messages from the dean

Spring semester planning update

November 20, 2020

Dear YSM community,


This past week, I met with faculty, staff, and students to gauge the effectiveness of our current technology and to propose improvements that would most dramatically benefit the woodwinds, brass, and voice areas of the school.

In addition, we are beginning to look at the risk mitigation plans that were in place for the fall in hopes of making adjustments for additional group and ensemble performance opportunities. Most of this work will take place during the winter break. Please know that these changes are subject to the pandemic conditions in New Haven when we return in February, and while we may lay out new plans, they may be revised depending on the spread of COVID-19. Our pledge to you has been to ensure that our buildings are managed in a way that reduces the risk of infection, and these new plans will be governed with that in mind.

The technology improvements described below will be implemented for spring 2021 activities. The guidelines for in-person group activities will not be known until the end of January.


Technology improvements

  1. Octet suite
    For the woodwinds and brass area, we are designating an “octet” suite of rooms in the basement of Sprague Memorial Hall. This will allow up to eight players to perform synchronously with microphones, video monitors, and headphones. There will be no noticeable latency in the suite, and it will be equipped with recording and Zoom capabilities. Additionally, a conductor will be able to lead the ensemble in real time from the CSMT suite across the hall. It is our hope that this will enhance the in-person chamber music and Yale Philharmonia curriculum through rehearsal, recording, and coachings of chamber music, as well as sectionals orchestra repertory classes.
  2. ISM programs in early music voice, organ, and choral conducting
    At ISM, we will be wiring together the Sterling Music Studio with two additional offices to complete a suite of three rooms that can be used for lessons and coachings for early music voice. We are also working on a system to allow for remote instruction for organ, as appropriate. Finally, audio and video technology will be added to the Miller Music Studio to allow for remote lessons for choral conducting students.
  3. Opera
    An additional wired set of rooms will be created in the offices of the opera program. Additionally, we will produce two high-quality recorded or streamed performance activities for opera students.


Student funding

  1. Technology support for enrolled students
    To assist with the acquisition of technology for high-quality remote instruction in music, all enrolled students, including those studying remotely and at ISM, in the spring semester will receive a one-time credit of $200 on their student bill. These funds are not available to students on leave or to DMA students enrolled in non-resident status.
  2. Student Relief Fund
    This fund will continue to provide, as outlined in the current guidelines, support for students demonstrating significant emergency need. Applications must be submitted to the committee for review and will not exceed $500 over the entire academic year.


Health and safety guidelines

In partnership with Yale Environmental Health & Safety (EHS), we will be reexamining our risk mitigation plans for the spring semester. At this time, we are assuming that the school will operate more or less the same as in the fall, including restrictions on unmasked performance.

We will begin planning for the spring semester with EHS on December 1. The goal of this review will be to examine the potential for increased in-person performance in all areas of the school with particular attention to woodwinds, brass, and voice. We will be soliciting ideas for new options for in-person activities and will work with EHS to see if they fit within our risk mitigation rules. This includes reviewing the plans of other music schools and seeking input from the affected areas of the school. If adjustments can be made, we will let the YSM community know by the end of January.

While we cannot guarantee any changes, we want you to know that serious consideration will be given to low-risk adjustments to our current plan.

I want to express my gratitude to every member of the YSM community. This has been an unprecedented semester, and I personally appreciate the flexibility and responsiveness of our community as we adapt to the ever-changing guidelines and risk mitigation plans set forth by the university and the school. We will continue to work to improve the ways in which we can make music together as we plan for the spring semester.


Best wishes,

Michael Yaffe
Associate Dean