On a High Note

Celebrating the tenure of Robert Blocker

After twenty-eight years of transformational leadership at the Yale School of Music, Robert Blocker, an acclaimed concert pianist, retired from his position as the Henry and Lucy Moses Dean at the end of August.

“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,” President Peter Salovey ’86 PhD wrote in a message to the Yale community.

Robert Block plays a grand piano
Dean Robert Blocker

A Virtuoso Dean

Blocker has been lauded widely for strengthening nearly every dimension of the School of Music during his tenure. Driven by the belief that increasing access to education is essential for creating lasting, positive changes in society, Blocker—in collaboration with faculty, staff, alumni, and patrons—dramatically expanded and enhanced the School of Music’s resources and programs. Among his many notable accomplishments, he appointed an impressive roster of distinguished musicians to the faculty, guided the school through an ambitious renovation of its entire campus, and, with generous funding from the Yale Class of 1957, formalized the Music in Schools Initiative, a partnership with the New Haven Public Schools that has become a national model for music education.

During Blocker’s deanship, the School of Music endowment increased exponentially, enabling the School to provide full-tuition awards and stipends to all of its two hundred students, and securing the School’s place among the most prestigious in the world. Blocker has also overseen the continued development of the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival/Yale Summer School of Music and the Morris Steinert Collection of Musical Instruments.

“He’s an incredible musician. He’s an incredible administrator. He’s an incredible fundraiser,” says John Herrmann, Jr. ’57, who joined the School’s Board of Advisors (originally called the Board of Visitors) in 1997. “There are five or six critical attributes one needs to possess to be an outstanding leader. Robert has them all—and then some.”

A Fitting Tribute

Following the announcement of Blocker’s intention to retire as Dean, Herrmann and other members of the School’s Board of Advisors raised more than $7 million to establish two new endowed funds in his honor, the Robert Blocker Professorship and the Robert Blocker Student Scholarship. The group wanted to recognize all that Blocker has done for the School of Music and for Yale. “Our goal was to do something for Robert that we knew he’d be proud to have his name on,” says Herrmann. “Throughout his tenure, he demonstrated that support for students and faculty were critically important to him.”

The named professorship and scholarship will help the school continue to attract the most sought-after faculty and students in the world.

During a celebratory concert send-off for Blocker this spring, Herrmann and fellow board member Anne-Marie Soullière announced the creation of the scholarship and professorship in Blocker’s name, and President Salovey announced the establishment of the Robert Blocker Fund for Student Support—all surprises for the Dean.

In his remarks, Blocker, who will remain on the faculty as Professor of Piano, expressed his heartfelt thanks for the gifts. “Serving our School of Music and Yale University as the Henry and Lucy Moses Dean of Music has been an unimaginable privilege and joy,” he reflected. “This celebration allows us to look backward with a sense of accomplishment. It also allows us to look forward with the assurance that music at Yale is always going to be a beacon of hope for the YSM and New Haven communities, and into the far corners of the world.”

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