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Convocation 2023 celebrates the power of music

José García-León by Harold Shapiro

José García-León. Photo by Harold Shapiro

During his first Convocation as the Henry and Lucy Moses Dean of the Yale School of Music, José García-León told each student in the incoming class, “You are a member of one of the most prestigious music programs in the world, of a school with an incredible history of training musicians at the highest level. I encourage you to pause and reflect on all you have accomplished already, all that has brought you to this moment.”

“As part of that reflection,” Dean García-León continued, “please consider taking a moment this evening or in the coming days to say thank you to your families, loved ones, teachers, friends, everyone who helped you get to being here tonight.” For many in attendance, that included former Dean Robert Blocker, whom García-León thanked “for all that he has contributed to make the school be as outstanding as it is.” The ceremony was attended by new and returning students, faculty and alumni, staff, and friends and family, and it was streamed live for constituents around the world. After an invocation delivered by Jeffrey Douma, the Marshall Bartholomew Professor in the Practice of Choral Conducting, Dean García-León and university Provost Scott Strobel formally installed the incoming class.

The annual event featured performances by faculty, students, and alumni. Faculty flutist Tara Helen O’Connor was joined by faculty harpist June Han for a performance of the G minor Sonata attributed to J.S. Bach (BWV 1020). Cellist and School of Music alum Mihai Marica ’04CERT ’07MM ’08AD performed the first movement of Gaspar Cassadó’s Cello Suite and the Sarabande from J.S. Bach’s Sixth Cello Suite (BWV 1012). And incoming student Daniel Espinal ’24MM, a tenor, sang “My People” from Ricky Ian Gordon’s Genius Child, “Litany” from John Musto’s Shadow of the Blues, and “No puede ser” from Pablo Sorozábal’s La tabernera del Puerto, with Yale Opera Director Gerald Martin Moore at the piano. At the end of the evening, faculty violinist Ani Kavafian and faculty pianist Wei-Yi Yang played An die Musik, which all of those in attendance sang, as has long been tradition at the School of Music.

The evening celebrated the newness of the moment and the magic of music. “This is a time for experimentation, expansion, and self-discovery,” Dean García-León told the incoming class. “You are in a safe environment to try new things.” To those with a measure of anxiety about the days, weeks, months, and years to come, Dean García-León said, “If at any point you feel lost or unsure, try reconnecting with your first love with music, those moments when you came to the realization that you could not be in a life without music, and harness that power. The power that music has to extend itself and reach individuals, bring people closer to one another, connect to each other, help heal, create, and share a sense of community, of welcome, of belonging.” At the conclusion of the ceremony, attendees were ushered out of the hall by the rhythms of the Yale Percussion Group and gathered for a reception at the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library.