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An Exciting Music Program in New Haven (Rodriguez Interview Part 2)

Last time you learned about Mr. Ruben Rodriguez, the Director of The Music in Schools Initiative at Yale. Here is more information about this exciting initiative and its many benefits.

Can you tell me more about the Music in Schools Initiative? How is that initiative connected to the Yale School of Music (YSM)?

Our teaching artists are YSM students. The intent of the endowment was to have YSM students have the experience of community engagement with New Haven schools. These YSM students volunteer their time to the Music in Schools Initiative (MISI). MISI prepares them to be effective educators and collaborators with the New Haven schools where they are working.

What are some of the benefits of The Music in Schools Initiative that you’ve seen?

Everyone who has been involved in the teaching world can see the tremendous benefits that come from music education. I have not seen conclusive research in this area. However, over the years I have seen music transforming communities, families, and individuals regardless of their economic status, environment, or the country they live in. I am convinced music education benefits anyone who is involved in it.

My life has been made impactful through music. As an immigrant family, music was the area where my children found belonging in a very clear way. Through music, they found friendships and affirmations, and belonging. Music did this for them in a way that school by itself did not.

I remember learning from the Yamaha Foundation during my work in Central America an important lesson that I carry with me as I help promote music: The highest version of culture is to be a creator. Not a consumer, but a creator.

This reminds me of when people did not have a radio but instead shared music by creating it in live performances in their homes with a guitar or a piano. Music is an important part of life and the creation of music is vitally important.

The Yamaha Foundation also taught me that after WWII when Japan was destroyed music was at the center of the rebuilding process. Sometimes those extreme situations clarify the needs of people, and that extreme example shows how important music is to a nation’s culture.

Music should be in childrens’ lives. I’m convinced of that.

Have you ever tried to measure the benefits of the work you are doing in the MISI? Or have you ever seen any studies measuring the benefits of music education?

We have tried a couple of times to measure the benefits of our work but it was kind of frustrating. I would like to figure out a way to conduct a study that measures the benefits, but I think it would have to be one that looks at the benefits from the beginning of school life all the way to the end of college.

I’m not sure if someone else at Yale or elsewhere is studying the impact of music education, but it’s possible.

Thank you, Mr. Rodiguez. The Music in Schools Initiative is an inspiring program, and I am honored to have been able to talk to you about it.

We keep learning. The pandemic confirmed many things we knew already but it was also a humbling experience that taught us new things. We are super excited that we are coming back in person. We keep listening to the community, we keep listening to the music teachers. We try to understand ways that we can be more effective at teaching and connecting those two different universes, Yale and the New Haven community.

Mr. Rodriguez continues to take The Music in Schools Initiative to new heights, inspiring many more future musicians and artists in New Haven.

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