Alumni applaud music school donation

While Mihai Marica MUS ’04 said he was excited about last week’s announcement that a $100 million anonymous donation to the School of Music would permanently eliminate tuition at the School, he said he and his fellow alumni friends were frustrated they missed out on the opportunity to attend the school for free.

“Some of us are still paying off our loans from school now,” Marica said. “We were like, ‘If only we’d applied to music school two or three years later.’”

The donation — the largest single gift in the School of Music’s history — will eliminate the need for students to pay tuition starting next fall, and will also allow the school to pursue additional projects and renovations, former music school Dean Robert Blocker said. While alumni said the waiver will allow a number of new students who in the past could not afford an education at the School of Music, some students said they feel the donation was excessive.

The donation will both help relieve financial burdens on students and allow the music school to achieve a higher level of independence, Blocker said.

“It means the school isn’t as reliant on the University,” said Blocker, who, with President Richard Levin, helped to secure the gift during his 10-year tenure as dean of the School of Music, which ended in July.

Ezra Laderman, another former School of Music dean, said the gift will boost the school’s reputation among its peers. Laderman said he thinks the donation levels will put Yale on par with the four other competitive music schools in the country — Juilliard, the Eastman School of Music, the Curtis Institute of Music and the University of Indiana’s School of Music — in terms of financial aid packages.

The burden of paying off loans is a major deterrent for many music students, as the field is known for its scarcity of high-paying jobs, alumni said.

Juilliard School President Joseph Polici MUS ’80 said the donation will help musicians in their post-graduate career paths.

“Art students are really not supported in the same way as students at other kinds of institutions,” he said. “These young artists have to take out enormous debts, but then, when they get good jobs with better compensation, they often have to drop out of their chosen profession.”

Karen DiYanni MUS ’97 said she believes the donation will help attract new students to Yale’s School of Music.

“Now students won’t have to look elsewhere,” she said. “In the past, students had to choose between paying less money and going to the School of Music.”

But some Yale students said they believe the $100 million gift could have been directed to more pressing causes, such as world crises resulting from natural disasters.

Jenny Lee ’06 said she thinks the donation will allow the University to “buy the most talented musicians in the nation,” but it will not be used to further outside causes.

“It is not like they’re using the money build a new concert hall for New Haven or fund local artists,” she said. “This money goes back into funding Yale’s reputation. It’s like they are buying prestige.”

Matthew Traldi ’06 said he does not oppose the donation, but believes there are causes that might have benefited more from the money.

“You are never going to agree entirely with what other people do with their money,” he said. “Donating to a university isn’t necessarily the first cause that springs to mind of what I’d do with my money, but it doesn’t mean I disapprove of what other people do. There may be better things to do with it, but there are also a lot of worse things.”

Laderman said it is important to remember that while the gift may seem extravagant in higher education, it pales in comparison to other sorts of spending in the world.

“A supersonic aircraft costs a hell of a lot more than 100 million dollars,” he said. “We spend a lot more than $100 million on the destruction of lives.”

Paul Jacobs MUS ’03, chair of the organ department at Juilliard, said musicians across the world are often active philanthropists and hold benefit concerts to raise money for charitable causes.

“Musicians are perhaps more directly tied in to humanitarian causes than any other kind of artists,” Jacobs said.

Several music school alumni said they believed the gift was a symbolic step in support of the arts.

“I think the donation is an extraordinary manifestation of how the arts are viewed in America,” Polici said.

In addition to eliminating tuition, the donation will enable the School of Music to fund the renovation of buildings.

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