Violinist and YSM alum Jessica Oddie, on music education in the United States and abroad

Jessica Oddie

Since she graduated from the Yale School of Music, violinist Jessica Oddie ’13BA ’15MM has been living in Germany, “playing chamber music of all varieties and working in educational initiatives, supported by a DAAD [German Academic Exchange Service] fellowship to research the differences between the European and American systems of music education.” We talked recently with Oddie, who was immersed in the Lincoln Center Teaching Artist Development Labs “discovering how I can deepen my teaching artistry further,” about her time at YSM and how it informed what she’s doing now.

Q: How did participating as a Teaching Artist in YSM’s Music in Schools Initiative influence what you’re doing today?

A: My time in MISI strengthened my belief that we as artists have a strong imperative to share our passion and knowledge, not only through performance but also through teaching. MISI offered me an opportunity to be involved in my community as a musician and educator, while also providing a platform to engage with ideas about art and education with colleagues, mentors, and other professionals. MISI’s commitment to creating another musical community in New Haven, and YSM’s support for innovation in that field, inspired me to continue this work when I moved to Germany, at a time when cultural exchange, multiculturalism, and how these themes influence music education are particularly important topics.

In Germany, I’ve worked in collaborations between music schools and normal schools, bringing music education to students who would not otherwise have an opportunity to try out an instrument, including students from difficult socioeconomic or refugee backgrounds. I’ve been involved in conversations at the Musikhochschule Stuttgart and the recent Germany-wide Musikschule Kongress, exploring how music education can be inclusive of new members of European society, especially through intercultural music collaboration and exchange. I started a project at a local middle school aimed at getting young string players excited about upcoming orchestral performances in the area, by arranging orchestral repertoire for players of all levels. By playing this repertoire, whether they were beginners who were pizzing open strings or advanced students playing an excerpt from the solo line of the Beethoven Violin Concerto, students got to know the pieces from the inside out.

Q: How is the work you’re doing there similar to and how is it different than what you did in New Haven as a YSM Teaching Artist?

A: My students in Germany have an enormous amount in common with my students in New Haven. Children are children, and the joy of exploring or creating something beautiful together is the same regardless of the culture. My work is therefore largely the same. One of the most important things we as teachers can do is to affirm to children the value of their experiences and the power of their creativity, and to provide them with tools to express their own voices.

The biggest difference logistically is that funding in Germany is generally from the state, so initiatives are developed in conjunction with the local government, whereas in the United States, most are developed by entrepreneurial individuals who have an idea and find the funds to make it happen.

Q: Can you share some words about the importance of programs like the Music in Schools Initiative and the one with which you’re involved now? 

A: I believe there is no task more essential to crafting a brighter future than engaging with young people about ideas, seeking and creating meaning together, and celebrating a multitude of voices. Programs like MISI inspire creativity, connect people, and strengthen communities.

Q: What would you say to incoming YSM students who might not be familiar with the Music in Schools Initiative? 

A: Absolutely get involved! You will share a lot and learn even more, from colleagues, mentors, and most of all your students. I am constantly surprised by how much I learn through teaching. I also can’t think of a more fulfilling way to spend your Saturday mornings than working with young New Haven orchestral players.

Published July 26, 2017
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University of Miami professor calls for commitment to social justice

Carol Abril. Photo by Matt Fried

Carlos Abril, professor and director of undergraduate music education at the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music, was one of 43 participants at YSM’s sixth Symposium on Music in Schools, which focused on “how to ensure that every child in every city in America has access to an active music life,” YSM Associate Dean Michael Yaffe has said.

Among the participants were public-school and university teachers and administrators, foundation leaders, music-education scholars, and public-policy experts who worked, Yaffe said, to “help us craft and complete a declaration about why music has the potential to change children’s lives and have an impact on issues of exclusion.” The purpose of the document, in Yaffe’s words, is to “encourage the creation of ecosystems” that support the goal of guaranteeing children in city schools the same opportunities their suburban counterparts enjoy.

