Merz Trio is a winner of the Concert Artists Guild competition

The Merz Trio. Photo by Nile Scott

The Merz Trio, which includes pianist and Yale School of Music alumnus Lee Dionne ’11BA ’13MM ’14MMA ’19DMA, violinist Brigid Coleridge, and cellist Julia Yang, was named a winner of the 2019 Concert Artists Guild Victor Elmaleh Competition. The other winners were cellist Jamal Aliyev, violist Jordan Bak, and recorder player Tabea Debus.

“Each of the winners receives management contracts with CAG, including performance opportunities with more than 40 leading orchestras, concert series, and festivals, as well as a New York showcase performance and professional career development and coaching,” according to the organization’s news release. Application materials for this year’s competition required “a general statement of your artistic intent. This should also include how you plan to use your art to make an impact outside the concert hall.”

The Merz Trio, which won first prize at the 2019 Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition, “is passionate about connecting with diverse audiences through innovative concerts, multidisciplinary projects, and interactive performances,” the group’s website indicates. The trio’s work has been supported in part by Entrepreneurial Musicianship grants from the New England Conservatory, where it is in residence. The Merz Trio was formed in 2017 and won the Lerman Gold Prize and Audience Choice Award at the 2018 Chesapeake Chamber Music Competition in Easton, Maryland.

Lee Dionne. Photo courtesy of the artist

A founding member of the Merz Trio, Dionne has performed as a chamber musician and as a soloist in venues around the world and has recorded for MSR Classics and Naxos Records. He is a core member of Cantata Profana along with several fellow Yale alumni including violinist Jacob Ashworth ’13MM ’14MMA ’18DMA, cellist Hannah Collins ’06BS ’08MM ’09AD, clarinetist Gleb Kanasevich ’13MM, stage director Ethan Heard ’07BA ’13MFA, guitarist Arash Noori ’12MM ’13AD, percussionist Doug Perry ’14AD, soprano Annie Rosen ’08BA ’12MM, composer-pianist Daniel Schlosberg ’10BA ’13MM ’14MMA ’18DMA, and bass-baritone John Taylor Ward ’12MM ’13MMA ’17DMA.

In addition to degrees earned at the Yale School of Music, Dionne has a soloist diploma from the Hochschule für Musik, Theater und Medien Hannover, and an undergraduate degree in literature from Yale College.

The final round of the 2019 CAG competition took place on October 6, 2019, at Merkin Concert Hall at the Kaufman Music Center in New York City. Numerous YSM alumni have been among the winners of the CAG competition over the past decade. These include percussionist Mitya (Dmitrii) Nilov ’18MM; pianist Dominic Cheli ’16MM; guitarist Jiji (Jiyeon Kim) ’17MM; double bassist Samuel Suggs ’14MM ’20DMA; violinists Katie Hyun ’09AD and David Southorn ’09MM ’10AD, and cellist Mihai Marica ’04CERT ’08AD of the Amphion Quartet; violinist Sami Merdinian ’06MM ’07AD of Sybarite5; and violinist Sarah McElravy ’12AD, violist Eric Wong ’12AD, and cellist Felix Umansky ’12AD of the Linden String Quartet. The Argus Quartet, which served from 2015 to 2017 as YSM’s fellowship quartet-in-residence, was a CAG competition winner in 2017. The competition has been held since the early 1950s.

The Yale Daily News recently published a piece about the Merz Trio. Read it here.

MERZ TRIO

LEE DIONNE

Published October 17, 2019
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Faculty tubist Carol Jantsch, on exploration and perpetual study

Carol Jantsch

In 2006, Carol Jantsch was named Principal Tubist of the Philadelphia Orchestra. She further explains on her website that “she won the position during her senior year at the University of Michigan, becoming the first female tuba player in a major symphony orchestra.” We reached out to Jantsch, who joined the Yale School of Music faculty in 2012, to talk about teaching, arranging music for her instrument, and musical pursuits beyond her work with the Philadelphia Orchestra.

