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Yale School of Music Honors Nation’s Teachers


New Haven, Conn. — Music teachers from public schools across the country will converge at Yale on May 30–31 for the first International Symposium on Music Education, an event made possible by the Class of 1957 with an endowment gift to the School of Music for music education.

Forty-five teachers will receive the inaugural Yale Distinguished Music Educator Awards. The award recognizes music teachers and administrators who have made major contributions to music programs in public schools in the United States. Nominated by music educators, administrators, and members of the Class of ’57, the honorands were selected by a committee.

The two-day symposium, titled “Music: A Child’s Birthright,” will include curricular workshops for public school teachers, panel discussions with internationally renowned music school and conservatory administrators, lectures by leading pedagogues in the field, and a recital by renowned pianist Emanuel Ax.

“The objective of the Symposium is to bring together international perspectives on the importance of arts education in the public schools,” notes Paul Hawkshaw, who is Professor in the Yale School of Music and has given leadership to this project since its beginning in 1997.

The Symposium takes its title from a declaration by Roberta Guaspari, the inspiration for the 1996 documentary “Small Wonders” and the 1999 film “Music of the Heart,” starring Meryl Streep: “It should be an inalienable right for every child to have music education.” Guaspari, who is the founder of the non-profit Opus 118 Harlem School of Music, which offers music instruction to low-income children, will give the keynote address at the Symposium.

According to an article, “The Arts Make a Difference,” by Nick Rabkin and Robin Redmond, which appeared in the February 2006 issue of Educational Leadership, “. . . arts education can have powerful effects on student achievement. Moreover, these effects may be most profound for struggling students.” The authors noted increasing awareness that “the arts were cognitive and that arts study could have serious academic benefits.”

The Yale School of Music initiative to advance public school music education nationally began 10 years ago when, guided by the Dean of the Yale School of Music, Robert Blocker, members of the Yale College Class of ’57 Class decided to focus on improving and promoting the importance of music education as a meaningful way to commemorate their 50th reunion.

As the first phase of their initiative, the Class of ’57 has set up and funded a program, the Music in Schools Initiative, to integrate music instruction into the academic curriculum of New Haven’s public schools. The purpose is to sharpen students’ cognitive and motor skills as well as to make them receptive to music as a positive force in their lives. Students begin with music and movement in preschool, study keyboards in kindergarten and learn other instruments beginning in third grade. Workshops incorporate music into other disciplines, such as math, science and reading. The program also includes several teaching internships for students at the Yale School of Music. As the project expands, the Class of ’57 hopes that it will become a regional and even national model.

Don Roberts ’57 believes that the efforts of his class have already made a palpable difference. “The quality of music education is better in the several New Haven public schools touched by our project. . . . All of these initiatives will boost the quality of music education, not only in New Haven but across the United States,” says Roberts.

“It is encouraging for the future of music training to have such broad support and involvement in efforts to improve the public schools of America" notes School of Music Associate Dean Michael Yaffe, reflecting on the concerted efforts of Yale alumni, the School of Music and public school music teachers from New Haven and throughout the country. “Our students have the expertise to make a major contribution as teachers to a generation of school children,” he adds, remarking on Yale’s unique strength in hosting this event.

By honoring dedicated and successful public school music educators, organizers of the Symposium hope to raise awareness of the importance of music in the classroom and in American society. “Music,” notes Hawkshaw, ”is an essential part of how we think and feel.”

List of panelists:

Wang Cizhao
President of the Central Conservatory of Music, Beijing, China

Roberta Guaspari-Tzavaras
Founder of the Opus 118 Music Center, Harlem, New York

Clifford Madsen
Director of the Center for Music Education Research at Florida State University

Joseph Polisi ’80DMA
President of the Juilliard School, New York, NY

Michael Yaffe
Associate Dean of the Yale School of Music

Workshop Presenters

René Boyer
Professor, College-Conservatory of Music, University of Cincinnati

Anthony Leach
Professor, Pennsylvania State University

Deborah Sheldon
Chair, Department of Music, Temple University

William Westney ’71MM, ’76DMA
Paul Whitfield Horn Distinguished Professor and Browning Artist-in-Residence, Texas Tech University.


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