Convocation 2017 defines YSM as place for “Music Among Friends”

School of Music Dean Robert Blocker often describes music as “the currency of hope” and has long championed the School’s commitment to inclusivity and diversity. That commitment was reiterated emphatically on Thursday night in his 2017 Convocation speech, “Music Among Friends,” in which he celebrated “courage, inclusivity and diversity, connectedness, tolerance and respect, and compassion.” Upon its founding, he said, “the School of Music opened wide its doors and heart to all those who brought their gifts of talent and intellectual curiosity to campus.” Today, Blocker pointed out, the School stands in solidarity with those whose place in our community hangs in the balance.

“All of us bring anxieties, concerns, and even fears about the human condition to this room tonight,” he told new and returning students, faculty, staff, alumni, and guests, “for we live in a time in which human dignity and indeed humanity are being assaulted throughout the world. Nothing, I think, is as incomprehensible and unimaginable as the vengeful rescindment of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, known as DACA. Now, these young people we call Dreamers live with fear rather than hope. This action touches our community profoundly because we are witnesses to the deep grief and stressful uncertainty these Dreamers and their families suddenly face. I do believe reasonable and compassionate leaders among us hear and feel the anguished cries of Dreamers and that they, with our encouragement and support, will find a way to keep their American dream alive.”

Connecting YSM’s values to its mission, Blocker said, “music teaches us that every voice is distinct and important, that each is necessary for harmony, and that is precisely why we know that our combined voices will help repair our troubled world.”

Following University Provost Benjamin Polak’s installation of the incoming class, whose members come from five continents, 25 countries, 26 states, and 58 institutions, Convocation attendees sang Schubert’s An die Musik (with Franz von Schober’s text, as translated by YSM faculty bass-baritone Richard Cross), as is School tradition. Blocker then delivered his remarks before introducing the faculty, alumni, and current students who performed as part of the ceremony.

Violinist Daniel S. Lee ’06MM ’08AD, a newly appointed faculty member in early music whose ensemble, The Sebastians, is in residence at the Yale Collection of Musical Instruments, performed Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber’s Sonata No. 3 in F major, C. 140 (from Sonatae, violino solo) with faculty harpsichordist Arthur Haas. Bass-baritone Dashon Burton ’11MM sang “Grosser Herr, o starker König,” from Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, BWV 248, and “Mache dich, mein Herze rein,” from the St. Matthew Passion, BWV 244, with pianist David Fung ’11MM ’13MMA ’17DMA. And violinist Sirena Huang ’19AD performed Tchaikovsky’s Valse-Scherzo, Op. 34, with pianist Lam Wong ’18MM.

The performances added punctuation to Blocker’s remarks, which concluded with him telling members of the incoming class that “here at YSM, you will experience fully the gift that is ‘Music Among Friends,’ and encouraging all in attendance, referencing a favorite story about Robert Louis Stevenson, to “take hope, and make holes in the dark with the beauty and light of your music.”

Photos by Harold Shapiro

Published September 8, 2017
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Convocation 2016 Celebrates “Transcendent Yale Legacy”

YSM Dean Robert Blocker | Photo by Harold Shapiro

YSM Dean Robert Blocker | Convocation 2016

In his Convocation address, titled Music: A Transcendent Yale Legacy, School of Music Dean Robert Blocker told incoming and returning students, faculty, staff, and guests that “transcendent qualities are born and nurtured by people. Yale University and the School of Music are a collection of voices, a community and society of mutual learners. We, along with our predecessors, came here to better prepare ourselves to repair the world.

“It may surprise some of you to know that when the Yale Corporation voted to establish a School of Music in 1894, they also approved a Bachelor of Music degree that was open to women and men,” Blocker said in his remarks during the September 8, 2016, ceremony. “Cynics might say that not offering a Bachelor of Arts in Music retained the exclusivity of Yale College as a male enclave, but I find it a lot more interesting and compelling that music was Yale’s very first commitment to diversity and inclusivity.”

Celebrating the “transcendent voices” that have shaped the School’s legacy, Blocker recognized Ellen and Carl Stoeckel, Helen Hagan, Elaine Toscanini, Aldo Parisot, and Willie Ruff, among others.

“These transcendent musical voices of Yale and their cultural leadership transform lives, enrich communities, and bring hope to a broken world,” Blocker said. “Yale’s sons and daughters entrusted some of humankind’s treasures to us so that the transcendent qualities of character and mind, of light and truth – Yale’s motto, lux et veritas – can live through each of us and can bring hope to our planet. That is our responsibility, and it is our joy.” MORE

Published September 12, 2016
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[ events ]

School holds opening Convocation Sep. 3

YSM-Convocation-103At the Yale School of Music’s annual Convocation, which took place Wednesday, September 3, 2014 in Morse Recital Hall, Provost Benjamin Polak installed the incoming class of YSM students. Robert Blocker, Dean of the School of Music, hosted the event and honored several attendees.

Gregory E. Sterling, Dean of the Yale Divinity School, gave the invocation. Dean Blocker recognized Paul Berry, Assistant Professor Adjunct of Music History. Berry was one of only ten recipients of the Provost’s inaugural Teaching Prize (story here).