Q: When, where, and how did you choose the tuba—or did the instrument choose you? I know your family is quite musical. Were you encouraged to pursue music as a field of study and a profession?

A: My mom forced me to start piano lessons when I was 6, and she sent me and my brother to Interlochen Arts Camp a few years later. That first summer at Interlochen I took a class called “Instrument Exploration,” where we were introduced to all the instruments and chose one to learn. I wanted something weird and different, so the euphonium fit the bill perfectly. I made the switch to tuba a few years later, when I was around 12 years old.

Q: To what extent have you learned through teaching? In other words, to what degree has working with students informed your approach to the instrument? In what ways have you grown as a musician since 2006?

A: Teaching forces you to put your values and techniques into words, and this process has been hugely educational for me. I always had strong opinions about how I wanted to sound, but now my ideas have more clarity and refinement. I’m also much more conscious of how I’m doing what I’m doing from having to explain it to others.

I feel very fortunate to have come of age as a member of the Philadelphia Orchestra. I’m constantly drawing inspiration from my amazing colleagues, and I absolutely believe that I’m a much better musician for getting to hear them for the past 13 years.

Q: I’m always curious to learn about an artist’s routines. How do you juggle individual practice, arranging, rehearsing with the orchestra and other groups, teaching, recording, and other aspects of your life?

A: I get a lot of emails and arranging done on the train to Yale!

The orchestra is and always will be my primary focus; I’m very grateful to have such a wonderful job, and it’s also the thing that enables me to do everything else. I’ll definitely get more practice time when the orchestra is playing “New World” Symphony than I will in a Mahler week, and the time for other projects ebbs and flows with my Philadelphia Orchestra responsibilities. While it can be hectic to have so many side projects, I think it’s important to make the time for them because they keep me growing as a musician and person.

Q: With limited repertoire composed specifically for tuba, you necessarily perform a good number of arrangements. How do you go about choosing which pieces to arrange for your instrument—what are the important considerations beyond a desire to play a particular piece? How much do you and your students discuss and work on arranging?

A: Just like teaching, arranging has had a profound influence on my musicianship. Arranging a piece of music is like solving a puzzle: How do you fundamentally change the nature of something while still capturing the essence of the original? What specifically makes Beethoven sound like Beethoven, or Led Zeppelin sound like Led Zeppelin—and then how do I preserve that when I write for tubas?! They’re fun questions to tackle, and I think having that sense of the big picture is really helpful as a performer. I find it so helpful in fact that I’ve started requiring my students to create at least one transcription or arrangement for their graduation recital.

Q: Is Tubular currently active? If so, what’s your set list like?

A: Yes we are! For the uninitiated, Tubular is my cover band comprised of two euphoniums, two tubas, drums, and all of us do vocals. In September, we performed the entire Beatles album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band—that was a pretty epic night. But normally our shows span a lot of eras and styles—Queen, Beyoncé, the Jackson 5, Bruno Mars, the Eagles, Kesha, Flight of the Conchords, really anything we think will be awesome and/or hilarious. I’m currently working on a ’70s rock medley that will include Styx, Heart, AC/DC, and more …

What have you been listening to and reading lately?

I’ve been on a classic rock kick because of my current arranging project! Spotify makes some pretty great playlists, and the one called “Classic Rock Workout” is pretty much solid gold; exercise or not, I highly recommend it.

Faculty tubist Carol Jantsch will perform a free Faculty Artist Series recital on Sunday, Oct. 13, at 3 p.m., in Morse Recital Hall. 

