Yale School of Music Funds Alumni Efforts to Promote the "Cause of Music"

Yale School of Music Dean Robert Blocker has announced the alumni recipients of the first grants to advance the cause of music under the “alumniVentures” program.

Yale School of Music Dean Robert Blocker has announced the alumni recipients of the first grants to advance the cause of music under the “alumniVentures” program.

In the inaugural year of what Blocker hopes to be an annual program, alumniVentures received 300 grant proposals from 329 alumni (there were several joint proposals) for projects ranging from commissions and travel to recitals, recording and outreach programs. The number of responses was remarkable for a school with just over 3,000 alumni.

“Since coming to Yale in 1995 I have been inspired by the many ways our alumni advance the cause of music,” Blocker said. “Knowing how many musicians sacrifice financial security because of their passion for music, I wanted to assist and acknowledge some of these extraordinary contributions to our art.  The program I envisioned was one where we could reconnect alumni to the School through their work as musicians and assist them by using part of the annual fund for these awards. I hope we can increase the funding allocation, and perhaps other institutions will create similar programs to benefit their graduates and enhance the role of music in our lives,” Blocker added.

Project applications were received from alumni throughout the world and from classes ranging from the 1940s to recent graduates of the school. Deputy Dean Thomas Masse ’91 MM, ’92 AD chaired a committee that included four other alumni to review the applications and determine the winners.

“The breadth, scope, originality and quality of these ventures was overwhelming,” said Masse. “I think I speak for the entire committee when I state that the impression we were left with was that Yale School of Music alums are involved in some of the most dynamic, creative, and inspiring work that many of us have seen in quite a long time.”

Grants totaled $100,000, including three winners of $10,000 grants: Lars Frandsen MM ’92 to support presentations of the Prison Concert Project; Mildred C. Rosner BM ’56 and Margot D. Schwartz MM ’07, to support Summer Music Berkeley, a year-round program for string players in Oakland, California, and Terri Sundberg MM ’86, to support her work with “Peace Through Music Uganda” and the Shropshire Foundation, which works to improve the quality of life of war-affected children.

Several of the winning projects take advantage of music’s potential for public service. Four will bring quality musical experiences to various underserved school-age children, while others bring music to prisons and hospitals. With his $10,000 grant, guitarist Lars Frandsen MM ’92 will be able to present performances and master classes in 20 state prisons and rehabilitation facilities throughout California and New York. He will also work with guitarists among the prison population. 

Harpist Julia Cunningham ’99M uses the healing power of music to serve the sick and dying. “There is something magical and soothing about the harp,” says Cunningham. “The grant will allow me to purchase therapy harps for several Los Angeles hospitals where for the past five years I have witnessed first hand the powerful effect of music on people struggling for courage in the face of death.”

Arthur Bloom ‘94MM is also doing some work in a hospital setting, at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Through Musicorps, a rehabilitative music program he developed for injured combat veterans, participants can learn, create, and produce original music during long and difficult periods of recovery. “These guys are badly injured, yet work for hours and hours on their music,” said Bloom. “They work with this tremendous passion, and it’s impossible not to be inspired by that. It is tremendously gratifying.”

Despite the economic downturn, Blocker said the school is committed to continuing alumniVentures in 2009–10, though perhaps at a reduced funding level.

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Media Contact

Dorie Baker: dorie.baker@yale.edu, 203-432-1345