Amid budget cuts for music programs in schools nationwide, outreach and funding efforts from Yale have helped music classes in New Haven public schools to survive.
Currently, 18 School of Music graduate students intern in New Haven public schools through grants from the Yale Class of 1957 gift, said Denise Meyer, director of music outreach for the School of Music. Graduate students supplement music teaching at the schools through weekly lessons and outreach concerts. The gift also funds teaching staff, instruments and consulting for the music program at Lincoln-Bassett Elementary School, where Yale has concentrated its outreach efforts.
Meyer said the program provides keyboard classes to all Lincoln-Bassett students from Kindergarten through second grade, choral and recorder instruction to third graders, as well as band and string instrument instruction in fourth through seventh grade.
Students at Lincoln-Bassett receive music classes four times per week — more than students at any other school in the city. Meyer and Lincoln-Bassett Principal Ramona Gatison said the classes might have positively influenced test scores at the school over the past five years.
“We’ve seen an alignment with the development of the music program we have as it has carried over to literacy and the mathematics,” Gatison said. “It’s a wonderful program, and it’s had a very positive effect on our students.”
Meyer said studies have shown a correlation between music study and neural development.
“For example, the keyboard program in Kindergarten, which is pretty intensive music study, emphasizes notation, fine and gross motor skills and patterning,” she said.
Regina Warner, the supervisor of music, media services and Advanced Placement for the City Library, said the New Haven public school system currently supports music instruction in 42 city schools, with band, string and vocal programs beginning to expand elsewhere in the city.
Unlike other schools throughout the country, Warner said the New Haven school system has faced no major financial difficulties in music instruction, though a fundraiser will be launched this spring to provide additional support.
“Our superintendent is dedicated to and supportive of the program,” she said. “And Yale has been a magnificent influence and a magnificent opportunity for our kids.”
Acting Dean of the Yale School of Music Thomas Duffy said the school may expand its music outreach program with some of the funds from the School’s recent $100 million donation, though he said his position as acting dean does not allow him to make any formal decisions on how the money should be used.
Duffy said the School of Music already has an established presence in the public school system, but may also want to use some of its new resources to formalize the study of music pedagogy in the graduate studies curriculum.
“I think that it would be prudent for schools such as ours to have some symbiotic relationship with the music element of our society in its formative stages,” Duffy said, stressing that the Music School will not simply “be shipping money through the school into the New Haven school system.”
Any plans for expansion will be budgeted, discussed and implemented over the next five years, he said.