Music Initiative to continue

Yale lost its leading musical ambassador to New Haven public schools Thursday, but administrators at both the School of Music and city schools say they are committed to continuing his efforts.

The week after the death of John Miller MUS ’07, the inaugural leader of the Music in the Schools Initiative, New Haven teachers and school administrators affirmed their desire to continue the program, which places Yale School of Music students in New Haven classrooms to teach and instill a love of music. Though a search for Miller’s replacement has not yet begun, Associate Dean of the School of Music Michael Yaffe said he and members of the school are taking steps to ensure the programs will start on a normal schedule this October.

“We will move forward with no less passion and no less determination, and we will reflect the founding principles that John had in place,” School of Music Dean Robert Blocker said.

Music graduate students have already begun teaching this fall in the K-8 John C. Daniels School, the first New Haven school to host the initiative, Yaffe said. He spoke with graduate students interested in the program Monday at an organizational meeting — one that had been scheduled by Miller before his death.

Miller, a trombonist, was brought onto the School of Music’s staff upon graduating to lead the initiative, which was established in 2007 with a Yale Class of 1957 grant. He died Sept. 15 after falling from a fourth-story window of Hendrie Hall at 165 Elm St., in what the University and police have termed an “apparent suicide.”

Now in its fifth year, the Music in the Schools Initiative operates at varying degrees in 25 New Haven schools and has traditionally begun in mid-October. Yaffe said that he has assumed many of Miller’s administrative duties for the present. His assistant, Jessica Johnson, and other part-time staff members are also stepping in to help the programs run smoothly, he added.

“As far as the program is concerned, the schools are committed to doing this kind of thing,” Yaffe said Monday. “It was really clear from the meeting with the music teachers today that they are very pleased with the Yale relationship and want to continue it.”

Yaffe said it is premature for him to think about hiring a replacement for Miller, although he said a new person will assume the post in the long term.

Ellen Maust, facilitator of music for the city’s public schools, said Miller was dedicated to the grant’s mission of expanding access to music education among the city’s youth.

Originally conceived by Blocker, the initiative represents the “jewel in the crown” of the University’s work in the city’s schools, said Claudia Merson, Yale’s director of public school partnerships.

“[The iniatitive] represents the best of what a university and its hometown can do,” said Michael Morand ’87 DIV ’93, director of state communications and special initiatives. “It is a community of educators, not the School of Music doing something for New Haven kids but doing it together with them.”

More than 300 city schoolchildren have participated in the Music in the Schools Initiative, which includes tutoring programs in various schools as well as citywide ensembles.

Zoe Gorman contributed reporting.

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