Project Description

Memo to: Members of the Yale Class of 1957

From: Malcolm Mitchell and Don Roberts

Re: Class Project

We're making great headway on the class project. Binky Davis has reported frequently on the project in the Yale Alumni Magazine 1957 Class Notes. Nevertheless, now, two years after our 40th Reunion, seems like a good time to bring all of you up to date.

1. What is the background on the project?

At our 1997 Reunion a handful of classmates floated the idea of a project our Class could work on collectively between then and our 50th Reunion. The goal: to give something back to the larger community. We wanted a project that would be an undertaking of the entire Class, not just a few classmates. With more of us retired, we hoped we would be able to engage many classmates, before our energy dwindles, in a satisfying way. We wanted to avoid, to the extent possible, making the project a fund-raising proposition. We also wanted a project that has a Yale/New Haven flavor to it.

2. What is the project?

In the summer of 1998, we asked the Class Council to select the project from among five or six candidates. That august body decided, nearly unanimously, to focus on music education in our nation's primary and secondary schools.

The objective that was set is to promote expanded music education in public schools K-12 across the country, to reverse what we perceive to be the reduction in music education that has occurred over many years, or at least since our K-12 years.

We would undertake four tasks:

  • a) gather serious research that establishes the links between music education in K-12 and the well-being of young people, both academic and emotional. If a national clearing house for such research does not exist, we could consider means for creating one;

  • b) collect anecdotes and studies of music programs that are benefiting young people and the schools, and compile information on how such programs were established - whether from within or outside the school, by whom, with what support, etc.;

  • c) disseminate the information gathered in a) and b) in such a way, and to such an audience, as to best further our objective; and

  • d) develop and implement programs, either independently or with others (e.g., the Yale School of Music is at work on this in New Haven), that we feel, on the basis of what we have learned above, have the best chances of leading to expanded music education in our schools.

3. Where does the project stand now?

About 50 classmates from all over the country have expressed interest in working on the project at various levels of intensity. Their names are on this letterhead. We've had four organizational meetings, and we have gotten a big boost from the enthusiastic participation of Robert Blocker, Dean of the Yale School of Music.

We've already found a good deal of evidence to support the idea that music education helps academic performance of young people. Steve Hopkins in April met with MENC (The National Association for Music Education), a Washington-based group representing 70,000 music educators. MENC reports that students involved in music, either through appreciation courses or as performers, score 40 SAT points higher in math, 60 points higher in verbal, than those with no arts course work. Other research we have since collected, as well as many books and articles by psychologists and others, lend further confirmation.

On the anecdotal level, we've heard from many classmates, and some spouses, who are familiar with successful music education programs around the country. For example, Jack Curlett reports on students with music studies in economically disadvantaged portions of Winston-Salem doing better on standardized tests than students from well-to-do areas who have not had music studies.

In July, Binky Davis, Sandy Clark, and the two of us met with Dean Blocker and others in New Haven to discuss the project. The Dean had recruited for the discussion Tom Duffy, Associate Dean of Yale's music school, Don Gibson, Director of Music at Ohio State, and Sam Hope, Executive Director of the National Association of Schools of Music. All of them have broad experience in the kinds of efforts that our project might undertake.

On November 20, before the satisfying Harvard game, 11 classmates met to review our progress and discuss the next steps.

4. What are the next steps?

The group that met on November 20 agreed to form three committees to pursue tasks a), b), and d) in #2 above:

  • a) Rod Correll and Steve Hopkins will be the focal points for classmates who would like to help gather serious research on the benefits of music education;

  • b) Sandy Clark will do the same for the collection of anecdotes and studies of successful school programs; and

  • c) Don Roberts and Tom Perkins will organize our efforts to see how we can support the School of Music's programs in New Haven.

5. What can I do?

The success of the project will depend on the extent to which classmates participate, and participation can be at whatever level of time or energy you choose to contribute.

Perhaps you'd be willing to describe instances of successful music education programs in your area, or to conduct interviews in your school district or at an individual school, using a unified set of questions that we'll establish about the effectiveness of their music programs.

Or perhaps you'd like to participate in our efforts in New Haven.

We're also looking for a web master who can help us use the Internet to solve the logistical problems that will arise in our collection and dissemination of information.

If you'd like to get involved in the project in any way, please contact either of the undersigned or any of our classmates on this letterhead.

Please also let us know if you'd like to be involved in our ongoing, long-term planning for the project. The next opportunities for such planning will be before the RPI hockey game in New Haven on January 29th, and at the annual class dinner in New York on March 16. You will receive separate notices of each meeting.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Best wishes,

Malcolm Mitchell & Don Roberts

December 8, 1999

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