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Published October 9, 2019
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Sir Jonathan Mills to host public lectures at Yale fall 2019

Sir Jonathan Mills. Photo by Seamus McGarvey

Sir Jonathan Mills will present a series of three lectures in October 2019. Mills, who is known for his directorship, from 2006 until 2014, of the internationally celebrated Edinburgh International Festival, has also led prestigious festivals in his native Australia and is recognized around the world for his thought-provoking compositions. Mills holds a bachelor of music degree in composition from the University of Sydney and a master of architecture degree from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. He was appointed Officer of the Order of Australia in 2011 and knighted in 2013.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

“Culture and Well-being: Connections Between Health and Music”

Yale School of Public Health
This event is by invitation only

How can culture contribute to the health and well-being of human society? The sustainable provision of health care is of vital concern for governments around the world. A growing body of neurological and clinical research indicates that participation in cultural activity offers long-lasting benefits for a range of medical conditions. How can the social and economic benefits of the arts be understood and implemented by policy makers, commercial medical insurers, and clinical practitioners? How can the arts improve health outcomes for traditionally marginalized or neglected communities?

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Classical Traditions: The Many Rather than the Few

Yale School of Music, Leigh Hall, Room 211
11 a.m. | Free and open to the Yale community

The past millennium has been dominated by European science and technology, culture, and philosophy. There is some plausible speculation that an era of European hegemony might possibly be drawing to a close.

We have already begun to enter historical period in which no single culture, ideology, theocracy, or politics will be all pervasive or dominant. We are now living in a world in which knowledge comes simultaneously from various, divergent technological, ethical, cultural, and philosophical sources and locations.

In an era increasingly concerned with the politics of identity, at a time of heightened sensitivity about the social and cultural implications of certain dominant hegemonies, is it not time to celebrate, in a spirit of curiosity and generosity, the existence of many diverse and unique classical artistic traditions, rather than continue to assert the primacy of a single tradition?

 Monday, October 21, 2019

Managing the Art of the Unexpected

Yale School of Music, Leigh Hall, Room 402
4:30 p.m. | Free and open to the Yale community

How does one respond to a passionate and heartfelt demand by a group of highly motivated members of the public to cancel a tour, by an ensemble from a country whose government engages in widely acknowledged and highly controversial policies, when one is directing an international festival that the tour is slated to visit? In such circumstances, are artists to be treated as pawns in a larger geopolitical dialogue or individuals who need protection?

What happens when a war erupts in a nation from which a large-scale company of your most prominent performers is about to depart?

Drawing very directly on his personal experiences as both the CEO and Artistic Director of one of the world’s largest festivals—the Edinburgh International Festival—composer Jonathan Mills considers the sometimes challenging roles of being a chief executive and an artistic leader of an arts organization. In this lecture, Mills reflects on some of the strategic and diplomatic dimensions of running a prominent arts institution and offers some advice about the sorts of political confrontations that no one is warned about in advance of taking a job as a cultural leader.

Published October 8, 2019
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Recital as reflection: pianist and Dean Robert Blocker tells a story through a concert program

Robert Blocker

Yale School of Music faculty pianist and Dean Robert Blocker was introduced to the music of Bach as an elementary school student in South Carolina, learning from and singing with part-time music teachers in the cafeteria. Today, in spaces created in a demanding administrative schedule, Blocker finds comfort and authenticity at the piano.

Tonight, Blocker will perform a program built on reflection and appreciation. Recounting a trip to Vienna during which he visited Beethoven’s and Schubert’s grave, Blocker lamented the absence of a place where admirers can pay similar respect to Mozart, whose exact burial site in Vienna’s St. Marx Cemeteryis unknown.

Blocker said Mozart’s Piano Sonata No. 4 in E-flat major, K. 282, an early sonata that opens tonight’s program, is “one of my very favorites.” He’s performed Mozart’s music frequently, and tonight’s Horowitz Piano Series concert is another opportunity to pay respect to the composer and to share with audiences something of himself.

Perhaps thinking of his own experiences with those part-time music teachers in South Carolina, and about his own grandchildren, Blocker will follow the Mozart with Ravel’s Sonatine, Op. 40 and the fairy-tale based Ma Mère l’Oye (Mother Goose Suite) for piano four-hands. Ravel dedicated the Sonatine to his friends Ida and Cipa Godebski and the suite to their piano-playing children, Mimie and Jean. Faculty pianist Wei-Yi Yang will perform the second piano part, and faculty composer Martin Bresnick will read the text that accompanies the music. Programming Ma Mère l’Oye, Blocker said, was in part a reflection on what stories and sound can mean to a child.

