Music In Schools

Project Description

November 2015 Report to Class of 1957 on the Music in Schools Endowment

1957 Class Members of the Music in Schools Committee: Peter Capra, Tom Chittenden, Merrill Clark, Rod Correll, Steve Hopkins, Gus Kellogg, Bern Kosto, Len Katz, Vincent Marchesi, Malcolm Mitchell, Tom Perkins, Phil Richards, Morris Raker, Don Roberts, Bob Smith, Nick Tingley, Rob Walker, John Watling and Steve Wittenberg.

New Haven Program:
At our October committee meeting, Ruben Rodreguez spoke eloquently about the program. The numbers include 42 ‘teaching artists’ (YSM students) working in 21 schools and serving over 300 children each week, with more requests both from YSM students, and New Haven schools, than can be met with the present resources. This year’s All City Honors Ensembles (an initiative of the program) include 215 New Haven public school students (and counting), in 8 ensembles including band, orchestra and choir. Additional programs have been developed during the winter and spring school vacation weeks—intensive week-long workshops for beginner music students in the Fair Haven neighborhood. This year they will expand to the Dixwell neighborhood as well.

All this involves a great deal of planning and supervision. The program has funded a part time assistant for Ruben, Rachel Glodo (Yale college graduate with a degree in musicology from Northwestern), but more funding enabling additional personnel could help to meet the ever growing partnership between MISI and the New Haven Schools. This partnership, with its unusual degree of trust, is indeed a model for a variety of actual and possible programs around the country.

Ruben spoke about the demographics in the New Haven schools, i.e. 26% under the poverty level, and an even higher percentage in the African American and Hispanic population. The teaching artists are carefully trained and monitored and have basically become real ‘life mentors’ for the children. There are many examples of the profound effect that participating in a musical ensemble, “active music making” under the guidance of these mentors, has changed the lives of the children and their families. Ruben gave one dramatic example of a child whose parents were drug addicted, and at times incarcerated, yet who, through her musical participation, has done so well that she is probably in line for a scholarship to an elite Ivy League college.

Emanuel Ax visit:
On November 10, 2015 Emanuel Ax paid a visit to our program. He, Ruben Rodriguez (MISI lead teacher), Michael Yaffe (associate dean and MISI program director) and I traveled to Betsy Ross middle school, Wilbur Cross high school and back to the YSM. Manny (he asked to be called this) observed YSM teaching artists working together with New Haven Public School music teachers as they taught the children, both one on one and in ensembles. At one point a teacher asked Manny if he would play something for the children. He sat down at a keyboard and played part of a Beethoven sonata. I doubt that keyboard has ever, or will ever, sound like that again! They children loved it. At the schools Manny had a chance to speak both with some students and at Wilbur Cross with the principle. After returning to YSM, lunch included a conversation with 6 of our teaching artists (YSM students). In an email to me after arriving home Manny described it as a “memorable day”. He also wrote to Ruben, who orchestrated the visits and conversations. “Dear Rubin, I was deeply touched and impressed by you and the teaching fellows- what a wonderful initiative and what wonderful results you are getting.” All in all it was a great day for the program.

On Oct 28, President Salovey and Linda K. Lorimer presented the Linda K. Lorimer Award for staff excellence and distinguished service to the university to nine key initiatives. Music in Schools was among the awardees and the citation read: “By teaming to develop the innovative Music in Schools Program, they have reinforced Yale’s connections with the New Haven community and earned us national recognition for this model of cultural leadership.” Click for further details.

Beck Study:
Rob and Jill Beck completed a 2 year study of the effect of participating in music programs on the life skills of students. Several positive effects were identified and the study has been given to Ellen Maust, the supervisor for music in the New Haven Schools. Ellen has used the findings to help with the professional development of several of her teachers.

2015 Symposium :
This symposium featured partnerships between an outside organization and the public schools. There were approx. 78 applications. 38 partnerships representing 19 states were chosen. These included such distinguished organizations as the Baltimore Symphony, the Buffalo Philharmonic, the Cleveland Symphony, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Santa Fe Opera, and a group of lesser known but very creative collaborations. Several of us attended the symposium and can attest to the energy, enthusiasm and creativity of the participants. YSM has a particular interest in staying in touch with several of the participants. I have personal experience with a Springfield partnership that was one of the honorees. They have called it the ‘best professional experience of their lives’ and have launched ideas gleaned at the symposium as well as gotten grants that they feel would not have come without this recognition from the Yale School of Music. Click here for the full Symposium story and pictures.

Visiting Professor:

Sebastian Ruth is again teaching his class on Music and Civil Society. The course explores the philosophical underpinnings of music’s contribution to society. Each student, as a final activity, is asked to create a project which demonstrates a tangible effect of music on the community. Professor Ruth is also finishing the first Coursera course to be commissioned by the Yale School of Music. This will be launched in January.

The class of 1957’s Music in Schools initiative has grown well beyond any of the original dreams. It is having a profound effect on the New Haven public schools, and has significantly strengthened Yale’s ties with the city . It is changing the outlook of Yale music students who not only become accomplished musical artists but appreciate the value of community involvement and receive vital experience in teaching underserved young people. The biannual national symposia have brought the school national recognition. At the same time the symposia have created the opportunity to honor talented public school music teachers, an underappreciated group. The class can take pride in the fact that this program is very much a part of the Yale School of Music and will continue well beyond our time.

Respectfully submitted,
Stephen M Wittenberg MD
Chair- Class of ’57 Music in Schools Committee