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I see a lot of discussion on social media about whether this company or that school is doing the moral thing in the pandemic, and I think it’s reasonable to criticize wealthy institutions when they lay off employees with little severance or health-care coverage or when they fail to help college students with housing if they can’t go home. But some organizations use their ample resources more ethically. Consider Yale University’s School of Music.

Zach Finkelstein writes at Middle Class Artist about a massive stimulus package for music students that earlier this month, the Yale University School of Music “offered its students, over 200 young musicians — a relief package on a sweeping, unprecedented scale.

“In a March 31st letter to alumni, Dean Robert Blocker outlined an ambitious plan to provide aid, including ‘a one-time stipend of $500’ to all students to assist with travel and expenses; full pay, despite social distancing, for all student employees through May 1st, 2020; and relocation of all international students who could not return home to University housing.

“For the remainder of the semester, Blocker announced that all classes and degree recitals have moved online. …

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Photo: Matt Fried

“The Yale School of Music is in a rarefied position among its peers to provide aid. Under the leadership of Dean Blocker, the school has grown its endowment from $29 million to over $400 million, in part due to a ‘transformative $100 million gift.’ Since 2005, thanks to this generous donation all students admitted receive a full tuition award and fellowship.’ …

“Alumni interviewed were deeply moved by the School’s actions on behalf of students: ‘I am proud to know that my alma mater, the Yale School of Music, is taking proactive, compassionate steps to aid its students during the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis. … By putting its considerable resources to good use – such as housing students, disbursing emergency funds, or paying student employees for cancelled work — the YSM is taking a lead role among its peers in finding a helpful, humane response. This is a wildly scary time for many musicians around the world, and it is heartwarming to see a world-class educational institution stand up and support its artists.’

“Another alumni also stated their pride in Yale, and that the email ‘showed the generosity possible from heavily-endowed institutions as well as a level of interpersonal caring that has not been exemplified across the board, in the university or professional settings. Our student colleagues are some of the most vulnerable and impressionable amongst us, and Yale’s willingness to help with issues of housing and travel, as well as extending a generous financial donation to each student, sets a great example to the community at large.’ ”

You might say, Well, look what a wealthy institution it is! But there is no end of examples of wealthy institutions that are not doing much of anything. The Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, for example, received $25 million from Congress as part of a coronavirus relief package and promptly furloughed workers, saying it was running out of money. And while Amazon’s Jeff Bezos gives millions to Covid-19 relief, he is making extra billions for himself and not protecting his workers.

So I have to applaud whoever does the right thing for people who are in their care.

More at Middle Class Artist, here.

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Photo: Cole Wilson
Chad Cooper gave up his Wall Street career to run a music school.

There’s nothing like a story of a guy turning from the big bucks to pursue service to others. One such story was recently reported by Martin J. Smith in Fast Company. It’s about a managing director at Deutsche Bank in New York who left the Wall Street life behind to save a community-oriented music school.

Fortunately, his wife was totally on board.

Smith writes that Chad Cooper’s banking job “came with a substantial salary, bonuses, a generous expense account, and business-class travel. [But] two years ago, after a 16-year Wall Street career [he] walked away from all that to take the executive director’s job at the nearly insolvent Brooklyn Conservatory of Music. …

“Since Cooper took the reins in August 2016, the 121-year-old nonprofit institution in Brooklyn’s Park Slope neighborhood has seen a 71% increase in individual donors over fiscal 2016 and a fivefold increase in attendance after shifting its development model from a single annual gala to a handful of special events. Assets have shown a net increase of $400,000 over fiscal 2016. Attendance at its flagship Community Music School is up 19%.”

Fast Company (FC): ” ‘After 16 years as an investment banker, you opted out. Why?’

