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Music in Schools Initiative

Class of 1957 celebrates Music in Schools Initiative with young students

Last Friday, while in town for their 55th reunion, members of the Yale College Class of 1957 had lunch with young students from New Haven's John C. Daniels School. The two groups joined together to celebrate YSM's Music in Schools Initiative, which is supported by the class.

Michael Yaffe, the associate dean of the School of Music, said to the class: "I was not at Yale when your class decided to support the School of Music in the creation of a series of music education activities. But I have always imagined the conversations amongst you all… Somehow the idea stuck, and an indenture was written, and money was raised."

The endowment established by the Class of ’57 provides for three components of the Music in Schools Initiative: YSM's programs in New Haven Public Schools; a biennial symposium for public school music teachers; and a series of visiting professors at the School of Music.

In his talk, Yaffe detailed the ways in which the gift from the Class of ’57 has changed lives.

"Your gift and support have changed the lives of many people through music: probably more people than you can imagine and probably in more ways than you would imagine.

First, within the School of Music.

As most of you know, our graduate students are invited to participate in the Music in Schools Initiative. They are trained and then placed with a music teacher in a New Haven Public School. In that role, they coach individual students, they conduct ensembles, they lead small groups, they practice with the students, and more basically they become role models and mentors for many kids from homes and lives that desperately need this kind of support and example. So it is obvious that this helps the young children from New Haven, but what has been surprising and exciting is how many of our young, pre-professional graduate students have altered their career course (or more likely expanded their career options) through the work they have done in the schools while at Yale. One of our graduates works in the Affiliate Artist Program of the New York Philharmonic, collaborating with classroom teachers in the New York Public Schools while also maintaining an active performance career in the city. Another five of our graduates have become certified teachers who now work full-time in the New Haven Public Schools. Still another started work in the El Sistema-like program in Hartford. These are just a few examples; there are many more. Our students have had their social consciences and their career options expanded in major ways because of your class. The programs we have created for graduate students have been a great addition to the activities available for students in the Yale School of Music.

But wait, there’s more.

We now have three Symposia under our belts. You remember, these are the biennial workshops at Yale in which we accept nominations nationally and invite 50 public school teachers to Yale to discuss innovative programs and ideas in the field of music education, and receive the Yale Distinguished Music Educator Awards. Thanks to your class, we have been able to recognize 150 of the best music teachers in our country, and have spread pride in the field because of the award. You should see the local newspaper articles about the music teachers who are recognized by Yale. It means so much to the teachers, and it does something that no one else is doing as effectively. We both recognize great teaching and have the opportunity to spread the word about our work at Yale and other good programs throughout the country. You will be happy to know that many music rooms around the country, have framed Certificates that say Yale Class of ’57 Distinguished Music Teacher Award.

Then there are the students of the urban and diverse School District of New Haven. This is arguably the most powerful and immediate impact that we all have.  Hundreds of students in New Haven at over fifteen schools have contact with our graduate students through their teaching. And the impact on the young students is as intense as the impact on our graduate students. At our largest site, the John C. Daniels School, the students thrive on the attention that we are able to give them. Your Class has made possible the development of many young musicians – students whose lives are better because active music making is part of it.

And the partnership with New Haven clearly works. A while ago we had consultants in to review our work in New Haven, and among other things, this is what they said:

The most consistent and impressive findings throughout the visit were a deep admiration for the program, a sense of appreciation to Yale as an institution and to the individuals that represent it, and the atmosphere of trust and candid communication between those representing YSM and the NHPS…. Rarely have we seen such a flourishing partnership. It is clear why all of its aspects are thriving in their ways, and what a rich opportunity exists for desired growth on every front.

In all of this, you, the members of the Class of ’57, are to be congratulated for your vision from more than ten years ago. You found out that music makes a difference in people’s lives, and you have helped the Yale School of Music to prove it in many ways.

But you know, my talking about it doesn’t really do it justice. So I brought along 25 New Haven public school musicians and three of our graduate student teaching artists – and our Lead Teacher, Mr. Ruben Rodriguez. They are going to play a bit for you and then they are going to come to talk to you, and you can ask them about the music in their lives. I think you will be thrilled to know what your gift has meant to these kids, and hundreds of others. The truth is, the Yale College Class of ’57 has changed many lives through music – of which you each should be justly proud."

The John C. Daniels Band then performed, and the members of the band met members of the Class of ’57.