University of Miami professor calls for commitment to social justice

Carol Abril. Photo by Matt Fried

Carlos Abril, professor and director of undergraduate music education at the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music, was one of 43 participants at YSM’s sixth Symposium on Music in Schools, which focused on “how to ensure that every child in every city in America has access to an active music life,” YSM Associate Dean Michael Yaffe has said.

Among the participants were public-school and university teachers and administrators, foundation leaders, music-education scholars, and public-policy experts who worked, Yaffe said, to “help us craft and complete a declaration about why music has the potential to change children’s lives and have an impact on issues of exclusion.” The purpose of the document, in Yaffe’s words, is to “encourage the creation of ecosystems” that support the goal of guaranteeing children in city schools the same opportunities their suburban counterparts enjoy.

“We’ve been having the conversation” about the value of music education for decades, Abril said, offering that the declaration that’s crafted needs to have an impact that previous efforts have not.

“I think we need to send a strong message speaking to the importance of training, mentoring, and showing that it’s more than just lip service, more than just a pet project.” Those working in music education, he said, need to be “committed to social justice in our work.”

And while he was “really impressed” with the Symposium participants, saying their collective expertise “lends a lot of credibility to the initial perspective,” Abril warned against magical thinking.

“It’s naïve to suggest that music is the answer to all our ills,” he said.

Published July 18, 2017
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Head of music-ed in Philadelphia’s schools is circumspect about work

Frank Machos. Photo by Matt Fried

Frank Machos, director of music education in the School District of Philadelphia, was a participant at YSM’s sixth Symposium on Music in Schools, which focused on “how to ensure that every child in every city in America has access to an active music life,” YSM Associate Dean Michael Yaffe has said.

The conversation about music education in America’s cities, Machos said, is part of a larger conversation about inequities across the public-education system. Like all of those who participated in the Symposium in mid-June, Machos is interested in constructing a new narrative about music education in city schools, and he was impressed with the company he was in.

“Most of the people in this building,” he said, in YSM’s Adams Center for Musical Arts, “are thought leaders, or at least disrupters in their field of expertise.”

Reflecting on the work that he and other public-school educators do, Machos said, “It’s important that we all understand the consequences of what we’re doing every day.”

Published July 18, 2017
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Policy expert points out that inequities in music education reflect society at large

Mike Blakeslee. Photo by Matt Fried

Mike Blakeslee, the executive director and CEO of the National Association for Music Education, was recently a participant at YSM’s sixth Symposium on Music in Schools, which focused on “how to ensure that every child in every city in America has access to an active music life,” YSM Associate Dean Michael Yaffe has said.

Among those invited to participate were public-school and university teachers and administrators, foundation leaders, music-education scholars, and public-policy experts who worked, Yaffe said, to “help us craft and complete a declaration about why music has the potential to change children’s lives and have an impact on issues of exclusion.” The purpose of the document, a draft of which was sent to participants ahead of the Symposium, is to “encourage the creation of ecosystems” that support the goal of guaranteeing children in city schools the same opportunities their suburban counterparts enjoy.

In America’s cities, Blakeslee pointed out, “we have these stark contrasts in terms of haves and have nots. If we don’t have a commitment to equity for all of our children, then we’re not going to have equity in music education, either. We’ve constructed a system where the self-interest of many constituencies is not social justice. You can tell the story,” but “the real question for me is, what are we going to do to make [change] really happen?”

Published July 17, 2017
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Symposium participant Tarik Ward calls music “the cultural equalizer”

Tarik Ward. Photo by Matt Fried

Tarik Ward, the director of music programs at ELMA Philanthropy Services, was one of 43 participants at YSM’s sixth Symposium on Music in Schools, the focus of which was “how to ensure that every child in every city in America has access to an active music life,” YSM Associate Dean Michael Yaffe has said. The work that was done at the Symposium will be part of a declaration that Yaffe said would “encourage the creation of ecosystems” that support the goal of guaranteeing children in city schools the same opportunities their suburban counterparts enjoy.

Ward talked about the “story of inequity,” saying, “If you tell me your zip code, I can tell you your life story.” To Ward, the Symposium and the declaration represent “an exercise in storytelling” about systemic inequity, and a chance to address “what we have to do” to bring about change. Music, Ward said, “is the cultural equalizer, the thing that everyone can do.”

 

Published July 17, 2017
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Symposium participant Lara Davis talks intersectionality

Lara Davis. Photo by Matt Fried

Lara Davis, the arts education manager at Seattle’s Office of Arts & Culture, was one of 43 participants at YSM’s sixth Symposium on Music in Schools, the focus of which was “how to ensure that every child in every city in America has access to an active music life,” YSM Associate Dean Michael Yaffe said. The work that was done at the Symposium, in mid-June, will inform a declaration that Yaffe has said would “encourage the creation of ecosystems” that support the goal of guaranteeing children in city schools the same opportunities their suburban counterparts enjoy.

During the Symposium, Davis said the conversation about music education in city schools is part of a larger discussion about “the inequities that are running rampant across public education in this country,” and that the gathering at Yale “is a step in the process.”

“This space could be one where we, as a small segment of the sector, can begin to articulate where we exist in the power structure,” she said. “We have to have an intersectional lens as we approach this” and ask, “How does that inform the ways we talk about music?”

 

Published July 17, 2017
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Yale Hosts Sixth Symposium on Music in Schools

Rubén Rodríguez, left, and Michael Yaffe during the 2017 Symposium on Music in Schools. Photo by Matt Fried

On June 15-17, the Yale School of Music hosted its sixth biennial Symposium on Music in Schools, an event at which 43 participants discussed “how to ensure that every child in every city in America has access to an active music life,” YSM Associate Dean Michael Yaffe said. That topic is one that Yaffe and Rubén Rodríguez, the lead teacher in YSM’s Music in Schools Initiative, have been thinking about for more than a year.