Brahms composed his Liebeslieder Waltzes, Op. 52 for voices and piano four-hands. Tonight, Blocker will perform the composer’s arrangement for piano four-hands without voices (Op. 52a) with faculty pianist Melvin Chen. Blocker described the love-song waltzes as “incredibly joyful pieces” and said, “Without text you can take more liberties with how you want to express your music.” Brahms’ friend Clara Schumann described the pieces as “exceptionally fetching and delightful, even without the vocal parts,” according to notes in Blocker’s piano score.

Tying Blocker’s childhood to his place at the School of Music is a grouping of music that starts with and pays homage to Bach. “I’ve always loved the music of Bach,” Blocker said, “and I’m continually reminded of how adaptable it is.” He’ll perform “Wachet Auf, ruft uns die Stimme,” the opening chorus from Bach’s cantata of the same name, Busoni’s arrangement of the music (which Bach based on a hymn by Philipp Nicolai). and faculty composer Christopher Theofanidis’ Wake Up, Called the Voice, a piece that borrows from and reimagines “Wachet Auf” and was written for and premiered by Blocker in 2016. Blocker will close his recital program with a performance of the Modern Jazz Quartet’s “Rise Up in the Morning,” an arrangement of Wachet Auf, with percussionist Jisu Jung ’19MM ’20AD. “I was a devotee of (MJQ’s) music-making in the ’70s. What they did with Bach was just magical,” Blocker said.

It’s a program that reflects on youth, on the music that has informed Blocker’s life and work, and on the friends here at the School whom he considers family. Join us tonight in Morse Recital Hall or watch and listen to the performance online.

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Published October 2, 2019
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Irene Battell Larned, champion of music at Yale

Irene Battell Larned

By Adrienne Lotto

Anyone familiar with Yale and its surroundings will have heard the name Battell, the family whose donations bolstered the college’s arts and humanities in the late 19th century. Perhaps the most familiar name from that family is Joseph Battell, for whom Battell Chapel is named. But the distinction of the most influential Battell, when it comes to Yale’s musical life, should perhaps go to Irene Battell Larned. As the instigator of (or inspiration behind) the first endowment for music at Yale College, Irene began the legacy of supporting music at Yale.

Much of what is known about Irene Battell Larned as a person comes from Memories of an Elect Lady, a book of letters and recollections compiled by her family and published upon her death. Irene was born on November 14, 1811, in Norfolk, Conn., where her family’s influence on the town’s musical culture is still felt today through the annual Yale Summer School of Music/Norfolk Chamber Music Festival. Her grandfather was the first minister of Norfolk, and Irene’s upbringing in the church gave her a musical outlet as she began to play the village church’s pipe organ at age 11.

In Memories, Irene’s sister Urania recalled the joy that music brought the Battell family, writing, “Music became our pastime. At every gathering in-doors and out, party, sleighride or picnic, we sang.” As a teenager, Irene began to use her musical skills to teach, reportedly spending hours each evening drilling villagers on choral parts for ordinary church services as well as for occasional concerts, which she organized. One contributor to Memories wrote, “She threw her whole soul into these concerts, imparting courage to the timid, correcting and assisting every one who had a part to perform, and always doing this kindly that every one felt it a privilege to be under her criticism.”

Irene moved to New Haven when she married Yale professor William Larned. In New Haven, she continued to encourage the spread of high-quality music-making. In the late 1840s, Irene helped found the New Haven County Musical Association and the Mendelssohn Society of New Haven, organizations through which the public were treated to performances of oratorios by Handel, Haydn, and Mendelssohn. Irene performed the soprano solos in these works to great acclaim. One listener likened her to Jenny Lind, the famous Swedish soprano of the day. Dr. Gustave Stoeckel, Yale’s first music professor, was a prominent contributor to Memories, in which he wrote about finding a champion in Irene upon arriving in New Haven from Germany in 1848. “By her assurance of help and support,” Stoeckel wrote, “I gained confidence in myself and hope of success in my profession.”

