About the Symposium on Music in Schools

The Declaration on Equity in Music for City Students emerged from the 2017 Symposium on Music in Schools.

The Symposium on Music in Schools is held once every two years at the Yale School of Music. With support from an endowment created by the Yale College Class of 1957, the Symposium was created with the goal of bringing together leaders to discuss how music education might best become an integral and important part of the curriculum of public schools. For the first five symposia, distinguished music educators and practitioners convened in New Haven to participate in a variety of workshops, discussions, and other events, including the presentation of the Yale Distinguished Music Educator Awards at the closing banquet.


The first Symposium in 2007 brought together forty-five educators from nineteen states. The theme, Music: A Child’s Birthright, included curricular workshops, panel discussions with international music school and conservatory administrators, lectures by leading pedagogues in the field, and a recital by the renowned pianist Emanuel Ax. Roberta Guaspari, founder of the Opus 118 School of Music and the subject of the film Music of the Heart, gave an impassioned keynote address.



The 2009 Symposium hosted fifty Yale Distinguished Music Educators as well as New Haven Public School music teachers. The Symposium focused on El Sistema, the Venezuelan music education system, and explored ways in which it could be incorporated into American music education. Attendees discussed the role of the music teacher in the general classroom, using a New Haven collaboration as a case study. For the keynote address, Lucia Brawley, ’02 MFA and blogger for the Huffington Post, spoke about the value of arts education in American culture.



The third Symposium, in 2011, focused on two main themes: integrating music into the general classroom, and the relationship between visiting teaching artists and public school music teachers. Attendees were chosen from a pool of 330 nominees from forty-five states. Workshops included a demonstration of distance learning technology and a talk by acclaimed cellist Yo-Yo Ma in conjunction with the International Festival of Arts & Ideas. The keynote speech was given by John Merrow, the education correspondent for PBS NewsHour and president of Learning Matters.



The fourth Symposium, in 2013, The Role of Music in School Reform, featured historical and contemporary conversations about how music could be “front and center” in national discussions about school reform. Presentations included a concert and talk by Decoda, a chamber music ensemble founded by teaching artists, and a keynote address by Anne Midgette, the Washington Post’s classical music critic.



For the fifth Symposium, in 2015, the participant group expanded to include both music educators and representatives from professional music organizations who partnered in communities to strengthen the role of music education. Thirty-six partnerships were represented, and discussions focused on ways to encourage these kinds of public-private partnerships through careful planning and creative programming. The keynote speaker was Yale School of Music faculty member and composer David Lang.



For the 2017 Symposium, we embarked in a new direction, convening a group of 43 experts in New Haven to help craft the Declaration on Equity in Music for City Students. We continued the tradition of recognizing Distinguished Music Educators by inviting ten outstanding city music teachers to contribute their expertise. Learn more about the 2017 Symposium.