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A City, A University, and A School District: New Haven’s Musical Partnership

Yale Kids Seated

Two middle-school percussionists are grouped around a tall, red-headed graduate student.

“Okay, let’s talk cues,” Kramer says. “First, make eye contact. Stand tall and exhibit the character of the piece: what we look like should match how our music sounds. Juan, you’re going to cue us this time.”

The two middle school boys position their mallets. Juan licks his lips and squares his shoulders, looking directly at Yuheng and Kramer. He gives a decisive down-up motion with his head, and the group launches into Steve Reich's Music for Pieces of Wood. The boys look up from their music, checking in with each other, focused and expectant. They’re making music together, and they’re happy.

Each fall, 200 of the world’s best emerging musicians enroll at the Yale School of Music, a professional graduate school at Yale University and an international leader in musical training. They will spend their days—and nights—in the studio, the practice room, the classroom, and the stage, developing their craft and artistry under experts in instrumental and vocal performance.

But for a number of these students, their Yale music experience will not be restricted to the confines of the campus and concert hall. They will spend hours each week in a public school music classroom, coaching, mentoring, and supporting New Haven’s young musicians.

Yale Kids DancingThese Teaching Artists have become part of the musical fabric in New Haven Public Schools. Some go to local schools once or twice a week for individual lessons or sectionals, while others conduct and coach over-200 students in after-school ensembles. In July, 40 expert Teaching Artists lead chamber groups, large ensembles, and private lessons during a month-long summer intensive. All of these programs are free and open to any music student in New Haven Public Schools and are supported by the endowment from the Yale College Class of 1957 and Mr. and Mrs. Lester Morse (YC ’51).

The Music in Schools Initiative is defined by its partnership with New Haven Public Schools. Each of the program’s activities are designed and implemented in collaboration with the NHPS arts supervisor and NHPS music educators. In-school Teaching Artists work under the supervision of a certified music teacher, and NHPS teachers also conduct for the All-City Honors Ensembles, vacation festivals, and summer academy.

Like the best relationships, both partners benefit equally. New Haven students, teachers, and schools gain free support, training, and opportunities that augment and expand on the city’s commitment to music education. Yale graduates develop their teaching skills as well as a social conscience for how music exists outside the concert hall. Everyone—students, families, teaching artists, music educators, and the community—is infected by the joys of music-making and friendship.

Yale Kids on HornsAll of this growth is built on relationships and mentoring. If you ask Gabriella, a seventh grader, to describe her Teaching Artist, she’ll reply, "Hmmm...fun…supportive…nice…!” Gabriella began her musical journey four years ago when she was dropped off at school an hour early because her brother attended early morning band rehearsals. Her music teacher sensed an opportunity: he added a chair, handed Gabriella a flute, and connected her with a Yale Teaching Artist for weekly lessons. Gabriella has developed a special, trusting relationship with her Teaching Artists, and she has found a home in her school and city through her music.

When asked about what music has brought to her life, Gabriella answers, "Happiness!" Her sincere statement resonates in a world desperately in need of healing and community. In New Haven and other American cities, there are many more young people who deserve happiness and many more students waiting to learn and share the music in their lives.

The experiences of students like Gabriella link the Music in Schools Initiative to the larger vision for the Yale School of Music, one that emphasizes cultural leadership and social transformation through music. The Music in Schools Initiative is proud to see music at work in over 1000 students’ lives each year in New Haven, but the School looks forward to a larger conversation about music-making in U.S. city schools. As part of this school-wide mandate to be active on the local, national, and global scales, the Initiative hosts a biennial Symposium on Music in Schools, a national forum for the discussion of the role that music and music teaching plays in the development of communities. In June 2017, SpreadMusicNow founder Richard Wenning will be attending the working Symposium dedicated to formulating a vision for music-making in America’s cities. SpreadMusicNow is proud to stand with Yale in their mission to support strong in-school music education. Now, more than ever before, we need music to heal, restore, and transform American cultural spaces.

Guest blog post written by Rachel Glodo, Assistant to the Associate Dean, Yale School of Music

All Photos by Matthew Fried | Yale School of Music

Learn more about the Yale School of Music Music in Schools Initiative here or watch their video:

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