In 1862, Irene, feeling that music had been neglected as an area of study at Yale College, contributed generously to the musical fund she had encouraged her brother Joseph to establish in 1854. She also donated large sums for the acquisition of scholarly music books and for the care of the organ in Battell Chapel.

After Irene died, on May 5, 1877, a funeral service was held in Battell Chapel. Stoeckel led a choir of Yale students and alumni who had come to appreciate Irene’s gifts to and presence in Yale’s musical community.

At a time when exceptional classical music in America was still a fledgling pursuit and hardly a focus in the country’s universities, Irene Battell Larned’s passion for the discipline inspired many to recognize its importance and ensured a place for it in Yale’s future.

Read more about the Battell family’s contributions to the School of Music in the Spring-Summer 2019 issue of Music at Yale.

Soprano Adrienne Lotto ’20MM is a student in the early music, oratorio, and chamber ensemble program at the Yale School of Music and Yale Institute of Sacred Music. 

Published September 25, 2019
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Brentano String Quartet to perform Martin Bresnick’s “The Planet on the Table”

Brentano String Quartet

The Brentano String Quartet, left to right: violinist Serena Canin, cellist Nina Lee, violinist Mark Steinberg, and violist Misha Amory. Photo by Ian Christmann

Faculty composer Martin Bresnick’s String Quartet No. 4 was inspired—instigated is perhaps a better word—by the poetry of Wallace Stevens, including The Planet on the Table. “In this string quartet, also entitled The Planet on the Table, my planet is made of the music and sounds of a remembered time or of something heard that I liked,” Bresnick explains, borrowing from and sharing the first stanza of the title poem’s text:

Ariel was glad he had written his poems,
They were of a remembered time
Or of something seen that he liked.

“The quartet has five movements, each headed by a quotation from one of Stevens’ poems as a point of departure or pathway into those remembered sounds and music,” Bresnick explains.

In The Planet on the Table, “Stevens … speaks through the character of Ariel from The Tempest,” Brentano String Quartet violinist Mark Steinberg writes in his program notes. “Martin Bresnick’s quartet is a ‘musical meditation’ on this poem, on the transformational value of art, the power of the creative act.” The piece was commissioned for the Brentano String Quartet and received its premiere in March.

Martin Bresnick. Photo by Nina Roberts

Bresnick tells us: “Stevens wrote [that] it was not important that his poetry survive, which is also true of my work.” Stevens’ poetry did survive, of course, as it was read and shared, just as Beethoven’s music has survived through performance and as Bresnick’s work will through the musicians, organizations, and audiences with whom it resonates.

The Brentano String Quartet, the Yale School of Music’s ensemble-in-residence, will perform The Planet on the Table on a September 24 Oneppo Chamber Music Series program that also includes Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 15 in A minor, Op. 132. The program will also feature readings of Stevens’ work by the poet (by way of a recording) and by writer and editor Christian Wiman, who teaches at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music and the Yale Divinity School. During the Beethoven, lines of text from Steven’s poems will be projected above the stage.

Just as Bresnick has found inspiration in the work of Wallace Stevens, among others, Stevens, as countless artists have before and since, felt connected to Beethoven’s music. Thus the pairing on this concert program of The Planet on the Table with Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 15. It’s a program that explores “the power of the creative act,” as Steinberg describes the artistic process—the reach, across time and discipline, of inspiration. Countless artists have lit fires under countless others. Here, the Brentano String Quartet presents three who are connected by, and connect us to, the “transformational value of art.”

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Published September 24, 2019
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Nivanthi Karunaratne ’20MM, on otherness and opportunity

By Nivanthi Karunaratne ’20MM

The South Asian Symphony Orchestra horn section, from left: Mohan Chetry, B.P. Vijayan, K. Saman Kularatne, and Nivanthi Karunaratne

Graduate school represents a major transition to adulthood. With a bachelor’s degree under their belt, young adults swap undergraduate procrastination for graduate proactivity—which, of course, is why I waited for the last possible minute to confirm my place at the Yale School of Music. No matter; I still became a proud Bulldog.

