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Teaching Artist Fellowships Enhanced

Once described by a vice president of the American Symphony Orchestra League as “the Rolls-Royce of teaching artist-training in America,” Juilliard’s Morse Fellowship Program has brought the joy of music to thousands of New York City schoolchildren since its founding in 1994. Now the program is undergoing a significant enhancement, thanks to a generous new endowment gift from Juilliard trustee Lester S. Morse and his wife, Enid. As a result, Juilliard’s fellowship and instrumental programs (the latter was established in 1999 and also funded by the Morses) will be combined into a single entity, the Morse Teaching Artist Fellowship Program. There will be 25 fellows starting in 2013-14.

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Noting that he and his wife have derived great satisfaction from their involvement in the program, Lester Morse recently told The Journal, “We have always felt that children in most public schools did not have the opportunity to be exposed to and learn about classical music.” He added that he and his wife agreed to provide funding because they felt the program “would be very much to the advantage of both the children in the public schools and also to the Juilliard students who participate in it.” As for providing additional funding for the combining and enlarging of the program, Morse said, “we know that we will take great pride in the fellows and their accomplishments in the years ahead.”

The gift was the result of discussions about the program that took place as part of the schoolwide curriculum review project that began in September 2010. Over the course of several meetings, faculty and administration members considered the best way to fulfill the Morses’ dream of adding more fellows to the program and expanding its scope. 

Previously, the two programs were inspired by different teaching models. The Morse Fellowship Program was based on the aesthetic music education model in which fellows collaborate with a partner classroom teacher to prepare weekly lessons that integrate music education into the regular classroom curriculum. The Instrumental Music Program was based on the applied teaching model, which offers instrumental group lessons and concert preparation. The new program will provide a more holistic experience that allows Juilliard students to become skilled at both styles of teaching. It will train all fellows in aesthetic and applied education and then place them in teaching assignments based on their strengths and preferences. There will also be a stronger emphasis on interactive performance, reflecting the fellows’ identities not just as teachers but as teaching artists.

Faculty member Edward Bilous, who has been involved with the Morse program since its inception, teaches one of two courses—his Insights into Learning: An Introduction to Music Pedagogy and David Wallace’s Arts in Education—that Morse applicants are encouraged to take. “Increasingly, arts institutions around the world are seeking musicians who can contribute to their communities in a variety of ways,” Bilous said. “Having skills in the field of teaching-artistry provides young musicians with much greater leverage in the professional marketplace.” 

In addition to providing funding that will allow Juilliard to offer a uniform stipend to all Morse Teaching Artist Fellows (rather than having two levels as in the past), the gift is also being used to underwrite an annual teaching artist intensive based on the aesthetic education model and open to all interested students. The first intensive took place over two days in August, and three Saturdays in September, with 39 students taking part. 

One of the participants, Martin Bakari, a second-year master’s tenor who already has a degree in music education, found the experience incredibly valuable, saying it “added significant tools to my teaching toolbox that have made me even more skillful in effectively educating students about the arts.” During the intensive, Bakari and his fellow students observed “creative and engaging lessons taught by some of the music education community’s most renowned teaching artists,” he told The Journal. They also discussed strategies for creating their own dynamic lesson plans, and once they had created them, got feedback about them. 

President Joseph W. Polisi told The Journal he was thrilled with “the Morses’ outstanding commitment and generosity,” noting that as the program approaches its 20th anniversary—in 2014—it not only has a new name, but also “new resources and a renewed focus that will allow it to have an even greater impact in the future.”

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