University President Peter Salovey and his bluegrass band were the stars of the inauguration weekend.
As members of the Yale community celebrated Salovey’s inauguration, they had a chance to see him and his band — Professors of Bluegrass — perform at several events on campus. Music pervaded the inaugural festivities: the Saturday inauguration brunch, the inaugural ball and the inauguration ceremony itself featured performances by Yale-affiliated and local musicians. Salovey’s fellow band members and Yale administrators said the presence of music at the inauguration festivities is an indication of his passion for music — a passion they said will create a supportive environment for aspiring musicians at Yale as well as help him stay connected to the student body.
“His mantra is a more united Yale — it’s kind of a perfect thing that he’s showing an example through music,” said Director of the Yale Symphony Orchestra Toshiyuki Shimada.
Oscar Hills, Yale professor of psychology and Professors of Bluegrass’s banjo player, said he thinks Salovey’s enthusiasm is the glue that holds the band together. Salovey’s passion for music and performance will help Salovey connect with students, Hills said, as it gives students a chance to see him as “a living, breathing human being with passions.”
Professors of Bluegrass was founded in 1990 by Salovey and former Yale psychology professor Kelly Brownell. Although some of the band’s original members have left the group, Salovey has remained dedicated to Professors of Bluegrass throughout its history, Hills said.
Salovey’s willingness to perform for Yale students is not only an indication of his approachability and outgoing nature, but also a model for all those involved with music on campus, Shimada said. He added that all music groups should learn from Salovey’s emotional connection with music — a connection evident in his performances.
Director of the Yale Glee Club Jeffrey Douma said Salovey’s continued involvement with music proves that it is possible to practice music while pursuing other fields. Douma said he thinks Salovey’s pursuit of music during his time as a Yale administrator indicates his wide array of interests.
“It’s evidence of a person who understands many different facets of life if you can embrace performing arts and also carry on a career as an educator,” Douma said.
Hills and Shimada agreed that having a president who understands music and performance may attract prospective applicants with an aptitude for the field. Hills said high school students who are bluegrass musicians have frequently approached Professors of Bluegrass members to share their interest in applying to Yale because they know bluegrass music is valued at the University.
“It would seem to me that one good indicator that music is valued at a university is that the president plays it and loves it and performs it onstage,” Hills said. “A student looking for a university in which his or her musical interest is valued would be hard pressed to think that that would not be the case at Yale.”
Professors of Bluegrass performed at the ROMP festival in Owensboro, Ky. last June.