Yale School of Music Associate Dean Praises NHPS Students, Teachers

Keep music education strong in public schools
 
Published: Thursday, August 25, 2011
 
Courtesy of New Haven Register
 
By Michael Yaffe
 
Editor’s note: This article is adapted from remarks by Michael Yaffe, associate dean of the Yale School of Music, at the final event of the school’s Morse Summer Music Academy Aug. 18. The academy had 51 students in grades 5 through 11.
 

THESE New Haven students have spent a month in the world of emotions. They’ve learned how to play their instruments better, and also learned how to express themselves better: That’s what music does. Learning about this as young people is going to affect them all their lives.
 
 

Emotion. What do I mean by that? I could mean getting angry and hitting someone. But, I could also mean getting angry and playing a very loud, aggressive piece of music. What would you rather have a young person do: Hit someone, or play music?
 

What else do I mean by emotion? I could mean being sad. I could mean being so sad that a youngster stays in bed for a week, or doesn’t pay attention to schoolwork. That’s one way of acting sad. But, what about playing a particularly soulful piece of music? That’s a much more productive way of dealing with sadness.
 

The first time I walked into the saxophone rehearsal, I almost started to cry because it was so sad and so beautiful a performance.
 

What about happy? That’s a good emotion. But, it can sometimes get kids into trouble — when they act out happy by pulling a prank or doing some mindless destruction. Or, it could mean goofing musically.
 

This is why arts education is so important. Music is a nonverbal emotional language, and those who use it have the potential to be better people: to express themselves more constructively; to have habits that encourage self-discipline, commitment to task and teamwork.
 

All of us in this room need to make sure that these students and countless others get arts education, in an intensive and full way. I promise you it will make a difference in the world and in their individual lives.
 

New Haven is showing the way in how music education can strengthen young people and their communities. The 60 music teachers in the New Haven public schools can testify to the fundamental value of the arts for all young people.
 

Their work is complemented by the efforts of the Neighborhood Music School, New Haven Symphony Orchestra, Music Haven and the Yale School of Music.
 

Yale University has been growing our programs for New Haven music, with more than 300 local young people engaged in music in the Schools Initiative during the academic year. This spring saw the debut of the All-City Band, a collaborative musical venture between Yale and the city schools. The music academy we celebrate today is completing its second summer.
 

What a month we have had. These students are some of the most committed young musicians I have ever seen. They came here for four hours a day of intensive music making, for four weeks.
 

They are at varying levels technically, but I have not seen one person on this stage not bring real music to the table. They are learning to express themselves in ways they never imagined.
 

They will be going back to school this year as musical leaders. They will be more technically proficient, but they also will teach fellow students about the value of music and emotion. They will make the music programs in New Haven public schools even better, because they care about making music.
 

They understand the impact music can have on everyone: a family, an audience, a school and a nation.
 

You can help them with that mission by making sure that music stays strong in the schools, that music is recognized for its values and that there are always opportunities to practice it.
 

Michael Yaffe is associate dean of the Yale School of Music, P.O. Box 208246, New Haven 06520.