Chad Cooper (CC): ” ‘Even as a Stanford GSB student, my intention was to work in the private sector, then ultimately return to the social sector. But once you start down a private-sector path, it can be daunting to pivot. For me, the stars aligned when the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music, this incredible organization whose board I’d joined, was in dire need of management skills I’d spent my career developing. …

” ‘Before I went to business school, I worked for four years for the city of St. Louis doing inner-city economic development. I also launched a grassroots nonprofit organization that helped mobilize younger people to take an active role in city revitalization efforts. That was a really big part of my life, so when I came to Stanford, I had a strong sense of what I wanted out of business school, and I wanted to bring that back in some way to the nonprofit sector. I had planned for that and tried to save up a little money to have enough security to take myself out of moneymaking for a while. …

” ‘I’d been serving on the board of directors at the conservatory for two years, and just after the business school reunion, the conservatory’s executive director resigned. Having served as the conservatory’s treasurer, I knew it was in dire financial shape. …

” ‘I worked for a guy named Charles Kindleberger in St. Louis for four years — he ran the urban planning department — and I always marveled at how extraordinarily intelligent and thoughtful and effective he was as a senior manager for the city. He could have been a great professor, or a lawyer, or businessperson.

” ‘He would have been successful at whatever path he chose in life. But he had committed himself to public service, and I have great respect for people like Chuck. A lot of capable people commit themselves to service and do it their whole life.’

FC: ” ‘You agreed to work the first two years at the conservatory for no pay. How were you able to afford to do that?

CC: ” ‘I send my kids to public school. My wife works full time. We don’t live an extravagant life. I didn’t walk away from my banking career with a huge amount of wealth, but there are a lot of people who get by with a lot less than I do in New York City and give of themselves in profound ways. …

” ‘I really love what I do. I’m totally energized going into the office every day. … I inherited an organization that really needed fundamental change, and it’s enormously motivating and exciting to come to work and to have that intense focus and energy for turning a place around and building something for the future. We provide music therapy to 1,500 people, including those with autism, and kids whose parents are incarcerated, and seniors with dementia, and I see how transformative their experiences are. It’s gratifying to see the work we do with 6,000-plus New Yorkers every year who otherwise would have no access to music education. That’s enormously motivating to me.’ ”

More at Fast Company, here.

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Photo: Pinecone.org
Becoming a musician should not stress students out. That’s why students at a music school in Manchester, England, are encouraged to take time for a well-rounded life.

Our niece is a music teacher and youth orchestra conductor in North Carolina. Her husband and all three of her children are also accomplished musicians. One thing that’s hard to remember now is that when she was studying music in college, she was very stressed out.

That’s something a music school in Manchester, England, is determined to prevent as it launches its new wellness program.

Photo: UIG/Getty Images 
The Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, which has about 800 students, is promoting physical and mental wellness for students.

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Sally Weale writes at the Guardian, “The Royal Northern College of Music has become the first conservatoire to appoint a lecturer in musicians’ health and wellbeing, to help equip students to deal with the pressures of a career in music.

“The number of students reporting mental health concerns has risen sharply across higher education in recent years, and the RNCM is concerned its students have to deal with the additional pressure of concerts and recitals as well as long hours of practice.

“Sara Ascenso, a clinical psychologist and trained pianist, will start at the college in January. Her role will include lecturing and research, and she will also develop the health and wellbeing provision across the college, ensuring it is tailored to musicians’ needs.

“Kathy Hart, the RNCM students’ union president, said … ‘The work needed to build such a difficult career can come at a price, both physically and psychologically. … The more work we put in, the higher the stakes become – and the more devastating the impact if we are held back by injury or mental health struggles.’

“The Manchester college plans to lay on extra counselling sessions for students, particularly when performance pressures are at their peak, plus wellbeing activities such as yoga to help prevent injury. The RNCM also intends to extend its community outreach so more students get to work with people in need.

Ascenso said: ‘We want our students to learn how to make music with excellence, but also how to live fulfilling lives as musicians and as human beings more generally.’

More at the Guardian, here.

Photo: Mark Bell
A relaxed family recital communicates even to the dogs that music is something to enjoy.
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