Yale Alumni Magazine
By Mark Alden Branch ’86
Even though keeping up with Yale is my job, I'm frequently surprised to discover something going on here that I didn't know about—something that is quietly doing a lot of good and improving a lot of lives. This summer, that something is the Morse Summer Music Academy, an intensive four-week music program for New Haven public-school students run by the School of Music. (My sixth-grader is one of the 78 students at this year's academy.)
Students at Morse (which is named for donors Enid Morse and Lester Morse ’51, who endowed the program) are selected by audition from among instrumentalists in grades 5–11 who play in their school bands or string ensembles. They spend five days a week in ear-training classes, private lessons, rehearsals for large and small ensembles, and twice-a-week recitals in Sprague Hall. There are also a few field trips, including a day at Yale's chamber music festival in Norfolk, Connecticut. And—remarkably—it's all tuition-free.
I probably don't have to spell out for you the benefits for the students: rehearsal and performance time equivalent to a whole semester in their school programs, the chance to play next to the best of their peers in New Haven, and exposure to the vibrant musical culture at the music school.
And what's in it for the music school? Morse Academy director Rubén Rodriguez says it's all about training School of Music students for their professional lives. Of the academy's 24 teaching artists, 21 are Yale music students or recent alumni. (The others are New Haven public-school music teachers.) As more professional musicians and orchestras see outreach as part of their mission, Rodriguez explains, Morse and the programs in Yale's Music in Schools Initiative help music-school students "build a better model of urban education."
The Music in Schools Initiative (funded by an endowment from the Yale College Class of 1957) brings Yale music students into New Haven public schools as assistant teachers, supports All-City honors band, chorus, and orchestra programs, and stages an annual Young Artists solo competition. I know I'm not the only parent who's wowed by this bounty.