Martin Bresnick receives Samuel Simons Sanford Medal

Martin Bresnick

During Convocation 2019, Yale School of Music Dean Robert Blocker awarded the School’s highest honor, the Samuel Simons Sanford Medal, to Martin Bresnick, “a colleague who has given distinguished service to music, to intellect, and to repairing the world.” Bresnick, who in 1976 joined the faculty of Yale’s Department of Music and in 1981 joined the faculty of the School of Music, is the Charles T. Wilson Professor in the Practice of Composition.

The award’s namesake, Blocker said, “was the first professor of applied music at Yale and one of the founding professors of the Yale School of Music. A gifted pianist, Sanford was also one of Yale’s most generous patrons.” Blocker explained that “after receiving an anonymous gift in 1972 honoring Sanford’s dedication to Yale and music, the School of Music established the Samuel Simons Sanford Medal. Initially awarded to recognize the appointment of teaching fellows, the Sanford Medal is today … the most prestigious award conferred by the School.” Blocker described Bresnick as a “master teacher, a professor who has taught many of the people that adorn our own faculty and other faculties around this country and indeed throughout the world.”

“I know of no one,” Blocker said, “who is truer to his own belief and truer to his own heart than Martin. I know of no one who has been more compassionate to students, to faculty, and to the well-being of music and our University and … our School.” Blocker told Bresnick, “Your teaching and your musicianship and your creative work was so inspired that we could not help but appoint your students—David Lang, Hannah Lash, Chris Theofanidis—to come and join you as you and your former students, who are now your colleagues, continue that legacy.”

“The School has give me so much more than I could ever give back,” Bresnick said. “The School of Music, to me, has been my Esterházy, a place where I try things, I learn things, things were taught to me and I just try to return them as much as possible to these wonderful students. I just need to remind people … the secret of being a great teacher is to choose really great students.”

Sharing an “inverted version” of an expression he’s passed on to students, Bresnick said, “When the student is ready, the teacher appears. I was happy to appear.”

Published September 16, 2019
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Achievements celebrated at annual Honors Dinner

Carol Colburn Grigor, recipient of the Samuel Simons Sanford Award

Left to right: Benjamin Polak, Peter Salovey, Samuel Simons Sanford Award winner Carol Colburn Grigor, and Robert Blocker

The Yale School of Music held its annual Honors Dinner on Sunday, May 7, welcoming students and alumni, faculty and staff, and distinguished guests to the Yale Commons for an evening of celebration. After thanking recently retired staff members for their service and acknowledging the University officers who were in attendance, YSM Dean Robert Blocker presented Carol Colburn Grigor ’69MMA CBE with the School’s highest honor, the Samuel Simons Sanford Award. Grigor, Blocker, said, “is one of America’s most generous … most thoughtful philanthropists.” Composer and former Edinburgh International Festival director Jonathan Mills congratulated Grigor via video.

Willie Ruff, recipient of the Nathan Hale Award

Left to right: Benjamin Polak, Peter Salovey, Nathan Hale Award recipient Willie Ruff, and Robert Blocker

Dean Blocker, with University President Peter Salovey and Yale Provost Benjamin Polak at his side, presented longtime YSM professor Willie Ruff ’53BM ’54MM, who will retire at the end of the semester, with the University’s prestigious Nathan Hale Award. “He’s changed all our lives,” Blocker said, before attendees were shown a video tribute to Ruff’s life and work. In a nod to the man who indirectly inspired him decades ago to study at YSM, Ruff said, “I thank, most of all, Charlie Parker.” The jazz office in the Yale School of Music’s Adams Center for Musical Arts was recently named in Ruff’s honor.

Left to right: Benjamin Polak, Peter Salovey, Ian Mininberg Distinguished Service Award winner Warren Lee, and Robert Blocker

Blocker presented the Ian Mininberg Distinguished Service Award to pianist Warren Lee ’00MM and the Cultural Leadership Citation to retiring Yale Collection of Musical Instruments curator William Nicholas Renouf ’71MMA. The Collection’s director, William Purvis, accepted the Citation on behalf of Renouf, who was unable to attend the Honors Dinner. Before presenting student prizes, Blocker referenced an impressive number of awards and successes earned and realized this year by students, faculty, and staff. He recognized longtime YSM faculty pianist Peter Frankl, who plans to retire in the fall, for his dedication to the School community.

At the end of the evening, Blocker told the students in attendance, “Claim the future. It belongs to you. You will make us better.” What follows is a list of the student prizes awarded during YSM’s 2017 Honors Dinner. MORE

Published May 9, 2017
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