School of Music gives back to its alumni

When it comes to money and alumni at the School of Music, it is the school that does the giving.

On Thursday, the School of Music released the names of 14 alumni who will receive funding for music-related projects through the AlumniVentures program. The awards, which were established in 2008, are part of a program unique to the School of Music that gives money back to the School’s alumni using money from alumni donations. This year’s grants total $67,500.

“There is no other program like this in any other graduate level music school that I can think of,” said Sarita Kwok MUS ’09, a faculty member in the school who, for the past two, has years chaired the AlumniVentures committee that selects the grants’ winners.

“For a school to fund the projects of its alumni is really a very impressive and creative thing,” she said.

Kwok said this year the committee, which is made up of five alumni from different decades, received 170 applications. Grant winners are chosen based on how much the committee believes their project will “advance the cause of music,” she added. In addition to this admittedly broad standard, Kwok said the committee considers the feasibility of a particular project as well as its budget and overall creative, artistic or scholarly merit.

The $67,500 being awarded this year will support 14 different projects, with each individual grant ranging in value from $3,000 to $8,000. The $8,000 grant, which went to Kelly Dehnert MUS ’86, will fund the construction of new practice spaces for the only university-level band program in Malawi.

Dantes Rameau MUS ’07 received a $7,500 award that will help support his new organization, “the Atlanta Music Project,” a year-round, five-day-a-week afterschool youth orchestra program targeting low-income youth.

“We try to fundraise so that we don’t have to charge tuition fees to our students,” Rameau said. “This fundraising helps make the program accessible to those who need it the most.”

He said the AlumniVentures grant will help him start the Atlanta Music Project, allow him to purchase instruments and sheet music, in addition to assisting with the cost of teachers.

While Rameau’s project has other sources of funding, Kwok said that AlumniVentures grants are what allow certain initiatives to get off the ground.

“For some of them, the funding is absolutely essential,” Kwok said. “It is the start of the project.”

For example, Nicholas DiEugenio MUS ’09 used a $4,000 Alumniventures award he received last year to put together a series of concerts performed at American military hospitals for recovering soldiers. So far, DiEugenio has hosted one such concert and two more are in the works.

DiEugenio, who has three brothers serving in the military, said he appreciates the School of Music’s commitment to support projects that serve the unique passions of its alumni.

“I’m really thankful that Yale has something like this which is so broad and allows people to create their own proposals so people can further the cause of music in a way which they feel is most unique and personal to them” he said.

This year’s winners also represent a variety of classes from the School of Music, with three winners who graduated in the ’70s and one from the ’60s. Over the past three years, the AlumniVentures program has awarded a total of $230,000 in grants to alumni.

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