- lion course” availability. I will also be in New Haven CT the last week of June participating in the Berkshire
International Choral Festival. BM,MM, SUNY-Fredonia.
Gary A. Baldwin 585 395 6085
RESEARCH/WRITRER/CRITICISM
CARL NIELSEN SOCIETY OF AMERICA
5081 CHESHIRE GLEN RD.
CANANDAIGUA, NEW YORK 14424

March 9th, 2016 | Gary A.Bladwin

I also would like to include this as part of a graduate course. Is this possible? I am studying aspects of music psychology in a self-designed course.

March 16th, 2016 | Anna

I am Interested in the program. Thanks you and God bless you

May 18th, 2016 | luis