My excitement in beginning my master of music degree program came with a tinge of unease; feeling intimidated by my new peers was inevitable, having previously studied neuroscience. Fortunately, the YSM environment is as warm and welcoming as any.

Yet, being one of a sparse handful of brown musicians—here, I include those of Latinx or South Asian heritage—left me feeling inescapably “other.” Previously, this had been a source of pride. After high school, I spent two summers with the National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America, a program of Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute devoted to gathering the country’s most accomplished musicians between ages 16 and 19. If memory serves, I was the sole female of South Asian heritage—certainly among the brass, but likely the whole orchestra. Those summers, touring the world with preternaturally gifted young musicians, remain among my fondest. At that time, I laughed at the use of my image for publicity, fully cognizant of, yet reveling in, the reasons why. I traded jokes with peers yet failed to question why we numbered so few.

Unusually, the tokenism later proved advantageous.

Five years later, as I started at the YSM, Indian Ambassador Nirupama Rao met with Carnegie Hall directors to share her visionary dream for cultural diplomacy: an orchestra comprised entirely of musicians from the eight South Asian nations—the South Asian Symphony Orchestra. Though numerous orchestras with skilled musicians exist throughout South Asia, many lack access to high-quality training and equipment. Ambassador Rao therefore needed leaders for certain wind sections. As one of the few South Asian alumni of the NYO-USA, the Carnegie Hall directors remembered me. They connected me with Ambassador Rao, who recruited me to perform as the SASO’s principal horn player in the ensemble’s inaugural concert. And so, on April 19, 2019, I landed in Mumbai, completing the first leg of a journey I had unknowingly begun in February 2014 upon my acceptance to the NYO-USA.

Optically, I fit in.

I do not insinuate that my Sri Lankan heritage is irrelevant; almost my entire family lives there. But there is no denying the challenge in making sense of my identity. In the United States, many assume I am foreign; in Sri Lanka, unconscious Americanisms instantly mark me as an outsider. Yet, in India, many believed I hailed from the southwestern state of Kerala, my first—and so far, only—time experiencing the assumption that I belong to a country.

While grappling with this, bombs disrupted Easter hymns in Sri Lanka, killing 259. The international response—a smattering of afterthoughts and prayers—starkly contrasted the outpouring following the Notre Dame fire, reigniting my sense of otherness. But, more important, the attacks demonstrated the urgency of the SASO’s mission to unify South Asia.

The SASO acknowledged the tragedy with a moment of silence. This profound instance of South Asian solidarity seemed at first a fleeting veneer of unity, as the very political challenges that the SASO sought to overcome continued manifesting within the orchestra. Conscious of tensions within and subject to intense scrutiny from our host country, the SASO left the presence of the single Pakistani-American musician quietly unpublicized, yet loudly celebrated the inclusion of musicians from Kashmir, the disputed territory between Pakistan and India. Musically, reluctance to match foreign section mates revealed stubborn patriotism. It seemed a pipe dream to surmount such extensive language and cultural barriers through musical collaboration.

Interestingly, the neutrality of my and others’ hyphenated identities may have helped dissolve such barriers. As an American, others in the ensemble could regard my Sri Lankan heritage with some distance during our tea breaks, allowing me to slip into, and subsequently merge, a number of cliques. With shared ancestry, Sri Lankans could adopt me as one of them; hearing my bold sound, Indian Navy men affectionately declared me a “one-man army” they could get behind; my horn itself, a novelty to Afghani school children, drew earnest curiosity and eventually camaraderie. Other musicians described similar experiences and the orchestra flourished, ultimately stunning the audience—which included Indian Vice President Venkaiah Naidu. He and the media praised the performance so lavishly that donations poured in, allowing the SASO to plan a second concert for October, for which they have invited me to return.

