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Students, Faculty + Alumni

Joseph Polisi '80DMA awarded Sanford Medal

At the Yale School of Music's 119th Commencement today, alumnus Joseph Polisi was awarded the Samuel Simons Sanford Medal. The highest honor bestowed by the School of Music, the medal is awarded for distinguished service to music.

Polisi was awarded the DMA degree from the Yale School of Music in 1980, after earning his MM (1973) and MMA (1975) degrees here as well. He also holds a degree in political science from the University of Connecticut and one in international relations from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

Joseph Polisi became the sixth president of The Juilliard School in 1984. An accomplished bassoonist, he has performed as both soloist and chamber musician throughout the United States, including performances at Alice Tully Hall, Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, and Avery Fisher Hall.

He has written many scholarly and educational articles for professional journals, is a frequent speaker on arts and education issues, has produced several recordings, primarily focusing on contemporary American music, and has recorded a solo album of twentieth-century bassoon music for Crystal Records. His first book, The Artist as Citizen, was published by Amadeus Press in January 2005. His most recent book, American Muse: The Life and Times of William Schuman – the first complete biography of the distinguished composer and arts administrator – was published by Amadeus Press in 2008.

Polisi, in an article published in 2010, was called "a twenty-first century visionary" who is "a fierce proponent of the arts, an author, a teacher, and a performer." The authors also called him a "man of industry, polish, and genuine human warmth." For more information on Dr. Polisi, read his biography HERE.

The Sanford Medal is named for Samuel Simons Sanford (1849–1910), a pianist and educator. He joined the Yale music faculty in 1894 and served on the faculty for sixteen years. Sanford was instrumental in the establishment of the School of Music within Yale University. He was also a proponent of the music of Edward Elgar, and his efforts contributed to Elgar's receiving an honorary doctorate from Yale in 1905. At the conferral ceremony in Woolsey Hall, Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 was performed: it was the beginning of the tradition of having that piece and similar processionals performed at graduation ceremonies.