Willie Ruff retires having given “conservatory without walls” a home at Yale

By Lucile Bruce

Willie Ruff

Willie Ruff was born in 1931 in Sheffield, Alabama, a rural town on the south side of the Tennessee River. As a child, he showed an aptitude for music and immersed himself in the musical resources of his community. A neighborhood boy shared his drum set with young Willie and they became lifelong friends. The pianist at church became his piano teacher. But the best music he heard was the drumming in the African Pentecostal church half a block from his house. “We would sit on the ground outside the church and listen to the people playing those drums,” Ruff recalled. “It was the most exciting, the most moving music. I heard them in my sleep.”

Across the river from Sheffield stands Florence, the hometown of W.C. Handy, the “Father of the Blues.” Handy visited Ruff ’s elementary school classroom, played for the children, and accompanied their singing. “W.C. Handy was a big presence in my world,” Ruff recounted. “When I saw him on stage in my school, talking about the importance of our musical heritage, I said, ‘I want to do that.’ I think I have.” MORE

Published May 1, 2017
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YSM composers win American Academy of Arts and Letters awards

Hilary Purrington

Three YSM alumni composers and one current student have received awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the organization announced last month. Awardees were selected by a committee of Academy members including Yehudi Wyner ’50BA ’52BM ’53MM, Martin Boykan ’53MM, YSM faculty composer Aaron Jay Kernis, Samuel Adler, Sebastian Currier, Stephen Jaffe, Tobias Picker, and Ellen Taaffe Zwilich. Sixteen composers in all received awards this year from the Academy.

Carl Schimmel ’99MM earned a Goddard Lieberson Fellowship, which is awarded to two composers each year. The fellowship, which comes with a $15,000 prize, was created in 1978 with an endowment from the CBS Foundation in memory the former Columbia Records president, who had died a year earlier.

Andrew Norman ’09AD received a $10,000 Arts and Letters Award in Music, which honors outstanding artistic achievement. The Academy established the award in 1941 to encourage creative work in the arts. Each year, five artists, eight authors, four composers, and four architects receive the prize. Composers receive an additional $10,000 to facilitate a recording of their work.

Katherine Balch ’16MM and current YSM student Hilary Purrington ’17MMA each received a $7,500 Charles Ives Scholarship, which is given to composition students of “great promise.” The scholarship was created when Ives’ widow, Harmony Ives, bequeathed the royalties from her husband’s music to the Academy of Arts and Letters. Two fellowships of $15,000 and six scholarships of $7,500 are awarded each year to composers.

The American Academy of Arts and Letters was founded in 1898 to “foster, assist, and sustain an interest in literature, music, and the fine arts,” according to language on the organization’s website. Each year, the Academy honors more than 50 composers, artists, architects, and writers with cash awards ranging from $5,000 to $100,000. The Academy also presents exhibitions of art, architecture, and manuscripts and organizes readings of new musicals.

CARL SCHIMMEL
ANDREW NORMAN
KATHERINE BALCH
HILARY PURRINGTON
AMERICAN ACADEMY OF ARTS AND LETTERS

Published April 6, 2017
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Paul Hawkshaw awarded Fulbright for Bruckner research, residency in Vienna

Paul Hawkshaw

Professor of Musicology Paul Hawkshaw will be a Fulbright Visiting Scholar in Vienna in the spring of 2018. During his residency, he will teach classes at the University of Vienna’s Institute of Musicology and at the city’s University of Music and Performing Arts, in addition working at the Austrian National Library on a project titled A Bequest and a Complex Legacy: Untangling Anton Bruckner’s Revisions in Later Times, which aims to sort out the many different revisions of Bruckner’s music that have resulted from, in Hawkshaw’s words, “unauthorized tampering in Bruckner’s scores by well-meaning students and friends of his.”

According to Hawkshaw, the International Bruckner Society recently began a new Collected Works Edition under the auspices of the Austrian National Library and the Vienna Philharmonic. The New Anton Bruckner Collected Edition will eventually include new definitive scores of Bruckner’s complete works. Hawkshaw, who serves on the society’s editorial board, will work on three of the symphonies: numbers Seven, Eight, and Nine.