“We’ve been having the conversation” about the value of music education for decades, Abril said, offering that the declaration that’s crafted needs to have an impact that previous efforts have not.

“I think we need to send a strong message speaking to the importance of training, mentoring, and showing that it’s more than just lip service, more than just a pet project.” Those working in music education, he said, need to be “committed to social justice in our work.”

And while he was “really impressed” with the Symposium participants, saying their collective expertise “lends a lot of credibility to the initial perspective,” Abril warned against magical thinking.

“It’s naïve to suggest that music is the answer to all our ills,” he said.

Published July 18, 2017
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Head of music-ed in Philadelphia’s schools is circumspect about work

Frank Machos. Photo by Matt Fried

Frank Machos, director of music education in the School District of Philadelphia, was a participant at YSM’s sixth Symposium on Music in Schools, which focused on “how to ensure that every child in every city in America has access to an active music life,” YSM Associate Dean Michael Yaffe has said.

The conversation about music education in America’s cities, Machos said, is part of a larger conversation about inequities across the public-education system. Like all of those who participated in the Symposium in mid-June, Machos is interested in constructing a new narrative about music education in city schools, and he was impressed with the company he was in.

“Most of the people in this building,” he said, in YSM’s Adams Center for Musical Arts, “are thought leaders, or at least disrupters in their field of expertise.”

Reflecting on the work that he and other public-school educators do, Machos said, “It’s important that we all understand the consequences of what we’re doing every day.”

Published July 18, 2017
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[ in the press ]

Alumnus Dantes Rameau and Atlanta Music Project win big on new TV show

Dantes Rameau '07 MM, left, with rapper Common

Dantes Rameau ’07 MM, left, with rapper Common

By Howard Pousner | Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Growing up in Ottawa, bassoonist Dantes Rameau was a fan of hip-hop artist Common. So Rameau knew it was an uncommon day when he answered a knock at the door during rehearsals earlier this month at the Gilbert House recreation center in southwest Atlanta only to find the musician-actor waiting with a TV crew on the porch.

In his role as a guest host on the new Fox TV show Knock Knock Live that premiered Tuesday, Common was paying a surprise visit to Rameau, co-founder and executive director of the Atlanta Music Project. Common’s mission: to lay some gifts on the Atlanta nonprofit that provides tuition-free music education to under-served youths.

“I had no idea this was going to happen until I opened the door and there was Common and a bunch of cameras in my face,” Rameau, 32, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “It took a lot of coordination and colluding and hiding by staff, board members, students and their parents. They managed to keep it a secret and lure me to be in the right place at the right time. I was really stunned.” MORE

Published July 28, 2015
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[ music in schools ]

Symposium on Music in Schools June 4–7 to focus on music partnerships

Music in Schools - All City Honors Ensemble - 5

Music in Schools Initiative

The 2015 Yale Symposium on Music in Schools will take place June 4–7 on the Yale campus. This year, the event will focus on partnerships between public school systems and private music organizations.

Thirty-eight music partnerships from across the United States were selected to participate in the event. Two representatives from each partnership will travel to New Haven to take part in the biennial event. Over the course of four days, those representatives will participate in a variety of discussions and workshops, culminating with the presentation of the Yale Distinguished Music Educator Awards at the closing banquet.

The Symposium is designed to spark ideas and provoke conversation. Workshops on topical issues in music education will be followed by breakout sessions that will allow participants to explore ideas in depth. An event on Friday, June 5 will feature the Emanio String Quartet in a combination of conversation and performance. MORE

Published June 3, 2015
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[ events ]

Symposium on Music in Schools to reward partnerships June 2015

The Music in Schools Initiative is proud to announce the 2015 Yale Symposium on Music in Schools and Yale Distinguished Music Educators Awards. This year’s Symposium will be held June 4–7, 2015 at Yale University.

