Large gift enables Yale Bands’ professional development

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Photo by Zoe Gorman.

At the end of last semester, an anonymous donor gave a significant gift to the Yale Bands endowment to encourage undergraduate ensembles to have first-person contact with professional musicians.

School of Music professor and Yale Bands Director Thomas Duffy said the donation — which will be called the Rosamonde Safier Endowment — is at least six figures, but denied to disclose the exact amount of the gift according to the donor’s wishes. Previously, Yale Bands, which comprises the Concert Band, the Precision Marching Band and the Jazz Ensemble, had been able to fund visits from guest composers, conductors, performers and other professionals to lead workshops and network with undergraduates. But since such opportunities fall outside of the Bands’ regular operating budget, the group was unable to bring speakers to campus with regularity, Duffy said. The organization can now increase both the number and quality of such opportunities, he explained.

“Meeting professionals helps on a psychological level,” said Nick Baskin ’14, who plays in the Concert Band and is pursuing music professionally. “It reinforces in my mind that people can actually be successful doing music.”

Astrid Baumgardner, the head of career strategies at the School of Music, said it is particularly important for young musicians to find role models in the professional world. Most contemporary musicians have to carve their own niche in the music industry, often using entrepreneurial methods of self-branding and networking, she explained, adding that job security and traditional paths in the music world are currently in flux as technology and cultural shifts change the classical music industry.

But only a minority of Yale Bands players want to become professional musicians. Duffy said he is unsure of how many students want to pursue music after Yale, and Jazz Ensemble manager Alyssa Hasbrouck ’14 said in an email that she thinks most students in the Bands do not intend on a career in music. Still, Duffy said alumni who did not go into music professionally often recall visits from guest musicians as their most vivid and lasting memories of the Bands.

The anonymous donor dedicated the gift to Rosamonde Safier in honor of the centennial of her birth. Safier composed and performed as part of the Tin Pan Alley movement, which included various styles of pop music prevalent during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and her songs were performed by Yale alumnus Rudy Vallée ’28 and George Gershwin. Duffy said that since the Jazz Ensemble performed Safier’s works in the last few years, her name was on his mind, and the donor wanted Safier’s name and accomplishments to live on.

Valleé, who promoted Safier’s career, was the first “crooner” and the 1927 drum major for the Yale Precision Marching Band.

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