The SASO’s success was so dazzling in part because orchestras are heavily associated with western cultures, wealth, and therefore whiteness. Historically, in the United States and Europe, they are predominantly white institutions. This reality could perpetuate a perception that racial diversity and high standards are incompatible.

The SASO’s accomplishment illustrates that this perception is founded on bias.

If we are to honestly tout music as the universal human language—and keep orchestras relevant in the future—we need to continue investing more resources to inspire, excite, and recruit musicians of all socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds. But, while acknowledging music’s unique ambassadorial capacity—at home and abroad—we cannot forget that diverse, competent musicians exist in the present.

Nivanthi Karunaratne is in the second year of the master of music degree program at the Yale School of Music. This is her opinion.

Published September 20, 2019
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Martin Bresnick receives Samuel Simons Sanford Medal

Martin Bresnick

During Convocation 2019, Yale School of Music Dean Robert Blocker awarded the School’s highest honor, the Samuel Simons Sanford Medal, to Martin Bresnick, “a colleague who has given distinguished service to music, to intellect, and to repairing the world.” Bresnick, who in 1976 joined the faculty of Yale’s Department of Music and in 1981 joined the faculty of the School of Music, is the Charles T. Wilson Professor in the Practice of Composition.

The award’s namesake, Blocker said, “was the first professor of applied music at Yale and one of the founding professors of the Yale School of Music. A gifted pianist, Sanford was also one of Yale’s most generous patrons.” Blocker explained that “after receiving an anonymous gift in 1972 honoring Sanford’s dedication to Yale and music, the School of Music established the Samuel Simons Sanford Medal. Initially awarded to recognize the appointment of teaching fellows, the Sanford Medal is today … the most prestigious award conferred by the School.” Blocker described Bresnick as a “master teacher, a professor who has taught many of the people that adorn our own faculty and other faculties around this country and indeed throughout the world.”

“I know of no one,” Blocker said, “who is truer to his own belief and truer to his own heart than Martin. I know of no one who has been more compassionate to students, to faculty, and to the well-being of music and our University and … our School.” Blocker told Bresnick, “Your teaching and your musicianship and your creative work was so inspired that we could not help but appoint your students—David Lang, Hannah Lash, Chris Theofanidis—to come and join you as you and your former students, who are now your colleagues, continue that legacy.”

“The School has give me so much more than I could ever give back,” Bresnick said. “The School of Music, to me, has been my Esterházy, a place where I try things, I learn things, things were taught to me and I just try to return them as much as possible to these wonderful students. I just need to remind people … the secret of being a great teacher is to choose really great students.”

Sharing an “inverted version” of an expression he’s passed on to students, Bresnick said, “When the student is ready, the teacher appears. I was happy to appear.”

Published September 16, 2019
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Convocation 2019 honors the School of Music’s 125-year history

Dean Robert Blocker delivers his 2019 convocation speech, “Beyond Beginnings.” Seated, from left: Yale University President Emeritus Richard Levin, President Peter Salovey, Provost Benjamin Polak, and Yale Institute of Sacred Music Director Martin Jean. Photo by Harold Shapiro

Convocation 2019, during which the incoming class was formally installed, marked the beginning of a yearlong celebration of the School’s 125-year history and featured performances by faculty, students, and alumni and remarks by Dean Robert Blocker, Yale University President Peter Salovey and University President Emeritus Richard Levin. The ceremony also featured the presentation of the Samuel Simons Sanford Medal, the School’s highest honor. Members of the incoming class were joined in Morse Recital Hall by returning students, faculty, staff, the School’s Board of Advisors, trustees of the Yale Summer School of Music/Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, members of Yale’s Class of 1957, University leaders, and guests from around the world.

“Throughout the 2019-2020 academic year and concert season, the Yale School of Music community will reflect on the School’s 125-year history and look forward to the future of music at Yale,” Blocker said at the September 5 event. “While music at Yale can be traced to earlier days, it was in 1894 that the School was established and that its first degrees were conferred. To celebrate music at Yale is to appreciate and acknowledge all those who have made music here.” Addressing the incoming class, Blocker pointed to the “bold and visionary legacy and the tenacious work of many generations” who sought “to fulfill Yale’s aspirations of improving our world. Among those aspirations is this School’s firm resolve to ensure the birthright of music for humankind, without regard for who an individual is, what they look like, and where they are from.”