This year, the focus of these two activities is on partnership programs between public school music programs and professional music organizations. With support from an endowment established by the Yale College Class of 1957, the 2015 Symposium will honor thirty-five music education partnership programs from throughout the United States for their outstanding accomplishments teaching music in public schools.

Over the course of four days, two representatives from each partnership will participate in a variety of discussions and workshops, culminating with the presentation of the Yale Distinguished Music Educator Awards at the closing banquet.  MORE

Published November 25, 2014
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[ music in schools ]

Wall St Journal: A Musical Fix for American Schools

Photo from the Music in Schools Initiative, a partnership between the Yale School of Music and New Haven Public Schools

Photo from the Music in Schools Initiative, a partnership between the Yale School of Music and New Haven Public Schools

Wall Street Journal
By Joanne Lipman

American education is in perpetual crisis. Our students are falling ever farther behind their peers in the rest of the world. Learning disabilities have reached epidemic proportions, affecting as many as one in five of our children. Illiteracy costs American businesses $80 billion a year.

Many solutions have been tried, but few have succeeded. So I propose a different approach: music training. A growing body of evidence suggests that music could trump many of the much more expensive “fixes” that we have thrown at the education system.

Plenty of outstanding achievers have attributed at least some of their success to music study. Stanford University’s Thomas Sudhof, who won the Nobel Prize in medicine last year, gave credit to his bassoon teacher. Albert Einstein, who began playing the violin at age 6, said his discovery of the theory of relativity was “the result of musical perception.” MORE

Published October 13, 2014
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[ alumni ]

Dantes Rameau ’07MM named one of Ebony Magazine’s Power 100

dantes rameau '07MMYale alumnus Dantes Rameau ’07MM was named one of Ebony Magazine’s 2013 Power 100, a list of the most influential African-Americans. Rameau, cofounder and executive director of the Atlanta Music Project, was lauded as one of the “Community Crusaders” on the list.

The winners were honored in New York this week with a Power 100 Gala at Lincoln Center. Earvin “Magic” Johnson Jr., Marcus Samuelsson, and Henry Louis Gates were among those in attendance

Mr. Rameau, a bassoonist, is an alumnus of New England Conservatory’s Sistema Fellow Program inaugural class, graduating in 2010. He As a Sistema Fellow he spent one year studying non-profit management and spent two months living and teaching in Venezuela.

The Atlanta Music Project has raised nearly one million dollars and grown programming to 150 students, 15 teaching artists and four locations. MORE

Published November 20, 2013
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[ music in schools ]

Symposium affirms diversity of music education in American public schools


The 2013 Yale Symposium on Music in Schools concluded on June 8 with an affirmation of the quality and diversity of music education in the public schools of America. Fifty Yale Distinguished Music Educators, selected from over 300 nominations, from 32 states, convened in New Haven to discuss “The Role of Music in School Reform.”  A lively series of presentations culminated with a two-hour discussion amongst the teachers,  seeking their solutions to ensuring the value of music instruction as schools continue to evolve.  This discussion will be posted as an online video by the end of the summer. MORE

Published June 24, 2013
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Yale/New Haven Solo Competition announces winners


The winners in the high school division, with the judges

The annual Yale/New Haven Young Artists Solo Competition, held May 20–22, 2013 in Morse Recital Hall, awarded prizes to nine public school music students. The competition, a collaboration between the Yale School of Music and the New Haven Public Schools, offers NHPS students the opportunity to demonstrate their skills and compete against their peers. Students are nominated by their school music teachers. The competition is part of the Music in Schools Initiative.

Each age group — 4th–6th grades, 7th–8th grades, and 9th–12th grades — competes on a different night. The two younger age groups include students who play percussion, string, brass, and woodwind instruments. The high school level of the Solo Competition is open to voice students as well as instrumentalists.

The top three performers in each age group were awarded prizes, including tickets to a future concert at the School of Music.

The participants and judges in the middle school division

The participants and judges in the middle school division

The 2013 winners of the Yale/New Haven Young Artists Solo Competition are: MORE

Published June 13, 2013
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