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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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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Yo-Yo Ma performs at Yale, awarded Sanford Medal (photos)

Yo-Yo-Ma-198-web Cellist Yo-Yo Ma visited Yale on Tuesday, January 13 to perform a sold-out benefit concert in Woolsey Hall. Ma, who received an honorary Doctor of Music degree from Yale University in 1987, joined forces with Yale cello faculty Aldo Parisot and Ole Akahoshi as well as the Yale Philharmonia.

The event opened with Jean-Baptiste Barrière’s Sonata in G major for two cellos, for which Ma paired up with Assistant Professor of Cello Ole Akahoshi.

Ma then performed J.S. Bach’s Suite No. 3 in C major for solo cello to a rapt audience. MORE

Published January 16, 2015
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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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Willie Ruff receives Sanford Medal

CK-School_of_Music-2013-098Willie Ruff ’53BM, ’54MM received the Sanford Medal, the School of Music’s highest honor, this past Monday, May 20. Dean Robert Blocker presented the medal at the School’s Commencement ceremonies in Sprague Hall. The award honors Ruff’s contributions to the Yale School of Music and to the field of music.

A musician and scholar of wide-ranging interests and influence, Willie Ruff plays French horn and bass and is an author, lecturer, and educator. After graduating from Yale, he joined Lionel Hampton’s band and soon collaborated with his friend, pianist Dwike Mitchell, to form the Mitchell-Ruff Duo. The duo performed on the bill with major jazz figures, including Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and Count Basie, in every major nightclub. In 1959 they introduced jazz to the Soviet Union, playing and teaching in Russian conservatories, and in 1981 they did the same in China. MORE

Published May 24, 2013
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Tokyo Quartet, Peter Oundjian receive Sanford Medals

At the Tokyo String Quartet‘s performance last night, Dean Robert Blocker awarded the Sanford Medal to current and past members of the quartet. The medal, which is the highest honor that the Yale School of Music bestows, is awarded for distinguished service to music.

Blocker presented the medal to the four current members of the quartet – Martin Beaver, violin; Kikuei Ikeda, violin; Kazuhide Isomura, viola; and Clive Greensmith, cello – as well as to Peter Oundjian, who was the first violinist of the quartet for fourteen years and remains a member of the School of Music faculty.

Earlier this season, the Tokyo Quartet announced that it would retire from the international concert stage in the summer of 2013. The ensemble, which has been active for over 40 years, has been in residence at the School of Music since 1976. Yesterday’s concert was the quartet’s last in Morse Recital Hall.

The Sanford Medal is named for Samuel Simons Sanford (1849–1910), a pianist and educator who was a member of the Yale music faculty from 1894 to 1910. Sanford was instrumental in the establishment of the School of Music within Yale University. He was also a proponent of the music of Edward Elgar, and his efforts contributed to Elgar’s receiving an honorary doctorate from Yale in 1905. Previous recipients of the Sanford Medal include Georg Solti, Pierre Boulez, Aaron Copland, Virgil Thomson, Mstislav Rostropovich, Sherrill Milnes, Marilyn Horne, Emanuel Ax, and Richard Stoltzman.

Published January 23, 2013
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Joseph Polisi ’80DMA awarded Sanford Medal

At the Yale School of Music’s 119th Commencement today, alumnus Joseph Polisi was awarded the Samuel Simons Sanford Medal. The highest honor bestowed by the School of Music, the medal is awarded for distinguished service to music.

Polisi was awarded the DMA degree from the Yale School of Music in 1980, after earning his MM (1973) and MMA (1975) degrees here as well. He also holds a degree in political science from the University of Connecticut and one in international relations from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

Joseph Polisi became the sixth president of The Juilliard School in 1984. An accomplished bassoonist, he has performed as both soloist and chamber musician throughout the United States, including performances at Alice Tully Hall, Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, and Avery Fisher Hall. MORE

Published May 21, 2012
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