Alumna Olivia Malin ’07MM, on choosing a career as a music educator

Olivia Malin works with students at KAPPA International High School

Trumpeter Olivia Malin ’07MM, who studied with Allan Dean and worked in the Music in Schools Initiative during her time at YSM, is entering her 11th year as a public-school music educator and teaches at KAPPA International High School in the Bronx, New York. Malin spoke with us recently about being inspired, as a student, to pursue a career in education despite the pressure she felt to focus on performance.

Q: You were a Teaching Artist in YSM’s Music in Schools Initiative. How did that program prepare you for what you’re doing now at KAPPA International High School?
A: While I was a student at YSM, I was also working in the Music in Schools Initiative. At first I stayed firmly in my comfort zone, teaching elementary/middle school brass group lessons. Midyear, I was branching out to woodwinds and percussion, and in the spring, I was running full band rehearsals when the band director wanted to do isolated lessons himself. I also began working with first- to third-graders learning piano and guitar. My second year in the program, I was placed at a high school where I got the opportunity to teach higher-level lessons and music, and to assist teaching AP music theory. The varied placement over those two years gave me a significant taste of what teaching K-12 would be like, with significant hours teaching piano, guitar, band, and general music classes. Even more important, the program was the first exposure that opened my eyes to what urban schools need, and what they don’t need, from me. At KAPPA, I now teach rock band, guitar, IB music, band, beginner band, and chorus – and I have also taught piano and general music – so the majority of classes I helped with at YSM are in fact what I teach full-time now.

Q: Did you know or think, upon enrolling at Yale, that you’d become a music teacher?
A: I have always taught private trumpet lessons, but no, I never thought I would be a full-time music teacher. We all know the stigma that exists about music teaching, and I admit I used to believe that only those performers who weren’t very good would end up as educators. It’s an easy thing to believe, since once a person becomes a teacher, it’s pretty difficult to maintain a high level of performance on their instrument, and most people don’t see the “performance level” of teaching. It’s hidden in the classroom – your audience is 30 students who don’t always applaud. One of the most difficult barriers I broke through was deciding that public-school teaching would be a higher calling than performing. There is so much outside pressure in the performance world not to become a teacher, and that pressure shows up constantly in little ways from friends, teachers, family, and the general public.

[Prof. Dean, Malin said, “is a wonderful teacher who taught me well and supported me through this decision to switch to teaching, something I think not all professors would be able to do.”] 

Q: What informed your decision to transition from focusing on performance to focusing on education?
A: What I started noticing was that my levels of happiness and self-worth after teaching at Lincoln-Bassett School or Wilbur Cross High School were significantly higher than those after an orchestral rehearsal or concert. I also noticed that I looked forward to being around the students – learning from them and laughing with them as much as teaching them content – much more than I expected. Their energy in the band room was so fresh and vibrant that I wanted more and more hours teaching in the program, and I spent extra time there after my paid time expired. The real moment, however, was when Associate Dean Michael Yaffe approached me sitting in (operations manager) Tara Deming’s office one day. He started talking about me to other people in the office, about what great teaching looked like and that he saw amazing potential in me when he saw how I lit up around students. In that short conversation, I saw something in myself that had until that point been a hobby, something I was good at and made a little money at, but which had never been a true option. Hearing him say those things out loud suddenly gave the green light to a career I hadn’t realized was a possibility – and a highly respectable possibility validated by the associate dean.

Q: What would you tell incoming YSM students who’re starting to think about what their careers might look like after school?
A: Be open to absolutely anything, say yes to everything, and be professional constantly. The music scene for you can be a combination of so many fulfilling things that it makes no sense to pigeonhole yourself early on. Don’t rule anything out simply because of generalizations – they may not apply to you! I am going into my 11th year of public school teaching. I am a proud high-school teacher in the Bronx and a trumpet player in a salsa band in Manhattan – and I wouldn’t change anything about my life.

Published August 1, 2017
Share This Comments

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
Share This Comments

Yaffe receives sustainability award, Purrington debuts “A Clarion Call”

YSM Associate Dean Michael Yaffe

Yale School of Music Associate Dean Michael Yaffe received a Certificate of Outstanding Recognition on Friday, April 21, from Yale University’s Office of Sustainability. Yaffe was recognized at the 2017 “State of Sustainability” Breakfast for his dedication to championing “inclusion and justice” at YSM, in the local community, and beyond.

“Michael Yaffe has worked to enrich the New Haven schools through the Music in Schools Initiative,” Office of Sustainability Director Ginger Chapman said.

According to language on its website, the Office of Sustainability’s mission “is to advance sustainability within the Yale community by acting as a catalyst for information exchange and facilitating capacity building, innovation, streamlined operations, and preparation of tomorrow’s sustainability leaders.”

“A city that provides families with active music-making is a more cohesive city,” Yaffe said. “Music is an emotional language that gives meaning to society and has the potential to bring confidence and commitment” to conversations such as those about health, equity, and future generations. MORE

Published April 21, 2017
Share This Comments

2016 Music in Schools Winter Festival

IMG_5851For 120 New Haven Public Schools students, vacation from school doesn’t mean taking a break from music.  During the NHPS Winter Break (Feb. 16-19), the Music in Schools Initiative hosted its annual Winter Festival for students across New Haven.  Nineteen Yale School of Music graduate students participated as Teaching Artists, providing instrument-specific instruction, leading sectionals and ensembles, and developing close relationships with their students.

