Courtesy of Yale School of Music

José García-León officially assumed his new role as the dean of the School of Music on Sept. 1.

García-León served as The Juilliard School’s dean of academic affairs and assessment for nine years. He succeeds Robert Blocker, who had a 28-year tenure at the School of Music.

“The school is in a wonderful place right now,” García-León said. “I arrive with a sense of awe and admiration. My goal is to honor the school’s great history and reputation while finding ways to invigorate the general training and establish new paths towards the future.”

Born in Seville, Spain, García-León graduated from the Conservatorio Superior de Música de Sevilla with highest honors before earning his bachelor’s degree in music from the State University of New York at Binghamton and his doctorate in piano performance from the Manhattan School of Music. 

Prior to his time at Juilliard, García-León was associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of New Haven. 

His decision to switch from a professorship to an administrative role was “sparked” by his goal of helping students and faculty in a “more substantial way” by working within the administration. 

Emily Bakemeier, vice provost for arts and faculty affairs at Yale, chaired the University’s search committee. The search process, which she described as “very rigorous,” combined efforts from two groups: Bakemeier’s Yale search committee, composed of faculty from the School of Music and other related areas of the University, and Isaacson, Miller — an external search firm that includes professionals who specialize in the arts.

The Yale search committee first engaged in “stakeholder conversations” with School of Music faculty, staff, students and alumni before writing a position description. Then, after they received applications, the committee interviewed applicants and nominees, narrowing down the field to a few candidates before sending the names to University President Peter Salovey for the final decision.

“The Yale School of Music is the premier school of music in the world, so we were looking for the best in the world,” Bakemeier said. “We wanted someone who is a leader in the arts, and, for the music school in particular, a musician themself, who understands a complex, educational institution and its workings and has the highest standards of excellence for a school of music.”

Alec Chai MUS ’24, a student involved in the search committee’s stakeholder conversations, cited the School of Music’s renowned faculty and the full scholarships and stipends that it provides its students as “an incredible gift” from Blocker’s tenure.

But there are “opportunities of growth” that Chai hopes García-León will address during his deanship.

“I’ve heard students express a desire for expansion in certain programs, such as performance of baroque, contemporary and jazz music,” Chai said. “Many of us performers also wish there were more opportunities for individual and chamber music performances.”

García-León’s scholarly research focuses on the similarities and differences between Argentine tango and tango flamenco, the roots of multiculturalism in flamenco music and music composition. As dean, he hopes to balance “well-versed tradition” with “new expertise in the latest trends in the field.”

He said that this balance is even more important today, noting that the “pace and range of change” of transformation in the world of classical music has “increased greatly” over the last several years.

“We are in the midst of a time of renewal in the profession, both in the ways music is shared with audiences, be it recorded or live, and in terms of which music should be prioritized and showcased in performances,” García-León said. “The curriculum needs to be as current and relevant to the profession as we can possibly make it.”

García-León is in “complete agreement” with Chai’s hopes for additional performance opportunities and expanded programs in baroque, contemporary and jazz.

He looks forward to having many conversations with current students and alumni like Chai “to incorporate their feedback and suggestions in [his] planning.”

“Musicians can only benefit from having the choice to expand their training to include a variety of styles and traditions,” he said. “Not only will it help them be more versatile as performers, but I firmly believe it will also help them understand more deeply their own craft in classical music.”

He also hopes to develop more performance opportunities for students. To this end, he wants to “create and nurture” a sense of community beyond the school, a quality that he believes is tied closely to “welcoming and engaging” student events and performances.

For García-León, collaboration and openness are integral to expansion in more non-traditional programs. García-León said that collaboration is key to “where music is heading.” He hopes to connect the School of Music with other areas of the University and beyond.

“We need to start with enhancing collaboration from what is closest to us, within the [School of Music], but also — and very importantly — with other areas of the university,” García-León said. “So that, as it develops, it can expand to the New Haven area and beyond. I hope students will relish the opportunity to create community wherever they are, starting at the [School of Music] and Yale, and later on, wherever they go.”

García-León has performed as a solo piano recitalist at prestigious venues around the world, including the Big Hall at the Tchaikovsky Conservatory, the Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall and the St. Petersburg International Music Festival. He is a member of the Northeast Chapter of the College Music Society and the Music Teachers National Association. 

“It is an honor and a privilege to serve [the students and faculty at the School of Music] in every way I can,” García-León said.

The School of Music offers three graduate degrees: master’s degrees in music and musical arts, and a doctoral degree in musical arts.


Tobias Liu covers the School of Music and the undergraduate music scene. He is a sophomore in Trumbull College from Johns Creek, Georgia majoring in Economics and Molecular Biology.