Convocation 2017 defines YSM as place for “Music Among Friends”

School of Music Dean Robert Blocker often describes music as “the currency of hope” and has long championed the School’s commitment to inclusivity and diversity. That commitment was reiterated emphatically on Thursday night in his 2017 Convocation speech, “Music Among Friends,” in which he celebrated “courage, inclusivity and diversity, connectedness, tolerance and respect, and compassion.” Upon its founding, he said, “the School of Music opened wide its doors and heart to all those who brought their gifts of talent and intellectual curiosity to campus.” Today, Blocker pointed out, the School stands in solidarity with those whose place in our community hangs in the balance.

“All of us bring anxieties, concerns, and even fears about the human condition to this room tonight,” he told new and returning students, faculty, staff, alumni, and guests, “for we live in a time in which human dignity and indeed humanity are being assaulted throughout the world. Nothing, I think, is as incomprehensible and unimaginable as the vengeful rescindment of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, known as DACA. Now, these young people we call Dreamers live with fear rather than hope. This action touches our community profoundly because we are witnesses to the deep grief and stressful uncertainty these Dreamers and their families suddenly face. I do believe reasonable and compassionate leaders among us hear and feel the anguished cries of Dreamers and that they, with our encouragement and support, will find a way to keep their American dream alive.”

Connecting YSM’s values to its mission, Blocker said, “music teaches us that every voice is distinct and important, that each is necessary for harmony, and that is precisely why we know that our combined voices will help repair our troubled world.”

Following University Provost Benjamin Polak’s installation of the incoming class, whose members come from five continents, 25 countries, 26 states, and 58 institutions, Convocation attendees sang Schubert’s An die Musik (with Franz von Schober’s text, as translated by YSM faculty bass-baritone Richard Cross), as is School tradition. Blocker then delivered his remarks before introducing the faculty, alumni, and current students who performed as part of the ceremony.

Violinist Daniel S. Lee ’06MM ’08AD, a newly appointed faculty member in early music whose ensemble, The Sebastians, is in residence at the Yale Collection of Musical Instruments, performed Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber’s Sonata No. 3 in F major, C. 140 (from Sonatae, violino solo) with faculty harpsichordist Arthur Haas. Bass-baritone Dashon Burton ’11MM sang “Grosser Herr, o starker König,” from Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, BWV 248, and “Mache dich, mein Herze rein,” from the St. Matthew Passion, BWV 244, with pianist David Fung ’11MM ’13MMA ’17DMA. And violinist Sirena Huang ’19AD performed Tchaikovsky’s Valse-Scherzo, Op. 34, with pianist Lam Wong ’18MM.

The performances added punctuation to Blocker’s remarks, which concluded with him telling members of the incoming class that “here at YSM, you will experience fully the gift that is ‘Music Among Friends,’ and encouraging all in attendance, referencing a favorite story about Robert Louis Stevenson, to “take hope, and make holes in the dark with the beauty and light of your music.”

Photos by Harold Shapiro

Published September 8, 2017
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Dean Robert Blocker Announces YSM Jazz Initiative

blockerI am pleased to announce that an anonymous gift will enable the School of Music to continue and expand its legacy of jazz studies at Yale. This initiative will also strengthen our collaborative efforts with the Yale College Dean’s Office and the Department of Music, as well as the New Haven community.

Professor Thomas C. Duffy has accepted the responsibility of administrative oversight for this initiative. As we announced in April, the Yale Jazz Ensemble, which had to be suspended two years ago due to a lack of qualified players and adequate rehearsal space, will be reconstituted this fall under Tom’s direction. The School of Music has provided modest support for the Yale Jazz Ensemble through the years, though it had until now been an extracurricular undergraduate organization. Going forward, the group will be open to all Yale students. Tom will announce auditions in the near future.

Other aspects of this initiative include an improvisation course that will be taught by Grammy Award-winning jazz saxophonist Wayne Escoffery. Undergraduate jazz combos will be auditioned and coached by professional jazz artists, including Mr. Escoffery. We are currently in conversations with some of these individuals and will announce their names when appointments are finalized. Additionally, distinguished saxophonist Carrie Koffman will teach private lessons in saxophone. These new colleagues will help us build on the School’s rich history of jazz education, which began nearly fifty years ago. MORE

Published July 29, 2016
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[ faculty in the press ]

Neighborhood Music School’s Youth Orchestra names new conductor

Thomas DuffyNew Haven Register | June 25

Neighborhood Music School’s Greater New Haven Youth Orchestra has named its new conductor.

Thomas C. Duffy, professor of music and director of university bands at Yale University will succeed Netta Hadari, who served as conductor of the Youth Orchestra for the past five years, according to a release from the school.

