Light & Verity

Man bites dog. School gives money to alumni.

Gregory Nemec

Gregory Nemec

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In a switch on the usual arrangement between schools and their alumni, the Yale School of Music is handing out money to its graduates. Its dean, Robert Blocker, has adapted the spirit of "If music be the food of love, play on" into alumniVentures, a new program that distributes $100,000 a year to meet his simply expressed mandate: "Advance the cause of music."

The School of Music is already in the rare position of granting free tuition to all its students; the alumniVentures fund (drawn from the school's annual fund and some discretionary funds) isn't anywhere near that scale. It's not a sizeable sum of money, says Blocker, "but it's a matter of priorities. It's about making certain we are sustaining and encouraging the cause of music."

After the call for submissions went out last June, 300 alumni proposals came in. The school has chosen 16 of these, many of them collaborations, to share this year's $100,000.

The winning projects are not so much ways for alumni to advance their own careers as they are attempts at outreach and enlightenment. Lars Frandsen ’93MusM will use his award money to present concerts in prisons. Terri Sundberg ’86MusM will promote music as a means of improving the lives of Ugandan children affected by war. Arthur Bloom ’86, ’93MusM, ’94MusAM, has developed a rehabilitative program called Musicorps that helps injured combat veterans create and produce original music. Pedro de Alcantara ’83MusM will make videos to accompany his book The Integrated Musician. Julia Cunningham ’97MusM will buy harps she uses as a volunteer in Los Angeles hospitals.

Many of the projects serve specific small neighborhoods and communities, most of them in New York. Closer to Yale, violinists Tina Lee Hadari ’04MusM and Michelle Lee ’03MusM are sharing their alumniVentures funds with the New Haven nonprofit Music Haven, which arranges for musicians to mentor at-risk youths.

The final selections were made by a committee of five that included the music school's deputy dean, Thomas Masse ’91MusM, ’92ArtA, and four alumni. Blocker is already gearing up for the next round, which will be promoted in February through the school and at www​ "Our alumni are everywhere, in cities all over the country and the world," says Blocker. "We wanted to ask, 'Wherever you're planted, what can we help you do?'"  

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