Commencement 2016 | Director's Remarks & Prizes

July 22, 2016

by Martin Jean, director

Virtually all of you students came here one, two, or three years ago, in part to work with the distinguished ISM faculty, because you had a dream –  a vision –  of the role you would like to play in the world, and of that world’s transformation in response. Perhaps your vision included seeing a parishioner’s pain eased or guilt released because of words you spoke. Perhaps it was the image of a listener on fire, inspired by hearing the music you make. Perhaps you have dreamed of crafting words into a poem or story that opens a new world for your reader, or maybe, through some turn of phrase or gesture, you lead a hymn such that a bit of heaven opens for a congregation. It may be an image you make, or a ritual you help craft and lead, or a space you design or arrange or navigate, or any of a myriad other acts of creation, that translates your vision to those around you.

So what do these visions have in common – these notions of worlds and works you have come here to study and to help proclaim and reform? Many things, no doubt, but at the very least, your visions are of worlds that are not yet, but one day might be.

This is often the work of the artist – to see a world that is “not yet,” to imagine a future that is more just, more merciful, more kind, where material goods are taken only as needed, and where the purpose of acquisition is benefaction.

Each time you rehearse or study, preach or preside, perform or gaze, you participate in this work of bringing the world of “not yet” closer.

To be sure, the artistic vision has been romanticized over the centuries –  the idea of the lonely artist, locked in his chamber, railing against his inner demons –  and I quickly caution against such an egoistic approach to this work. Indeed, the act of vision-making cannot be a solitary one at all, but must be joined with others to do its good work.

I think that’s what this Institute at its best stands for: the nurturing of visions that may start from a single kernel of an idea, to which others are invited to contribute with their own skills, identities, and perspectives. In other words, as impassioned and singular as your vision may be to begin with, it must, invariably, accrue partners along the way: collaborators who may see the world similarly to you, or who might have even better ideas and different visions.

The vision of the world you came here to realize, to take part in, to help create, can never be done by a single “you,” but by the collective “we.” It’s why we gather together on Wednesday afternoons; it’s why we ask you to work across disciplines; it’s why we ask you to sing together so much (and not only solo passages); it’s why there are so many opportunities to pray together, it’s why we travel together for our study trip: to broaden and deepen these visions together.

Will your vision change over time? If it does, it will change because of love. It will change because somewhere along the way, you’ve had a conversation, or heard a work, or met a person, or prayed, or read an image or text – and you fell in love. Your hermetically-sealed version of life was somehow split open. The pores in your very flesh inhaled a little more deeply, and you were transformed. Your vision changed because you loved.

Therefore, it is not only your formidable achievements that we celebrate this weekend; it is your capacity to love that we especially lift up with thanks. And in case you’re wondering, you’ve changed us faculty, too, with every lesson or lecture we gave. Our visions here constantly evolve, because of you, and for that we give thanks as well.

Over the years to come, when you glance at the ISM certificate you receive tonight (and which we hope you will hang on the wall, right next to your Yale degree) I hope you will remember these interactions with us and each other, and review constantly your vision of the world you are creating anew each day.

2016 Prizes and Scholarships


The Hugh Giles Prize | Dustin Gavin and Daniel McGrew

The Hugh Porter Prize| Timothy Cahill

The Edwin Stanley Seder Prize | Stephen Douglas

The Aidan Kavanagh Achievement Prize | Robert Pennoyer

The Director’s Prize (best Colloquium presentation)| Omar Dairanieh & Stephanie Tubiolo

The Richard Paul DeLong Prize | Patrick Murray & Sarah Paquet

The Faculty Prize | Adam Perez and Joshua Sullivan

The Margot Fassler Prize in the Performance of Sacred Music | Tyler Ray and Nola Richardson

The Liturgical Studies Prize | Victor Gan

Students’ Choice for Best Colloquium Presentation | Omar Dairanieh & Stephanie Tubiolo

The Robert Baker Scholarship | Joseph Fala

The Mary Baker Scholarship in Organ Accompanying | Janet Yieh

The Hugh Porter Scholarship | Natasha Schnur

The E. Stanley Seder Scholarship | Emmalee Brown

The Louise E. MacLean Scholarship | Liesl Spitz

The Dominique de Menil Scholarship | Molly Channon

ISM Community Award | Stephanie Tubiolo