Zoe Berg, Photo Editor

After 15 years at the School of Music and 45 years in academic administration, Associate Dean Michael Yaffe retired this week. 

Yaffe made the decision to retire two years ago as a result of the process outlined in Yale’s Faculty Phased Retirement Plan. As associate dean, Yaffe made it his goal to improve the accessibility and quality of music education within schools. He spearheaded the Music in Schools Initiative, a three-part initiative funded by a substantial donation from the Yale College class of 1957, which works to support music education within New Haven and schools across the nation. 

In reflecting upon his years at the School of Music, Yaffe expressed his gratitude for the many opportunities the School offered him. 

“As a musician, I really care about making sure that every child can experience the joys and the challenges of making music,” Yaffe said.

Though Yaffe has officially retired, he is hopeful that the Music in Schools Initiative will continue to develop in the hands of its new director, Rubén Rodríguez.

“I think there’s a lot more potential for a program like this to grow at a school like ours,” he said.

Throughout the final year of his tenure, Yaffe also served as the chair of the Music School’s Diversity, Inclusion, Equity and Belonging Committee. There, he aimed to address DEIB issues within the realm of classical music, acknowledging the many conversations surrounding the lack of diversity and representation within the field.

With Yaffe’s departure, the School of Music has decided to terminate the position of associate dean, instead distributing his previous responsibilities across various positions within the School. Yaffe was primarily responsible for the Music School’s finances and the Music in Schools Initiative. New lead administrator Charles Stupakevich and Rubén Rodríguez will now handle finances and the Initiative, respectively. The decision to restructure was ultimately driven by the School’s relatively small student population of approximately 200.

“We decided that a structure led by a Dean and a Deputy Dean [was] appropriate and have reorganized the administration accordingly,” Dean Robert Blocker, Deputy Dean Melvin Chen, Communications Officer David Brensilver and Chief of Staff and Executive Assistant to the Dean Stefanie Parkyn wrote in a joint email to the News.

Members of the School of Music expressed their gratitude for Yaffe’s many contributions to the School, New Haven and the music community at large and wished him the best during retirement. 

“His departure from the School of Music is bittersweet for us, and, with gratitude, we wish him much happiness and fulfillment,” Blocker, Chen, Brensilver and Parkyn wrote. 

Florrie Marshall MUS ’26, a second-year doctoral student at the Music School who worked with Yaffe during her Master’s of Music, shared similar sentiments. 

“So many aspects of YSM have thrived under Dean Yaffe’s leadership. His enthusiasm and vision for the future musicians of the community is contagious … I wish him all the best in his upcoming endeavors, but he should know his work will continue on with the incredible team he has assembled,” Marshall wrote in an email.

Though he leaves behind unfinished projects — namely, the Music in Schools Initiative — Yaffe looks forward to his years of retirement ahead. While Yaffe hopes to remain engaged within his field, he is also eager to travel and experience new adventures alongside his wife.

“When you work as an academic administrator like I did for 45 years, it’s time to find your own time to do some things,” he said. “[During retirement], I’m mostly looking for adventures my wife and I can undertake.”

The School of Music was founded in 1894.