Helen Hagan’s grave finally marked in overdue ceremony

dsc_4597A long overdue ceremony was held at New Haven’s Evergreen Cemetery on Thursday, September 29, to honor Helen Eugenia Hagan, who died in 1964 and was buried alongside her parents, albeit without individual mention. A headstone was placed on Hagan’s grave as members of the local community and others who’ve been connected to Hagan’s legacy acknowledged her extraordinary life.

Elizabeth Foxwell, who organized a crowd-funding campaign to permanently mark Hagan’s resting place — a campaign to which the Yale School of Music contributed — said, “Journalist, professor, Yale alum, and future NAACP activist William Pickens wrote the following about Hagan in 1916: ‘I remember […] I settled back into an easy chair to listen when the little girl was led in by her mother and seated at the piano just to show me. She showed me and has since shown hundreds of thousands that genius […] will out.'” Foxwell, who edited the 2015 anthology In Their Own Words: American Women in World War I (Oconee Spirit Press), also quoted from a letter Hagan penned in 1932 to W.E.B. Du Bois describing the struggles she was experiencing.

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Helen Hagan is believed to have been the Yale School of Music’s first female African American student. She graduated from the School in 1912 and soon thereafter became the only African American performer to travel to France to entertain Black troops stationed there after World War I. Hagan was the first African American pianist to perform a recital at a New York concert venue. While at Yale, Hagan performed with the New Haven Symphony Orchestra and composed and performed her Piano Concerto in C minor, which, sadly, is the only one of her compositions to have survived. MORE

Published September 30, 2016
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YSM Class of 2016 presents gift to School

Commencement 2016

Yale School of Music Commencement, May 2016

In May, the Yale School of Music’s Class of 2016 became the first graduating class to present a gift to the School. More than half the class’ 98 members contributed to the gift, which exceeded $1,000.

A seat in Sprague Hall (seat C101) will be adorned with a plaque identifying the Class of 2016 as having made a contribution to the School.

Acknowledging the gift during the School’s Commencement ceremony in May, Dean Robert Blocker said to the graduating class, “You’re starting a very, very important tradition, and the tradition is more about staying connected to your School and to this community and what has become your family than it is giving a gift.” MORE

Published September 27, 2016
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A MacArthur for the composer Julia Wolfe ’86MM

Julia Wolfe | Photo by Peter Serling

Julia Wolfe | Photo by Peter Serling

The New Yorker | By William Robin

“I know the music I write isn’t for everyone,” a talking wolf remarks in a 2014 episode of the beloved PBS cartoon “Arthur.” The wolf holds up a page of sheet music, points to her head, and explains to another character what it means to be a composer: “Everything that goes on up here winds up in the score.” The show’s cohort of animated creatures has just emerged from a raucous performance: a rendition of the amplified chamber work Big Beautiful Dark and Scary written by the real-life composer Julia Wolfe, who voiced the cartoon character.

Such explanations may no longer be necessary, as today Wolfe was selected as a 2016 MacArthur Fellow. She is the first full-time classical composer to receive a MacArthur since Osvaldo Golijov, in 2003. At fifty-seven, Wolfe is known equally as a composer and as a co-founder of the new-music collective Bang on a Can. Though Wolfe and Bang on a Can often position themselves as outside the mainstream—“I think of myself as a renegade,” she told NPR, in 2015—both the MacArthur award and the “Arthur” appearance testify to the centrality that they occupy in the world of composition today. MORE

Published September 23, 2016
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Juliana Hall ’87MM premieres song-cycle at Norfolk

Juliana Hall

Juliana Hall

O Mistress Mine, a song-cycle for countertenor by composer Juliana Hall ’87MM, received its world-premiere performance on Aug. 5 at the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival. The piece, which is set to texts from Shakespeare’s plays, was performed by Darryl Taylor with the composer at the piano. The song-cycle was written for countertenor Brian Asawa, who was to perform the premiere but died in April. The Norfolk performance honored Asawa’s memory and recognized the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death.

The Aug. 5 performance of O Mistress Mine kicked off a season in which Hall’s vocal works Christina’s WorldRoosters, The Bells, and How Do I Love Thee?; and Upon This Summer’s Day will be premiered in programs of the Cincinnati Song Initiative, the Contemporary Undercurrent of Song Project in Princeton, New Jersey, and the London Festival of American Music, respectively. Other song-cycles by Hall have been programmed for performances this season in Boston, New York, and Washington, D.C.

Hall studied composition at the Yale School of Music with Martin Bresnick, Leon Kirchner, and Frederic Rzewski. She was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1989. Hall has composed works for such acclaimed vocalists as Asawa, baritone David Malis, and soprano Dawn Upshaw and has had her music performed around the world.

JULIANA HALL

Published September 16, 2016
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Convocation 2016 Celebrates “Transcendent Yale Legacy”

YSM Dean Robert Blocker | Photo by Harold Shapiro

YSM Dean Robert Blocker | Convocation 2016

In his Convocation address, titled Music: A Transcendent Yale Legacy, School of Music Dean Robert Blocker told incoming and returning students, faculty, staff, and guests that “transcendent qualities are born and nurtured by people. Yale University and the School of Music are a collection of voices, a community and society of mutual learners. We, along with our predecessors, came here to better prepare ourselves to repair the world.

“It may surprise some of you to know that when the Yale Corporation voted to establish a School of Music in 1894, they also approved a Bachelor of Music degree that was open to women and men,” Blocker said in his remarks during the September 8, 2016, ceremony. “Cynics might say that not offering a Bachelor of Arts in Music retained the exclusivity of Yale College as a male enclave, but I find it a lot more interesting and compelling that music was Yale’s very first commitment to diversity and inclusivity.”

Celebrating the “transcendent voices” that have shaped the School’s legacy, Blocker recognized Ellen and Carl Stoeckel, Helen Hagan, Elaine Toscanini, Aldo Parisot, and Willie Ruff, among others.

“These transcendent musical voices of Yale and their cultural leadership transform lives, enrich communities, and bring hope to a broken world,” Blocker said. “Yale’s sons and daughters entrusted some of humankind’s treasures to us so that the transcendent qualities of character and mind, of light and truth – Yale’s motto, lux et veritas – can live through each of us and can bring hope to our planet. That is our responsibility, and it is our joy.” MORE

Published September 12, 2016
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Rolston String Quartet wins Banff International String Quartet Competition

Rolston String Quartet | Photo by Tianxiao Zhang Photography

Rolston String Quartet | Photo by Tianxiao Zhang Photography

The Rolston String Quartet (’16 Norfolk) has been named the First Prize Laureate of the 2016 Banff International String Quartet Competition, which concluded after five rounds on Saturday, September 4. “In addition to a generous cash prize of $25,000,” the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity announced, “the Rolston String Quartet will benefit from a comprehensive custom-designed three-year career development program including a professional recording at Banff Centre and a performance tour in over 50 North American and European cities.” The ensemble also won the Esterházy Foundation Prize and the Lunenburg Academy of Music Performance Prize.

“This young quartet now has the opportunity to share their artistry with the world,” Barry Shiffman, the competition’s executive director, was quoted as saying.

The Tesla Quartet, whose members—including violist Edward Kaplan ’10MM ’11AD—attended Norfolk in 2011, earned Second Prize at the BISQC, receiving a $12,000 award. The Tesla Quartet also won the R.S. Williams & Sons Haydn Prize and the Canadian Commission Prize, each of which came with a $3,000 award. MORE

Published September 6, 2016
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