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Honors Banquet celebrates achievements, community

Honors Banquet 2023 by Harold Shapiro

Photo by Harold Shapiro

On Sunday, May 7, the Yale School of Music held its annual Honors Banquet during which awards were presented to current and graduating students, faculty, and colleagues for exceptional work and service to the School and the University. It was the final Honors Banquet hosted by Dean Robert Blocker, who established the yearly gathering upon arriving at YSM in 1995.

During the awards ceremony, Blocker presented YSM’s Cultural Leadership Citation to Emily Bakemeier, Yale’s Vice Provost for Arts and Faculty Affairs and a Trustee of the Yale Summer School of Music/Norfolk Chamber Music Festival. Blocker presented the School’s Gustave Jacob Stoeckel Award for excellence in teaching to Associate Professor of Music History Paul Berry, calling the opportunity to recognize Berry an honor, and gave the School’s Ian Mininberg Distinguished Alumni Award to Donna Yoo ’09MM, who Blocker said has been “outstanding everywhere she has served.” In addition to holding positions in the Box Office and at Norfolk after earning a master-of-music degree from YSM, Yoo served as the School’s inaugural Communications Director and later as Director of Admissions and Alumni Affairs before accepting a position at the Cleveland Institute of Music.

After the awards ceremony, Blocker told graduating students, “For those of us like me who needed a source of hope … you provided it time and time and time again” and said, “I’ve been very, very privileged” to bestow the School’s awards over the past 28 years. “You have contributed immeasurably to the lives of others.” Students danced into the night after the awards ceremony, having been playfully instructed by their Dean to let the party begin, and let it never end.”

The following student prizes were presented during the Honors Banquet.

Brass and Woodwinds

The Thomas Daniel Nyfenger Memorial Prize, which is awarded to a graduating student who has demonstrated the highest standard of excellence in woodwind playing, was presented to clarinetist Lloyd Van’t Hoff

The John Swallow Prize, which is given to an outstanding brass player whose artistry and dedication have contributed to the department, was awarded to trombonist Declan Wilcox.

Choral Conducting

The Robert Shaw Prize, given in honor of the renowned American choral conductor and awarded to a choral conducting major in the School of Music chosen by the choral conducting faculty for distinguished achievement, was presented to Yiran Zhao.


The Woods Chandler Memorial Prize for the best composition in a larger form written during the year was awarded to Julián Fueyo.

The Rena Greenwald Memorial Prize for the best piano composition written during the year went to Lila Meretzky.

The John Day Jackson Prize for outstanding chamber music compositions written for strings with or without other instruments was presented to Aaron Levin.

The Frances E. Osborne Kellogg Memorial Prize for the best composition written in a contrapuntal style was given to Matīss Čudars.

And the Ezra Laderman Prize for the best compositions written for musical theater or voice was awarded to Harriet Steinke.


The Charles Ives Prize, which is awarded to an outstanding organ major, went to David Preston

The Julia R. Sherman Memorial Prize for excellence in organ playing was awarded to Noah Klein.


The Charles S. Miller Prize, which is given to a gifted pianist who has done outstanding work during the first year of study, was awarded to Derek Wang

The Elizabeth Parisot Prize, which goes to outstanding pianists in the School of Music, was awarded to Elisabeth Tsai and Hyojin Shin.


The Aldo Parisot Prize, which is awarded to gifted cellists who show promise for a concert career, was presented to Jakob Taylor and Allen Liang.

The Broadus Erle Prize, which is given to the members of an outstanding string quartet at the School of Music, went to Evan JohnsonAmy Oh, Joe Skerik, and Allen Liang.


The David L. Kasdon Memorial Prize, which is awarded to an outstanding singer in the School of Music, went to Sam Kidd

The Smriti Deb Memorial Prize, which is given to an outstanding graduating singer who best reflects and exemplifies the ideals and values of Smriti Deb and her commitment to teaching low-income and underrepresented children, was awarded to Korin Thomas-Smith.

And the Phyllis Curtin Career Entry Prize, whose purpose is to assist in launching the career of a graduating voice student who demonstrates exceptional talent as an artist and promise for professional success, was awarded to Sergio Martinez.

Doctor of Musical Arts

The Friedmann Thesis Prize, which is awarded to a DMA candidate whose thesis is notable for its distinguished research, original perspective, in-depth engagement with its subject, and well-crafted presentation, was given to composer Alexa Stier.


The Malcolm L. Mitchell and Donald M. Roberts Class of 1957 Prize, which is given to an outstanding graduating teaching artist in the Music in Schools Initiative, was awarded to Katherine (Kit) Cheng.

The Presser Foundation Music Award, which is awarded to an outstanding returning student to advance the student's music education, went to Emma Meinrenken.

The Philip Francis Nelson Prize, which is awarded to a student whose musicianship is outstanding and who demonstrates curiosity, talent, and the entrepreneurial spirit in the many dimensions of the music profession, was given to Nikki Pet.

The Plank Music Residency, established by the estate of Raymond Plank ’44BA, is awarded to two students of distinguished achievement in their major. Each will complete a two-week residency of independent work in the extraordinary setting of the Ucross Foundation in Wyoming. The residency awards went to Samuel Hollister and Anna Lee.

And the Yale School of Music Alumni Association Prize, which is awarded to graduating students who have not only excelled in their respective fields but have also made important contributions to the general life of the School, was presented to Elana Bell, Jack Frerer, Herdis Guðmundsdóttir, Derek Hartman, Carter Johnson, Gregory Lewis, Makana Medeiros, Anthony Ratinov, Ryan Rogers, Andrew Samarasekara, Harriet Steinke, and Michael Yeung.