YSM-Convocation-039Dean Blocker conferred the Cultural Leadership Citation upon Dorothy K. Robinson, Vice President and General Counsel of the University. MORE

Published September 5, 2014
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[ Convocation 2013 ]

Video Highlights from Convocation 2013

Published September 13, 2013
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[ events ]

“Rediscovering Wonder”: Dean Blocker’s Convocation Address

This is the text of Dean Robert Blocker’s address to the incoming class at the Yale School of Music Convocation, which took place September 9, 2013.

Convocation-014“What is wonder?” asked the mind. “It is having your heart dazzled and your life forever changed,” answered the soul. WONDER—an ineffable word—a transcendent experience.

When did wonder visit you, capture you, envelop you, and squeeze you so tight that you were left breathless and gasping for air? Was it your first great performance at the age of five, the moment you heard a phrase shaped more beautifully than you could imagine, or when you were frozen in place as you entered one of the world’s great concert halls? MORE

Published September 12, 2013
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[ awards ]

Peter Gelb receives Sanford Medal at Convocation

Peter Gelb, General Manager of the Metropolitan Opera, was awarded the Samuel Simons Sanford Award — the highest honor that the School of Music can bestow—at Convocation on Monday, September 9. Below is Dean Blocker’s citation, followed by Peter Gelb’s remarks.

Award Citation

In August 2006, Peter Gelb was named the 16th General Manager of the Metropolitan Opera. His visionary and entrepreneurial leadership has revitalized not only the Met but also the entire field of opera. Actually, Peter is an artist’s artist who has pioneered a digital and live audience accessibility to opera that few could have imagined, let alone achieved. MORE

Published September 12, 2013
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[ events ]

Convocation welcomes new students, honors guests


From L to R: Robert Blocker, Stephen Adams, Denise Adams, Peter Salovey

At the School of Music’s annual Convocation on September 9, Dean Robert Blocker announced that the music complex centered around the renovated and expanded Hendrie Hall will be known as the Adams Center for Musical Arts when it opens in 2016. Stephen ’59BA and Denise Adams, benefactors of the School, were present to receive a framed architectural rendering of the future music center.

Convocation opens the academic year with the matriculation of the new students. Peter Salovey, in his first year as Yale’s president, installed the incoming class.

Peter Gelb, General Manager of the Metropolitan Opera, received the Samuel Simons Sanford Award, the School of Music’s most prestigious honor.  MORE

Published September 11, 2013
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[ awards ]

Peter Gelb to receive Sanford Medal at Convocation Sep. 9

Peter-Gelb-by-Dario-AcostaPeter Gelb, General Manager of the Metropolitan Opera, is to receive the Samuel Simons Sanford Award from the Yale School of Music. Dean Robert Blocker will make the presentation at the School’s annual Convocation on Monday, September 9.

The Sanford Award is the School of Music’s most prestigious honor. Previous recipients include such illustrious musical figures as contralto Lili Chookasian, pianist Alfred Brendel, choral conductor Robert Shaw, and clarinetist Benny Goodman. MORE

Published September 6, 2013
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Margins and Mirrors: Dean Blocker’s Convocation Address

Robert Blocker, Dean of the School of Music, delivered this address to the incoming class at the School’s Fall Convocation on September 6, 2012.


Tonight I want to think with you about the margins and mirrors that determine the course and quality of our lives. Margins are measurements of time and space that establish borders and boundaries, and in so doing, can unleash a transformative DNA in our lives. Some margins are flexible while others are fixed.

A margin is most frequently defined as the border of a printed page. For most of you, a more current application would be the white space surrounding text on your iPad. We make notes in the margin to expand or question the text. We extend the boundary.

I am reminded of Beethoven’s manuscript of the Grosse Fuge four-hand piano transcription. On two adjoining pages of the score, everything had been marked out – the pages were almost black. The margins were filled and also crossed out, with the exception of one boldly boxed measure. Here he writes a few notes on a handwritten staff surrounded by a bold black ink border in the furthest margin of the page where it could be seen. Beethoven characteristically stretched the boundary: one marginal measure survives from two full pages and margins of creative energy and output. MORE

Published September 13, 2012
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Slideshow: Academic Convocation September 2

The 2010-11 academic year officially began last week. At the Academic Convocation in Sprague Hall on Thursday, September 2, University Provost Peter Salovey installed the entering class of the Yale School of Music. Ian Oliver, the pastor of University Church in Yale, gave the invocation. Robert Blocker, Dean of the Yale School of Music, addressed the incoming class with a talk called “Preserving Humanity.”

Dean Blocker gave the Cultural Leadership Citation, a special award from the Yale School of Music, to Yale alumnus Frederick Iseman, Yale College alumnus of the Class of 1975.

In a Yale School of Music tradition, the assembly sang Schubert’s “An die Musik,” a song about music’s transformative power. Faculty members Elizabeth Parisot, piano, and Ole Akahoshi, cello, played through the song before the audience sang Richard Cross’s translation.

The second portion of the program featured performances from faculty and alumni. Violinist Brian Lewis, the Class of ’57 Visiting Professor, joined with faculty pianist Wei-Yi Yang in Brahms’s F.A.E. Sonata. Alumnus Ryosuke Yanagitani ’04MM, ’05AD, ’08MMA performed piano pieces by Debussy and Sancan. Eric Barry ’10MM, tenor, and David Pershall ’10MM, baritone, sang duets by Bizet and Puccini, accompanied by faculty pianist Douglas Dickson ’88MM, ’89MMA.

Convocation continued with a reception at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

Published September 8, 2010
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