Convocation 2019 honors the School of Music’s 125-year history

Dean Robert Blocker delivers his 2019 convocation speech, “Beyond Beginnings.” Seated, from left: Yale University President Emeritus Richard Levin, President Peter Salovey, Provost Benjamin Polak, and Yale Institute of Sacred Music Director Martin Jean. Photo by Harold Shapiro

Convocation 2019, during which the incoming class was formally installed, marked the beginning of a yearlong celebration of the School’s 125-year history and featured performances by faculty, students, and alumni and remarks by Dean Robert Blocker, Yale University President Peter Salovey and University President Emeritus Richard Levin. The ceremony also featured the presentation of the Samuel Simons Sanford Medal, the School’s highest honor. Members of the incoming class were joined in Morse Recital Hall by returning students, faculty, staff, the School’s Board of Advisors, trustees of the Yale Summer School of Music/Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, members of Yale’s Class of 1957, University leaders, and guests from around the world.

“Throughout the 2019-2020 academic year and concert season, the Yale School of Music community will reflect on the School’s 125-year history and look forward to the future of music at Yale,” Blocker said at the September 5 event. “While music at Yale can be traced to earlier days, it was in 1894 that the School was established and that its first degrees were conferred. To celebrate music at Yale is to appreciate and acknowledge all those who have made music here.” Addressing the incoming class, Blocker pointed to the “bold and visionary legacy and the tenacious work of many generations” who sought “to fulfill Yale’s aspirations of improving our world. Among those aspirations is this School’s firm resolve to ensure the birthright of music for humankind, without regard for who an individual is, what they look like, and where they are from.”

Just as he talked about the School’s commitments to its students, Blocker told incoming students, “your Yale citizenship carries the responsibility … of considering your dreams and how your distinctive talents will contribute to our common goals. Imagine where you want to be in a few years, and ask yourself how your vision might benefit those around you.” Blocker’s speech, Beyond Beginnings, explored the limits of time. “Most of this entering class will spend fewer than 700 days here,” he said. “The excitement of a purposeful life comes from what we do with our time. The wonder of your Yale experience can be that here you will make sense of your artistic, intellectual, spiritual, and social impulses by discovering your unique musical voices and human capacities. I implore you to embark fully on this Yale journey. Not to do so would amount to the heinous crime of stealing from yourself.”

Dean Robert Blocker, right, awards faculty composer Martin Bresnick the Samuel Simons Sanford Medal

The presentation of the Sanford Medal reflected the larger moment, calling on the School’s history by way of the award’s namesake, professor and patron Samuel Simons Sanford. The award presentation recognized the work of one of the School’s most respected faculty members, composer Martin Bresnick, among whose former students are several current faculty colleagues. “I know of no one who is truer to his own belief and truer to his own heart than Martin,” Blocker said, referring to Bresnick as a “master teacher.” “When the student is ready,” Bresnick said, “the teacher appears. I was happy to appear.”

Salovey and Levin, celebrating the history of music at Yale with the School of Music community, shared their perspectives on the moment. Salovey, a musician by avocation, asked rhetorically, “How many of us have felt this power in our own lives?” “The School of Music,” Levin said, “is the soul of the University.”

While the above-mentioned remarks contextualized the School’s work and music’s transformative potential, the evening’s performances spoke even more directly. Faculty tenor James Taylor, faculty trumpeter Kevin Cobb, and faculty pianist Wei-Yi Yang performed “Sound the Trumpet,” from Purcell’s Come, ye Sons of Art Away. Soprano Annie Rosen ’08BA ’12MM and pianist Hilda Huang ’17BS ’19MM ’20MMA performed La vie en rose by Piaf and Guglielmi, “C’est ainsi que tu es,” from Poulenc and Vilmorin’s Métamorphoses, and Trenet’s Le Soleil et la lune. And marimbist Jisu Jung ’19MM ’20AD performed an arrangement of part of Keith Jarrett’s Köln Concert and Leigh Howard Stevens’ Rhythmic Caprice. As is tradition, attendees sang Schubert and von Schober’s An die Musik. That performance was led by Associate Professor of Choral Conducting Marguerite Brooks and faculty clarinetist David Shifrin.

Published September 13, 2019
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YSM launches yearlong celebration of its 125-year history

Throughout the 2019-2020 academic year and concert season, the Yale School of Music community will reflect on the School’s 125-year history and look forward to the future of music-making at Yale. While music at Yale can be traced to earlier days, it was in 1894 that the School was established and that its first degrees were conferred. To celebrate music at Yale is to appreciate and acknowledge all those who have made music here.

“In celebrating the 125th anniversary of the School of Music, we pause to reflect on the values of the faculty, staff, alumni, and friends whose work ensured an artistic legacy for us,” YSM Dean Robert Blocker said. “Now we gratefully embrace the responsibility of continuing their work and imagining new musical horizons that ignite our passion and resolve today and in future decades. Indeed, music is the currency of hope.”

This year’s Convocation, on September 5, will mark the beginning of our yearlong anniversary celebration. The School’s Board of Advisors, faculty, staff, students, and special guests will join us for a ceremony that includes performances by students, faculty, and alumni and remarks about the legacy and promise of music at Yale by University President Peter Salovey and President Emeritus Richard Levin. As always, the incoming class will be welcomed and formally installed.

This year, for the first time in more than a decade, the School will hold an alumni reunion. Graduates from all classes are invited back to campus for activities ranging from an alumni concert to a panel discussion about women composers, in conjunction with the University’s 2019-2020 Women at Yale celebration “commemorating the 50th anniversary of coeducation in Yale College and the 150th anniversary of women students at the University.” In further celebration of women at Yale, the Yale Camerata and Yale Glee Club will give the world-premiere performance in April of a new work by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer and School of Music alumna Julia Wolfe on a program presented “in celebration of 100 years of women’s suffrage.” The fall-winter 2019-2020 issue of Music at Yale, our biannual alumni magazine, will appropriately be dedicated to women from the School of Music.

In the spring, in partnership with the Yale Institute of Sacred Music, the Yale Philharmonia will join the Yale Schola Cantorum and The (London) Bach Choir on an East Coast tour, led by David Hill, with performances in New Haven, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.

These and other moments will help us look to the School’s past with an eye and an ear on its future. As always, the coming concert season features music and performances by internationally acclaimed artists and the next generation of composers, instrumentalists, and vocalists. More than 250 concerts are scheduled to take place on campus, and most of those will be streamed live online for families and friends in cities around the world.

We invite you to join us in celebrating 125 years of music-making at Yale.

Watch our celebration launch video

Published August 28, 2019
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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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“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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Convocation welcomes new students, honors guests

convo-13-adams

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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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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