MORE

Published March 3, 2016
Share This Comments

[ music in schools ]

Morse Summer Music Academy expands concert series

Morse 2014 044The Morse Summer Music Academy, a partnership between the Yale School of Music and the New Haven Public Schools, is currently taking place on the YSM campus and at Cooperative Arts & Humanities High School. With a total of 142 students from 27 schools, this year’s Academy is bigger than ever.

Accordingly, Morse Academy has expanded its concert series to include a total of 38 concerts throughout the program. This includes a series of chamber music pop-up concerts that will take place simultaneously at four different locations on Yale’s campus: the Peabody Museum, Yale University Art Gallery, and Cross Campus, as well as the New Haven Free Public Library downtown.

These concerts will take place every Thursday and Friday afternoon during the program—July 9, 10, 16, 17, 23, 24, 30, and 31—starting at 1:00pm. Each will feature 5-6 student chamber ensembles, with groups rotating between the different venues each day. MORE

Published July 9, 2015
Share This Comments

[ music in schools ]

Sixth Morse Summer Music Academy begins Monday, July 6

Morse 2014 278On Monday, July 6, the Yale School of Music will welcome 142 young musicians to the fifth Morse Summer Music Academy, which will take place July 6–31, 2015.

The Morse Summer Music Academy provides free, comprehensive music instruction to New Haven Public School music students. In the intensive, four-week program, each student has a weekly private lesson and takes part in scheduled daily chamber music lessons, ensemble rehearsals, workshops, and master classes. Field trips include museums and galleries as well as the Yale Summer School of Music/Norfolk Chamber Music Festival in northwest Connecticut.

The most significant addition to this year’s Morse Academy programming is the addition of a choral program. With 16 new students and 3 new teaching artists, the choral program will also include daily classes, rehearsals, and chamber music study. Many students focusing on instrumental study will also be able to spend part of the day singing with the chorus.

MORE

Published July 2, 2015
Share This Comments

[ music in schools ]

Solo Showcase to feature young New Haven musicians

2014 Solo Competition 111The Music in Schools Initiative proudly announces the 2015 Yale/New Haven Young Artists Solo Showcase, taking place May 19–21 from 6-8pm in Morse Recital Hall. The showcase, a collaboration between the Yale School of Music and the New Haven Public Schools, offers top-performing young students the chance to perform on the YSM stage in front of their peers and community members, as representatives of their schools. The students are selected by their school music teachers and perform with accompaniment from a Yale School of Music pianist.

MORE

Published May 13, 2015
Share This Comments

[ music in schools ]

Applications open for 2014-15 All-City Honors Ensembles

The Music in Schools Initiative is pleased to invite applications for the 2014–2015 All-City Honors Ensembles. The All-City Honors Band, Chorus, and Orchestra are open for application to New Haven Public School students in 5th–12th grades. These groups meet weekly during the school year, and are taught by a combination of NHPS music teachers, Yale Teaching Artists, and special guests.

Applications are now open. All students must apply online by Sunday, October 12 using the appropriate form linked below.

MORE

Published September 25, 2014
Share This Comments

[ music in schools ]

Four NHPS students receive instruments from Music in Schools Initiative

This summer, during a Morse Summer Music Academy concert, the Music in Schools Initiative awarded four students with brand-new instruments in honor of their hard work and dedication to the program. The instruments were paid for by the John Miller Instrument Fund.

Morse 2014 271The four students, along with their current school enrollments, are:

Jordan Lampo, percussion (11th grade, Wilbur Cross High School)
Joseline Tlacomulco, clarinet (12th grade, Co-Op High School)
Justin Lewis, baritone saxophone (12th grade, Co-Op High School)
Richard Romero, alto saxophone (Freshman, University of New Haven)

MORE

Published September 11, 2014
Share This Comments

[ music in schools ]

Fifth Morse Summer Music Academy begins July 7

On Monday, July 7, the Yale School of Music will welcome eighty-eight young participants to the fifth Morse Summer Music Academy, which will take place July 7–August 1, 2014.

AKW_9655The Morse Summer Music Academy provides free, comprehensive music instruction to New Haven Public School music students. In the intensive, four-week program, each student has a weekly private lesson and takes part in scheduled daily individual practice, ensemble rehearsals, workshops, and master classes. Field trips include museums and galleries as well as the Yale Summer School of Music/Norfolk Chamber Music Festival in northwest Connecticut.

The most significant addition to this year’s Morse Academy programming is a series of chamber music pop-up concerts at Yale locations like the Peabody Museum, Yale University Art Gallery, and Cross Campus. These concerts will take place every Thursday and Friday afternoon during the program—July 10, 11, 17, 18, 24, 25, and 31—starting at 1:00pm. The public is welcome to attend these afternoon concerts, as well as the more formal evening concerts in Sprague Hall on Monday and Wednesday evenings—July 14, 16, 21, 23, 28, and 30—at 6:00pm. All concerts are free to attend. (Cost of museum admission still applies.)

MORE

Published July 2, 2014
Share This Comments