Purvis takes over instrument collection

Yale’s oldest musical artifacts have a new caretaker.

William Purvis, a horn player and School of Music faculty member since 1999, was appointed as the director of the Yale Collection of Musical Instruments on March 11. Purvis had been the collection’s interim director since 2008, and in his new role as director, Purvis said he plans to spearhead projects that enhance the presence the collection has within the School of Music and Yale community at large while also preserving the integrity of its holdings for future generations.

Before his appointment to the directorship of the Yale Collection of Musical Instruments, Michael Purvis had served as the collection’s interim director since 2005.
Christian Steiner
Before his appointment to the directorship of the Yale Collection of Musical Instruments, Michael Purvis had served as the collection’s interim director since 2005.

“Coming to the collection and seeing these instruments and hearing the ones that can be played begins to give one a perspective on history — in the most profound sense,” Purvis said in an interview. “There are many stories of people who are not musicians who find their way to the door of the collection one way or another and were so taken by what was there that they become life long friends and supporters.”

Officials from the School said they feel Purvis’ background makes him particularly qualified to manage the collection which, with nearly 1,000 objects including instruments and accessories, is one of their most unique resources.

“[Purvis] will bring vision, great ideas, and good musical judgment to the work of this important asset for the School of Music, the music community, and Yale as a whole,” Associate Dean of the School of Music Michael Yaffe said.

Purvis said he plans to enhance the collection’s website in hopes of making images and audio of instruments available online. He is also in the process of planning an audio tour that would be available to visitors to the Collection. By next fall, he anticipates that an audio tour of the center’s keyboard collection — one of the four largest of its kind in the country — will be completed.

School of Music Dean Robert Blocker and Purvis each highlighted their goal of making the resources of Collection more well-known and widely available for educational purposes. Purvis said he is dedicated to broadening the patron base for the collection because he believes that musicians and non-musicians alike can learn from the artifacts on display.

“Our goal is to not only make the public aware but to encourage them to join us in sharing the wonderful resource that is ours to enjoy with the people that live and work on this campus,” Blocker said.

Prior to 2008, the collection had been under the auspicies of the Provost’s office. The School of Music took over maintenance and curation of the instruments and appointed Purvis as interim director in order to make the collection more of an educational resource for musicians on campus.

Purvis said he would also like the Collection to sponsor additional master classes and to use such programs to reach out to a larger group of both participants and audience members. Last month, Italian viola da gamba player Paolo Pandolfo and Norwegian lutenist and guitarist Thomas C. Boysen taught master classes on their instruments at the Collection following a concert there.

During his term as interim director, Purvis helped the Collection vastly increase its holdings, acquiring two baroque flutes, a classical bassoon and clarinets for the Yale Baroque Ensemble, the collection’s ensemble-in-residence, under the direction of Robert Mealy. Looking forward, Purvis plans to further enhance the collection’s wind instruments, ordering classical and baroque oboes.

Before joining the faculty of the School of Music, Purvis had been a faculty artist with their summer school at the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival since 1984.

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