“In some cases,” Hawkshaw said, “previous editions had errors as a result of misreading the sources. For others, new, more reliable manuscript sources have surfaced since the older printed scores appeared.” MORE

Published April 5, 2017
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Yale celebrates Adams Center grand opening

Adams Center for Musical Arts | Photo by Bob Handelman

Adams Center for Musical Arts | Photo by Bob Handelman

The Yale University community and distinguished guests on Thursday celebrated the grand opening of the new Adams Center for Musical Arts. It was an event in the stunning orchestra rehearsal hall at which a great debt of gratitude was paid to Stephen ’59BA and Denise Adams, whose continued generosity helped make the complex that bears their names a reality.

“This is a day not just for music,” Yale University President Peter Salovey said, “but it is a day for Yale University, as well, because this is a day where our University places an exclamation point on a place to study music that is second to none for graduate students and undergraduates, alike.

Peter Salovey dedicates the Adams Center | Photo by Harold Shapiro

Peter Salovey dedicates the Adams Center | Photo by Harold Shapiro

“One Yale — a place that celebrates a great college set alongside a great professional school, a place that gives our superb musicians from across all of our campus magnificent facilities to make music together during their bright college and their bright university years. We are really humbled by the extraordinary generosity and vision of Stephen and Denise Adams, our principal donors to this project … Their profound profound love of music, and of Yale, is what shines throughout this shining new light of campus architecture.”

Salovey also acknowledged the visionary leadership of School of Music Dean Robert Blocker, saying, “Every project that I have witnessed at Yale needs someone who has (an) uncompromising eye, and when that project has someone with that eye, it always comes out wonderfully. And Robert was the uncompromising eye behind this.”

In the Adams Center, Blocker sees his — and the Adamses’ — dreams for Music at Yale. MORE

Published February 17, 2017
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Adams Center for Musical Arts opens

Adams Center, exterior

Adams Center for Musical Arts

The new Adams Center for Musical Arts opened today, as students, faculty, and staff returned to the Yale School of Music and Yale College to begin the spring semester. Twenty-four months after ground was broken, the complex is in use by the School of Music and by Yale College students who participate in the University’s undergraduate ensembles.

“The Adams Center for Musical Arts is a welcoming space and place for Yale’s musical community,” Yale School of Music Dean Robert Blocker said. “It was designed to enhance and enrich the creative, artistic, and intellectual process of making music together. Each space — from the smallest practice room to the beautiful ensemble halls and the student commons — was designed with the intent of supporting and sustaining the cherished musical culture that Yale has enjoyed for more than three centuries.”

Named for Stephen ’59BA and Denise Adams in recognition of their continued generosity and support of the Yale School of Music, the $57.1 million Adams Center for Musical Arts was made possible primarily through gifts from Yale alumni. The complex connects a newly renovated Hendrie Hall to the previously renovated Leigh Hall by way of a new structure that is anchored by a dedicated orchestra rehearsal room and an atrium in which students from the School of Music and Yale College can gather. MORE

Published January 17, 2017
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YSM musicians featured in Essex Winter Series program

purvis

YSM faculty hornist William Purvis

The Yale School of Music will be well-represented when the Essex Winter Series kicks off its 40th season on Sunday, Jan. 8. Along with YSM faculty hornist William Purvis, the series’ 2017 Fenton Brown Emerging Artists — percussionist Sam Um ’17MM, trumpet players Aaron Plourde ’17MMA and Nozomi Imamura ’17MM, trombonist Matthew Russo ’12MM, and tubist Joseph Guimaraes ’18MM — will perform an arrangement of Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man. Plourde, Purvis, and Russo will also perform as a trio on the program, which features an impressive roster of musicians and a diverse collection of works.

The mission of EWS is “to bring the finest music, in live performance, to the Connecticut River Valley and Shoreline Region during the winter months and to cultivate its appreciation to the widest audience,” according the the series’ website. The Emerging Artists program offers young, up-and-coming musicians the opportunity to perform in schools and retirement homes in the Connecticut River Valley and along the shoreline. MORE

Published January 7, 2017
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YSM guitarists launch record label, issue new releases

verdery_ben

Benjamin Verdery

In June, Elm City Records released new albums by Yale School of Music faculty member Benjamin Verdery and alumnus Solomon Silber ’14BA ’16MM. The record label was founded by the two guitarists as a platform for “giving the public so much more than a traditional CD,” Silber said. “That’s the new paradigm we’re trying to create.”

