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Students, Faculty + Alumni

Yale Alumni Association Assembly: reflections from YSM’s delegates

Wynton Grant

Wynton Grant

During the first weekend of November, three appointed delegates from the Yale School of Music attended the Yale Alumni Association Assembly, an annual event that’s organized to support volunteer leaders across Yale’s many schools and constituencies. Our delegates attended a variety of sessions and have summarized what they felt were key takeaways.

Wynton Grant ’17MM, violin

The Yale Alumni Association Assembly was a great opportunity to learn about current events at Yale and connect with other alumni. One session I found particularly interesting for musicians was Virtual Programming for Yale Programs.The main takeaway was that we should all harness the power of virtual programming. This could include classes, reunions, events, and more.

Another interesting session I attended was Environmental Justice: Toward a More Sustainable and Equitable Future for All. Yale believes that justice is a part of the climate-change movement and is working with the City of New Haven to rebuild energy systems in an equitable way. They are doing this through the creation of equitable farms and experiential learning projects and working with the city to ensure that redistricting is done fairly and equitably.  

Finally, I had the opportunity to attend The Vision for the Yale Jackson School for Global Affairs. Yale’s first new school since the opening of the School of Management, the Yale Jackson School for Global Affairs aims to train professionals to work on contemporary global challenges. The school will be tuition-free and intends to be a global leader in preparing graduates for careers in policy and security analysis, trade and economic development, foreign affairs, human rights, international finance, and environmental policy.

Kim Perlak
Kim Perlak

Kim Perlak ’01MM, guitar

The YAA Assembly was a good opportunity to hear from areas across Yale, and from fellow alumni, about where Yale’s schools are focused and how different areas are looking to connect. A particularly interesting session explored the Cross-Campus YAA Connection Tool. Cross-Campus is a database in which alumni can create a profile and search for fellow alums. This will be particularly useful for setting up networks based in cities, and for reunion or project purposes. The search engine can be specific enough to pull up areas of interest, such as “guitar.” It contains a map view that can show alumni in your area that match any criteria you put into the search engine. In your profile, you can choose to be a resource or to offer your expertise as an adviser. To create a profile, visit I signed up and right away found two fellow guitar alumni and connected with them.

Yale’s Role in the Climate Change Conversation was a very engaging session. University President Peter Salovey opened with this (paraphrased) statement: It is Yale’s mission to break down barriers between various departments and areas of scholarship and to unite in the face of global challenges—to find the intersections of art, the humanities, and other areas. We need humanists and artists whose work can further this monumental task.

John Kerry joined the session to discuss his work as U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, stressing that we are “woefully far behind” in this essential work. On the upside, he believes that it is possible through global ambition to make a significant impact in the next 10 years. Public accountability, private capital, activism and attention from young people, and a “rulebook” for nations are part of the collaborative effort on which he is working. He foresees a “climate revolution” bigger than our recent “tech revolution.”

After Kerry spoke, alumni were divided into several breakout groups to discuss climate change.

I asked the members of my group the following questions: What can the YSM community do to mobilize and energize the movement? What do you see as the role of artists in meeting this?

The answers that came back from the members of my group included:

  • These global issues need to be addressed with intellect and with heart.
  • Music deals with the soul and with the mechanics of sound. We need to deal with sound pollution as a part of the pollution of our climate.
  • Musicians need to help those of us in law and the sciences think outside the box.
  • The “sales pitch” is the only approach to fighting a culture war: that’s where musicians come in—How do we win the global culture war? By bringing people in. Music brings people in. YSM should be a “cornerstone of culture” in the Yale community’s approach to broad issues.

Led by the YAA’s Steve Blum, the session Navigating Careers and Life: Mentorship Best Practices was relevant to YSM alumni who wish to serve as mentors to YSM students. Several mentors and mentees were present to share their experiences. Steve’s staff carefully pairs interested students and alumni using the Cross-Campus YAA Connection Tool. To sign up to be a mentor, join Cross-Campus and click the “mentor” tab. You’ll fill out a form and the staff will look for a student match. This seems like a great way to meet and build relationships within the YSM community.

Antonio Underwood
Antonio Underwood

Antonio Underwood ’87MM, tuba

During my time at the YAA Assembly, I was especially drawn to the recurring themes of collaboration, curriculum diversity, and interdisciplinary methods to approaching the world’s problems. I was consistently transported back to my time on campus—from encountering friends in the library who were studying at the Law School, to my position as a teaching assistant for an undergraduate class on the history of jazz, I was able to create friendships with people from different backgrounds and with different career aspirations.

John Kerry said something that really stuck with me: “You have to fight for the truth. Democracy is under attack from the big illusion of truth.” That seems to be what Yale is doing—searching for truth and seeking to bring cross-disciplinary approaches to that effort. If students can learn through a diverse curriculum, they can make the shift to being a citizen of the world.

The experience at the YAA Assembly re-energized my appreciation of what a magnificent school Yale is, and how it is still on a journey to solve global problems, recognizing the need to include voices from many disciplines. It was interesting to speak about global warming and listen to economic-policy proposals for tackling systemic health-care issues. Yale is a world-class institution focusing on solutions to create a better university, of which we in this outstanding music community are included and valued members.