Music Dept. reviewed

Last week, a team of five music scholars from Yale’s peer institutions visited the Music Department and Yale’s music facilities as part of an external review overseen by the Provost’s Office.

The review comes on the tail of several big changes for the department, which moved into the newly renovated Stoeckel Hall this past January and hired an all-new crop of junior faculty members last year. In light of these changes, Music Department Chair Daniel Harrison and Provost Peter Salovey said, the department was a prime candidate for review.

“The Provost’s Office felt that with the new space and temporary stability in hiring, it was a good time to take stock and see what the next steps might be,” Harrison said.

Yale College Dean Mary Miller said the external review will allow the department to look at its programs and administration in comparison to peer institutions and to examine its role within the “larger constellation” of musical organizations at Yale.

The department will receive a report with the team’s findings within the next month, Harrison said, and music department administrators will write their own report in response, Salovey added. This document will be discussed by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Humanities Advisory Committee and the FAS Steering Committee, Salovey said. The document will then be used to form a strategic plan for continued hiring and facilities practices in the Music Department.

The visiting team, which includes scholars from a variety of disciplines including musical theory, music history and ethnomusicology, spent the bulk of its two days on campus meeting with faculty and students and visiting facilities, Harrison said.

Brian Fidali ’11, one the upperclassmen who met with the review team, said the team members conducted interviews with students about their experiences in the Music Department.

“It was very well-run,” Fidali wrote in an e-mail Monday.

The team’s visit comes one year after the Music Department’s internal review, during which a group of administrators and faculty authored a self-study report outlining their findings, which Salovey said is key to the entire review process.

“The departmental reviews first of all are an opportunity for the department to come together and develop a self-study in which the faculty considers its strengths, weaknesses and hopes for the future,” Salovey said in an e-mail Tuesday.

Perennial issues such as a shortage of practice and performance space found their way into the self-study report again this year. The report also raised new concerns about curricular variety, Harrison said.

Harrison said the department considered the role of ethnomusicology, the study of world music across different cultures, in the undergraduate curriculum in its self-study report. The department currently offers five such classes — including “Topics in World Music,” a survey course required for all students in the major — but is open to the idea of adding more.

Harrison said changes to the curriculum were unlikely to result from the external review process directly, but he suggested that curricular changes would be considered when the department examines its undergraduate program, a process that takes place on a multi-year cycle. Harrison said he does not yet know when that examination will next take place.

But a student at the review meeting pitched the idea of allowing students to substitute a more focused ethnomusicology course for the required “Topics in World Music” and the idea was well-received, Fidali said.

“There seemed to be a student support and interest by the review team,” Fidali said in an e-mail Wednesday.

Harrison said the department is optimistic about the results of the review — especially given the department’s history with external reviews.

“Ironically, the department was established as the result of an external review in 1939 taking a look at music at Yale,” Harrison said.

The Chemistry Department and the Bioethics Center at the Institution for Social and Policy Studies were reviewed in October, and the Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology and Computer Science departments are slated to undergo external reviews this spring, Salovey said.

Two to three departments have been reviewed per semester since the Provost’s Office reinstated external reviews in 2005 under former Provost Andrew Hamilton.

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