Just as he talked about the School’s commitments to its students, Blocker told incoming students, “your Yale citizenship carries the responsibility … of considering your dreams and how your distinctive talents will contribute to our common goals. Imagine where you want to be in a few years, and ask yourself how your vision might benefit those around you.” Blocker’s speech, Beyond Beginnings, explored the limits of time. “Most of this entering class will spend fewer than 700 days here,” he said. “The excitement of a purposeful life comes from what we do with our time. The wonder of your Yale experience can be that here you will make sense of your artistic, intellectual, spiritual, and social impulses by discovering your unique musical voices and human capacities. I implore you to embark fully on this Yale journey. Not to do so would amount to the heinous crime of stealing from yourself.”

Dean Robert Blocker, right, awards faculty composer Martin Bresnick the Samuel Simons Sanford Medal

The presentation of the Sanford Medal reflected the larger moment, calling on the School’s history by way of the award’s namesake, professor and patron Samuel Simons Sanford. The award presentation recognized the work of one of the School’s most respected faculty members, composer Martin Bresnick, among whose former students are several current faculty colleagues. “I know of no one who is truer to his own belief and truer to his own heart than Martin,” Blocker said, referring to Bresnick as a “master teacher.” “When the student is ready,” Bresnick said, “the teacher appears. I was happy to appear.”

Salovey and Levin, celebrating the history of music at Yale with the School of Music community, shared their perspectives on the moment. Salovey, a musician by avocation, asked rhetorically, “How many of us have felt this power in our own lives?” “The School of Music,” Levin said, “is the soul of the University.”

While the above-mentioned remarks contextualized the School’s work and music’s transformative potential, the evening’s performances spoke even more directly. Faculty tenor James Taylor, faculty trumpeter Kevin Cobb, and faculty pianist Wei-Yi Yang performed “Sound the Trumpet,” from Purcell’s Come, ye Sons of Art Away. Soprano Annie Rosen ’08BA ’12MM and pianist Hilda Huang ’17BS ’19MM ’20MMA performed La vie en rose by Piaf and Guglielmi, “C’est ainsi que tu es,” from Poulenc and Vilmorin’s Métamorphoses, and Trenet’s Le Soleil et la lune. And marimbist Jisu Jung ’19MM ’20AD performed an arrangement of part of Keith Jarrett’s Köln Concert and Leigh Howard Stevens’ Rhythmic Caprice. As is tradition, attendees sang Schubert and von Schober’s An die Musik. That performance was led by Associate Professor of Choral Conducting Marguerite Brooks and faculty clarinetist David Shifrin.

Published September 13, 2019
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Fall 2019 Admissions Visits

YSM is coming to you! We encourage you to visit with us and learn more about YSM at an admissions event this fall.

As of September 4, 2019

New England Conservatory

College Fair
Saturday, September 21, 2019
2–4 pm
Boston, MA

Eastman School of Music

Upstate New York Music College Fair
Thursday, October 10, 2019
Cominsky Promenade and Kodak Hall Balcony
5–7 pm
Rochester, NY

Cleveland Institute of Music

College Fair
Friday, October 11, 2019
3:30-5:30 pm
Cleveland, OH

University of Michigan 

Michigan Performing Arts College Fair
Saturday, October 12, 2019
School of Music, Theatre & Dance
2–4 pm
Ann Arbor, MI

Oberlin Conservatory

College Fair
Monday, October 14, 2019
Carnegie Building
4:30–6:30 pm
Oberlin, OH

Spelman College, Clark Atlanta University, & Morehouse College

Performing Arts Graduate School Fair
Monday, October 28, 2019
Spelman College
11 am–2 pm
Atlanta, GA

Published September 4, 2019
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