• Zach Finkelstein

Yale School of Music Sends Massive Stimulus Package to Students in Time of Need

This week, the Yale University School of Music offered its students, over 200 young musicians, a relief package on a sweeping, unprecedented scale.


In a March 31st letter to alumni, Dean Robert Blocker outlined an ambitious plan to provide aid, including "a one-time stipend of $500" to all students to assist with travel and expenses; full pay, despite social distancing, for all student employees through May 1st, 2020; and relocation of all international students who could not return home to University housing.


For the remainder of the semester, Blocker announced that all classes and degree recitals have moved online.


The letter ended on a poetic note: "'We carry each other in our hearts.' And because we do, I believe we will emerge from this ordeal stronger than before and truly convinced that music is the currency of hope".


The full text of the email is posted below:

The Yale School of Music is in a rarefied position among its peers to provide aid. Under the leadership of Dean Blocker, the school has grown its endowment from $29 million to over $400 million, in part due to a "transformative $100 million gift". Since 2005, thanks to this generous donation "all students admitted receive a full tuition award and fellowship". According to one alumni, 2014 fellowships started at $2,500 USD yearly and most students earn additional income through work study.


Alumni interviewed were deeply moved by the School's actions on behalf of students:


"I am proud to know that my alma mater, the Yale School of Music, is taking proactive, compassionate steps to aid its students during the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis. YSM students are a diverse, international body of musicians, many of whom have had to make emergency plans to travel thousands of miles to their home countries, or make sudden arrangements for alternate accommodations from which they can continue to take classes online. By putting its considerable resources to good use - such as housing students, disbursing emergency funds, or paying student employees for cancelled work - the YSM is taking a lead role among its peers in finding a helpful, humane response. This is a wildly scary time for many musicians around the world, and it is heartwarming to see a world-class educational institution stand up and support its artists."


Another alumni also stated their pride in Yale, and that the email "showed the generosity possible from heavily-endowed institutions as well as a level of interpersonal caring that has not been exemplified across the board, in the university or professional settings. Our student colleagues are some of the most vulnerable and impressionable amongst us, and Yale's willingness to help with issues of housing and travel, as well as extending a generous financial donation to each student, sets a great example to the community at large."


Other prestigious, but less financially secure, music schools such as the Guildhall School and the Royal Academy of Music (RAM) in London are taking a "business-as-usual" approach. Both are moving fully online for their performance degrees and charging full tuition, despite the inability to deliver their core mandate of performance training. The RAM's principal Jonathan Freeman-Attwood defended the costs in a letter to students: "the reality is that ‘on-line’ teaching costs the same as ‘in-person’ teaching."


For those institutions, one Yale alumni had this to say:

"You have forgotten your mission as artists and educators. We are the stewards of the next generation, and we are directly responsible for the world that they build as a result of our seemingly feckless actions. Take a moment to consider the true value of your edifice standing empty of creative bodies, and ask yourself what you have accomplished by depriving students of an education as befits that legacy you are working so hard to preserve." 


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