“What an honor to be invited to be the next in a long line of distinguished conductors of the Greater New Haven Youth Orchestra,” Duffy said in the release. “For most of my life I have enjoyed conducting professional and academic orchestras and wind bands all over the world. But there is something special about the process of introducing pre-college musicians to the challenges and delights of performing major repertoire — Beethoven, Brahms, Stravinsky, Elgar, Britten and others — for the very first time.” MORE

Published July 2, 2015
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[ events ]

Haiti’s Minister of Culture visits Yale

On Wednesday, May 6, Dithny Joan Raton, Haiti’s Minister of Culture, and her delegation met with Dean Robert Blocker and Thomas C. Duffy. The group discussed music in Haiti as well as Yale’s possible involvement in the reconstruction of their music infrastructure.

Haiti-Minister-of-Culture

Photo by Ifeanyi Awachie

MORE

Published May 12, 2015
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[ in the press ]

YDN: Yale groups to perform with Grammy Award-winning artist

This weekend, members of three Yale musical ensembles will have the chance to perform with a Grammy Award-winning artist.

Singer, author and women’s rights activist Angélique Kidjo will be doing a benefit concert for the Yale Africa Initiative Student Scholarship with members of the Yale Concert Band, Yale Percussion and Shades this Saturday. Kidjo is scheduled to perform five of her songs with various combinations of the ensembles that will accompany her. Yale Concert Band Director Thomas Duffy highlighted the diversity of musical influences that is reflected in Kidjo’s music, adding that the concert will be a rare opportunity for Yale student musicians to perform with a widely renowned artist.

“This is a world-class figure, the Bob Dylan of Africa,” Duffy said. MORE

Published December 5, 2014
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[ ghana tour ]

CS Monitor: Yale musicians study West Africa’s drumbeats, a village at a time

IMG_6474-dance2Christian Science Monitor 
By Chris Stein, Correspondent

ACCRA, GHANA — In Ghana, traditional drumming continues to play an important role in public and private life – despite the modernization taking place all over West Africa.

When newlyweds leave wedding chapels, or when the president calls on parliament, or when foreign dignitaries arrive at high-profile conferences, drummers are often there to pound out a welcoming beat.

In fishing and farming villages, traditional drumming and dancing is still part of the send-off that men get to war, or in the welcoming of newborn babies.

So when Yale University’s percussion group headed to visit towns and villages on Ghana’s central coast last month, they came not just to drum, but to document. MORE

Published July 2, 2014
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[ in the press ]

52 from Yale feel the beat — and heat — in Ghana trip

IMG_4803New Haven Register
By Joe Amarante

Yale Director of Bands Thomas Duffy returned from a momentous 12-day trip to Ghana with 51 students and Yale band and School of Music staffers on June 1, threw out all his clothes from the trip and left a day later for a week in China.

We should explain.

Duffy led 41 student members of the Yale Concert Band, six Yale Percussion Group grad students, three documentarians and a staff member on 12 days of cultural exchange, musical research and community service in the African country of Ghana.

The delegation studied, performed and recorded traditional drumming and dance pieces with Ghanaian master drummers, the first time that some of the pieces have been performed in decades. MORE

Published June 18, 2014
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[ faculty ]

How grace notes and timpani can teach you to detect abnormal sounds in the body

Thomas DuffyYale-China Review
Spring 2014

Yale-China will convene a conference titled “Looking is Not Seeing and Listening is Not Hearing” at Xiangya School of Medicinte from June 4–6, 2014 based on the cross-discipline research of Yale professors Linda H. Pellico from Yale School of Nursing and Thomas C. Duffy from the Yale School of Music. The report below describes the research that serves as the basis for the conference

Most people are happy to tell you the name of their current favorite song. If you prod them,  some will sing a few bars of the chorus or verse of the: song. Even if they are in a crowded mall full of random sounds, ears will immediately prick up when those first familiar notes cut through the cacophony. MORE

Published June 12, 2014
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[ events ]

Accra applauds Ghana-Yale Nkonsonkonson “Unity” Concert

IMG_4462-riffs

NSO Ghana, Yale Concert Band, Yale Percussion Group

Tonight, the Yale Club of Ghana and the Association of Yale Alumni presented a Nkonsonkonson “Unity” Concert at the National Theatre in Accra. The concert, which was a benefit for the Ghana-Yale Partnership for Global Health, brought together the National Symphony Orchestra of Ghana, the Yale Concert Band, and the Yale Percussion Group.

After the Yale Concert Band (YCB) opened with Rossini’s William Tell Overture, the event featured welcome remarks from Dr. Elijah Paintsil, a member of the Yale School of Medicine faculty and a co-founder of the Ghana-Yale Partnership for Global Health; Nachilala Nkombo, Deputy Director of the ONE Campaign, Africa; a representative from IBM, a partner in the medical initiative; and a representative from the Office of the President of Ghana. MORE

Published May 23, 2014
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[ ghana trip ]

National Symphony Orchestra of Ghana and Yale ensembles perform benefit concert Friday, May 23

national-theatre

National Theatre, Accra

Tonight the Yale Concert Band and Yale Percussion Group will join with the National Symphony Orchestra of Ghana (NSO) to perform a Nkonsonkonson “Unity” Concert at the National Theatre in Accra.

The event is a benefit for the Ghana-Yale Partnership for Global Health, which aims to eliminate mother-to-child  transmission of HIV.  MORE

Published May 23, 2014
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