Dear Members of the Yale Community,
Following commencement this past May, after almost three decades of leadership at the Yale School of Music, Robert Blocker informed me that he will retire from his position as the Henry and Lucy Moses Dean of Music on August 31, 2023. Although he will be missed in that role, I am grateful that he will remain active on the faculty as a professor of piano as well as a professor of leadership strategies at the Yale School of Management.
Since he arrived at the Yale School of Music in 1995, Dean Blocker has established a thriving intellectual and creative environment at the school and has raised its national and international profile as a leading center of learning for professional artists and composers. Along with appointing distinguished musicians to the faculty, recruiting exceptional students, and hiring talented and dedicated staff, he has brought some of the most celebrated and influential guest artists to Yale, including John Adams, Emanuel Ax, Yo-Yo Ma, Midori, and Krzysztof Penderecki, among many other cultural luminaries.
Dean Blocker and I share the belief that increasing access to education is essential for creating lasting, positive change in society. Over the years, in collaboration with faculty, staff, alumni, and supporters, Dean Blocker has dramatically expanded the School of Music’s resources for the professional preparation of global artists and cultural leaders, growing the school’s endowment from $29 million to $574 million. In 2005, Stephen Adams and Denise Adams’ visionary leadership and generosity provided full-tuition scholarships to all School of Music students in perpetuity. Two years later, Yale’s Class of 1957 and the School of Music formalized the Music in Schools Initiative, a program centered in the New Haven Public Schools that has become a national model for offering all children opportunities to learn and engage with music.
When Dean Blocker arrived at Yale, the School of Music occupied spaces that desperately needed renovation to support the mission, artistic advancement, and global reach of the school. For the next three decades, he worked tirelessly with donors and the school’s faculty, staff, and students to transform the facilities available for teaching and performance. The school completed renovations of Sprague Memorial Hall in 2003 and Leigh Hall in 2006. In 2017, the magnificent Adams Center for Musical Arts opened. The center is home to rehearsal halls, classrooms, practice rooms, and social spaces for students from both the School of Music and Department of Music.
With Norfolk trustees, Dean Blocker has been involved in two capital-improvement projects at the Yale Summer School of Music/Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, including the restoration of rehearsal, performance, and living spaces. He has finalized plans for a major renovation, to begin in 2023, of the Morris Steinert Collection of Musical Instruments, a teaching museum that has benefited generations of students. The school also acquired a new space at 143 Elm Street for academic studies and the Music in Schools Initiative, and renovations will begin in fall 2023.
In addition to strengthening the school for its faculty, staff, and students at Yale, Dean Blocker has enhanced opportunities for musical and academic exchange around the country and the world, including eight international agreements with partner schools across the continents. In 2007, he established the Yale in New York concert series, enabling students and faculty to perform together at Carnegie Hall and other venues. The following year, he organized a Cultural Olympiad in partnership with Wang Cizhao, president of the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing. This allowed the Yale Philharmonia, the School of Music’s flagship ensemble, to perform in advance of the Games of the XXIX Olympiad and to tour China and other countries in Asia.
During his tenure, Dean Blocker has focused on recognizing the work of faculty, staff, students, and alumni. He developed several awards and traditions that celebrate the school’s mission, including the Gustave Stoeckel Award for Excellence in Teaching, the Ian Mininberg Distinguished Alumni Service Award, and the Cultural Leadership Citation. He instituted the Dean’s Prize, the school’s highest excellence award, given to a graduating student at Commencement. He also established the school’s annual convocation, which brings together the Yale School of Music community at the beginning of each academic year.
It has been a privilege to work closely with Dean Blocker. His wisdom and vision, commitment to excellence in education and scholarship, bold creativity, and principled leadership have redefined the school, and his immense contributions will be felt for generations to come. I will soon form a search advisory committee to identify candidates to serve as the next dean of the School of Music. The committee and I will be in close communication with the school’s community throughout the search process. In the meantime, please join me in extending to Dean Blocker our heartfelt gratitude for his remarkable leadership of the Yale School of Music.
Chris Argyris Professor of Psychology