Four projects were released with the label’s launch: The Ben Verdery Guitar Project: On Vineyard Sound, which features music by Yale composers as well as a piece by Verdery himself; Silber’s latest release, Mano a Mano; a documentary film about Australian composer Nicole Murphy’s Stolen, a work written for Silber and chamber ensemble that was inspired by Richard James Allen’s poem A Scheme for Brightness; and a recording (with accompanying video) by Verdery’s students of Terry Riley’s Y Bolanzero. The label’s website also features audio clips, videos of Verdery and Silber performing music from their new albums, and extensive liner notes.

Two additional recordings by Silber, Diabolico and Waterfront Sessions, are also available through Elm City Records. MORE

Published July 27, 2016
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In memoriam: musicologist Philip F. Nelson

Philip Nelson

Philip Nelson | Photo by Eugene Cook, 1974

Musicologist and a former Dean of the Yale School of Music Philip F. Nelson died yesterday, June 10, 2016 at the age of 88. A native of Waseca, Minnesota, Nelson graduated with a B.A. degree in music composition from Grinnell College in Iowa in 1950, and an A.M. (1956) and Ph.D. (1958) in musicology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He also received the Diplôme of the Université de Paris in 1957, and studied conducting with M. Louis Forestier at the Conservatorie National de Paris at the time as a Fulbright Scholar.

Nelson was Chair of the music department at SUNY Binghamton from 1963, until his appointment as the Dean of Yale School of Music in 1970. Under Philip Nelson’s visionary leadership, the Yale School of Music began its transformation as a major professional music school. Among his distinguished faculty appointments were, Krzysztof Penderecki, Otto-Werner Mueller, Phyllis Curtin, and Claude Frank. The Tokyo String Quartet was named the artists-in-residence in 1976, and the quartet remained an integral part of the life and development of the School until its retirement from the international concert stage in 2013. MORE

Published June 11, 2016
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In memoriam: Phyllis Curtin, soprano

Phyllis Curtin

Phyllis Curtin

Renowned American soprano Phyllis Curtin passed away on Sunday, June 5 at age 94. From 1974 to 1983, she taught voice at the Yale School of Music, overseeing the opera program. Curtin also served as Master (now Head of College) of Branford College from 1979 to 1983. Curtin was the first female Master of Branford College.

During her career on the stage in the 1950s and 60s, Curtin performed for the New York City Opera, as well as in many world-renowned opera houses such as the Metropolitan Opera, the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Vienna State Opera, Covent Garden, and La Scala. Her repertoire included Verdi’s Violetta and Alice Ford, Strauss’ Salome, as well as Mozart’s heroines, for which she received much praise. The New York Times recently asserted that, “Ms. Curtin was noted for the purity of her voice, the sensitivity of her musical phrasing and the crystalline perfection of her diction.” MORE

Published June 11, 2016
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In memoriam: Robert E. Nagel Jr., trumpet

New York Brass Quintet From left: John Swallow, Allan Dean, Paul Ingraham, Robert Nagel, Thompson "Toby" Hanks

New York Brass Quintet
From left: John Swallow, Allan Dean, Paul Ingraham, Robert Nagel, Thompson “Toby” Hanks

Trumpeter Robert E. Nagel Jr. passed away on Sunday, June 5 at the age of 91. He was a member of the Yale School of Music faculty from 1957 to 1988, and was named Professor Emeritus in 1988.

He is best known as the founder and director of the renowned New York Brass Quintet. In addition to paving the way for brass chamber music, Nagel was an active and highly respected performer as well as a prolific composer. In 1959, Nagel founded a publishing company, Mentor Music, in an effort to make brass music more available to the public. He leaves a legacy of numerous seminal recordings such as the 1961 recording of L’Histoire Du Soldat (conducted by Igor Stravinsky) and Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 (conducted by Pablo Casals).
MORE

Published June 9, 2016
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