Among those invited to participate were public-school and university teachers and administrators, foundation leaders, music-education scholars, and public-policy experts who worked, Yaffe said, to “help us craft and complete a declaration about why music has the potential to change children’s lives and have an impact on issues of exclusion.” The purpose of the document, a draft of which was sent to participants ahead of the Symposium, is to “encourage the creation of ecosystems” that support the goal of guaranteeing children in city schools the same opportunities their suburban counterparts enjoy. The “gap” in quality public-school music education in the United States, Yaffe said, “is usually represented by city schools that don’t have full-time certified music teachers” or music-specific activities.

Symposium participant Tarik Ward, the director of music programs at ELMA Philanthropy Services, talked about the “story of inequity,” saying, “If you tell me your zip code, I can tell you your life story.” To Ward, the Symposium and the declaration that’s being crafted represent “an exercise in storytelling” about systemic inequity, and a chance to address “what we have to do” to bring about change. Music, Ward said, “is the cultural equalizer, the thing that everyone can do.”

Lara Davis, the arts education manager at Seattle’s Office of Arts & Culture, said the conversation about music education in city schools is part of a larger discussion about “the inequities that are running rampant across public education in this country,” and that the gathering at Yale “is a step in the process.”

Lara Davis, the arts education manager at Seattle’s Office of Arts and Culture, addresses a working group during the 2017 Symposium on Music in Schools. Photo by Matt Fried

“We have to have an intersectional lens as we approach this,” and ask, “How does that inform the ways we talk about music?” Davis said.

Mike Blakeslee, the executive director and CEO of the National Association for Music Education, said, “We’ve constructed a system where the self-interest of many constituencies is not social justice. You can tell the story,” he said, but “the real question for me is, what are we going to do to make [change] really happen?”

In the coming months, Yaffe and Rodríguez, with YSM staff and input from Symposium participants, will finalize the declaration, launch a website, and identify organizations that will help disseminate the information. “We learned so much from this group of experts,” Yaffe said. In essence, the 2017 Symposium on Music in Schools was the opening salvo in what will be an ongoing effort to address the inequity that plagues America. And while the Symposium itself was an important step toward bringing about real change, what follows, in terms of the resulting document, will be even more critical.

In addition to brainstorming and sharing ideas and perspectives during the three-day event, participants also honored their peers. As has been tradition since the first Symposium on Music in Schools in 2007, the 2017 iteration included the presentation of Distinguished Music Educator Awards to 10 public-school music teachers, all of whom work in city schools.

The impetus for the efforts undertaken at the Symposium was the work of YSM’s Music in Schools Initiative, which was created in 2007 with an endowment from the Yale College Class of 1957.

Rodríguez looks forward to a paradigm shift in terms of how we think about music in schools. “We are declaring that we are all equal and we all deserve the same opportunities and freedoms and services and access to the same spaces and opportunities to thrive,” he said.

Related:
MUSIC IN SCHOOLS INITIATIVE
2017 SYMPOSIUM ON MUSIC IN SCHOOLS
YALE HONORS DISTINGUISHED MUSIC EDUCATORS

Published June 21, 2017
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Achievements celebrated at annual Honors Dinner

Carol Colburn Grigor, recipient of the Samuel Simons Sanford Award

Left to right: Benjamin Polak, Peter Salovey, Samuel Simons Sanford Award winner Carol Colburn Grigor, and Robert Blocker

The Yale School of Music held its annual Honors Dinner on Sunday, May 7, welcoming students and alumni, faculty and staff, and distinguished guests to the Yale Commons for an evening of celebration. After thanking recently retired staff members for their service and acknowledging the University officers who were in attendance, YSM Dean Robert Blocker presented Carol Colburn Grigor ’69MMA CBE with the School’s highest honor, the Samuel Simons Sanford Award. Grigor, Blocker, said, “is one of America’s most generous … most thoughtful philanthropists.” Composer and former Edinburgh International Festival director Jonathan Mills congratulated Grigor via video.

Willie Ruff, recipient of the Nathan Hale Award

Left to right: Benjamin Polak, Peter Salovey, Nathan Hale Award recipient Willie Ruff, and Robert Blocker

Dean Blocker, with University President Peter Salovey and Yale Provost Benjamin Polak at his side, presented longtime YSM professor Willie Ruff ’53BM ’54MM, who will retire at the end of the semester, with the University’s prestigious Nathan Hale Award. “He’s changed all our lives,” Blocker said, before attendees were shown a video tribute to Ruff’s life and work. In a nod to the man who indirectly inspired him decades ago to study at YSM, Ruff said, “I thank, most of all, Charlie Parker.” The jazz office in the Yale School of Music’s Adams Center for Musical Arts was recently named in Ruff’s honor.

Left to right: Benjamin Polak, Peter Salovey, Ian Mininberg Distinguished Service Award winner Warren Lee, and Robert Blocker

Blocker presented the Ian Mininberg Distinguished Service Award to pianist Warren Lee ’00MM and the Cultural Leadership Citation to retiring Yale Collection of Musical Instruments curator William Nicholas Renouf ’71MMA. The Collection’s director, William Purvis, accepted the Citation on behalf of Renouf, who was unable to attend the Honors Dinner. Before presenting student prizes, Blocker referenced an impressive number of awards and successes earned and realized this year by students, faculty, and staff. He recognized longtime YSM faculty pianist Peter Frankl, who plans to retire in the fall, for his dedication to the School community.

At the end of the evening, Blocker told the students in attendance, “Claim the future. It belongs to you. You will make us better.” What follows is a list of the student prizes awarded during YSM’s 2017 Honors Dinner. MORE

Published May 9, 2017
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