The Yale School of Music is pleased to announce the launch of its first massive open online course (MOOC), “Music and Social Action.” Taught by MacArthur Fellow Sebastian Ruth, the course asks vital questions about musicians’ responses to the condition of the world.
Sebastian Ruth is the founder and artistic director of Community MusicWorks, a nationally-recognized organization that connects professional musicians with urban youth and families in Providence, Rhode Island. It has been hailed as a “revolutionary organization” by the New Yorker and in 2010 received the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award, conferred by First Lady Michelle Obama. Ruth has received a “genius” grant from the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship for “creating rewarding musical experiences for often-forgotten populations and forging a new, multifaceted role beyond the concert hall for the twenty-first-century musician.”
Community MusicWorks was the inspiration for New Haven's own Music Haven, which provides free instruments, lessons, classes, and ensemble and leadership development opportunities to young people (ages 6–18) from low-income New Haven neighborhoods.
Sebastian Ruth's free online course offers students around the world an opportunity to learn from this leading educator and thinker. The multimedia course includes not only thoughtfully crafted lectures and engaging assignments but also historical photos and audio clips. The course asks vital questions such as: Do musicians have an obligation and an opportunity to serve the needs of the world with their musicianship? Are we looking at a dying art form or a moment of re-invigoration? The course itself, as well as the impact of organizations such as Community MusicWorks and Music Haven, argues the case for re-invigoration.
Sebastian Ruth is the Yale College Class of 1957 Visiting Professor of Community Engagement at the Yale School of Music. His appointment is part of the Music in Schools Initiative (MISI), an ongoing program of activities that include educational collaborations with the New Haven Public Schools, a biennial Symposium on Music in Schools, and the Morse Summer Music Academy, in addition to the visiting faculty post. As part of the Music in Schools Initiative, numerous graduate teaching artists work with full-time certified music teachers in the New Haven Public Schools and teach in the All-City Honors Ensembles and other after-school programs.
Course Description: Music and Social Action
What is a musician’s response to the condition of the world? Do musicians have an obligation and an opportunity to serve the needs of the world with their musicianship? At a time of crisis for the classical music profession, with a changing commercial landscape, a shrinking audience base, and a contraction in the number of professional orchestras, how does a young musician construct a career today? Are we looking at a dying art form or a moment of re-invigoration? In this course we will develop a response to these questions, and we will explore the notion that the classical musician, the artist, is an important public figure with a critical role to play in society.
The course will include inquiry into a set of ideas in philosophy of aesthetics; a discussion about freedom, civil society, and ways that art can play a role in readying people for democracy; discussion on philosophy of education as it relates to the question of positive social change; and an exploration of musical and artistic initiatives that have been particularly focused on a positive social impact. Guiding questions for this course inquiry will include: How can classical music effect social change? How has music made positive change in communities around the globe? What can the field of classical music learn from other movements for social change? How have educators and philosophers thought about the arts and their connection to daily contemporary life?
Each class will explore one critical question through lectures, discussions, interviews, or documentaries.
About Sebastian Ruth
Sebastian Ruth is the Founder and Artistic Director of Community MusicWorks, a nationally recognized organization that connects professional musicians with urban youth and families in Providence, Rhode Island. Community MusicWorks has been called a “revolutionary organization” (The New Yorker) that builds cohesive urban community—through music education and performance—that transforms the lives of children, families, and musicians in underserved urban neighborhoods of Providence, RI. CMW’s programming includes a full season of chamber music performances and commissions by its twelve musicians in residence and guest artists; a free, robust music education program for 125 neighborhood young people; workshops, student concerts, and community dinners that involve families and the wider community; and fellowships and training programs that prepare a next generation of musicians to pursue socially-engaged music making.
As an active performing violinist and violist, Sebastian has performed in recent seasons in Providence, Boston, Los Angeles, Banff, and New York. Sebastian has collaborated with the Borromeo, Kronos, Muir, Miro, Orion, and Turtle Island String Quartets; pianist Jonathan Biss, violist Kim Kashkashian, oboist Frank Rosenwein, and violinist Jonathan Gandelsman of the Silk Road Project.
Sebastian graduated from Brown University in 1997, where he worked closely with education scholars Theodore Sizer, Mary Ann Clark, and Reginald Archambault on a project exploring the relationship between moral education and music, and with members of the Charleston String Quartet in Brown’s chamber music program. Influential music teachers have included Michele Auclair, Lois Finkel, Pamela Gearhart, Kim Kashkashian, Eric Rosenblith, Rolfe Sokol, and Mela Tenenbaum.
Since 2013, Sebastian has served as a Visiting Lecturer at the Yale School of Music, designing and teaching courses on the connection between music and civil society. Sebastian serves on the advisory boards of the Sphinx Organization and of Music Haven, a non-profit organization in New Haven, Connecticut modeled after Community MusicWorks. In 2010, Sebastian visited the White House to receive the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award from First Lady Michele Obama on behalf of Community MusicWorks. In 2012, Sebastian received an honorary doctorate in music from Brown University, and was named by Strings Magazine as among the 25 most influential people in the string music world.
Sebastian is a recipient of the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship for “creating rewarding musical experiences for often-forgotten populations and forging a new, multifaceted role beyond the concert hall for the twenty-first-century musician.”