Yale Bulletin and Calendar

February 25, 2000Volume 28, Number 22

Music School Dean Robert Blocker (right) performed for and honored King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand during a visit there in January.

Dean honors music-loving Thai king

School of Music Dean Robert Blocker will take the stage in New Haven this week as part of the school's Faculty Artist Series, but it wasn't so long ago that the renowned pianist was playing for a king.

Blocker performed in Thailand on Jan. 21 in honor of the 72nd birthday of King Bhumibol Adulyadej. During his visit there, the Dean was granted an audience with the King and presented him with the Samuel Simons Sanford Medal, the School of Music's highest honor.

Since being established in 1972, the Sanford Medal has been given to many of music's great performing artists, composers, journalists and educators. But this was the first time it had been awarded to a member of a royal family.

"I knew about the King's distinctive and unique contributions to the musical life of his country, and, indeed, to the world, and wanted to recognize these contributions," says Blocker.

In addition to being an avid supporter of music and the arts, Adulyadej is an accomplished saxophonist who leads a royal band that performs and records, and that has brought numerous jazz luminaries to Thailand. "He has introduced his people to the most indigenous form of American music," says Blocker. The King is also an eclectic composer, who has produced works that reflect his interest in jazz, his country's folk music and other contemporary styles.

Adulyadej is a strong advocate for music education in Thailand's schools and has ensured that music is part of every student's curriculum, starting at the elementary school level. In addition, he supports Thai students who study in America and Europe and who later return to their native country to work and teach.

In recognition of the King's support of the arts, Blocker also presented him with the School of Medicine's Cultural Leadership Citation. "The King has been recognized before for supporting the arts," says the Dean. "But I was especially honored to present him with the Sanford Medal on behalf of the School of Music and Yale University in recognition of his accomplishments as a musician. Very few monarchies have supported music so directly."

It was the King's support of Thai students abroad that led to his connection to the School of Music. Two recent alumni of the school -- saxophonist and composer Panthorn Srikaranonda '96 M.M. and his sister, pianist Indhoun Srikaranonda '99 M.M.A. -- are children of one of the King's closest friends, Manrat Srikaranonda, a member of the royal jazz band.

As a result of these ties to the royal family, Blocker was invited to meet with the King and perform with the Bangkok Symphony Orchestra in the Thailand Cultural Center. The concert was conducted by Shimik Hahn, director of the Yale Symphony Orchestra. It featured Blocker performing Beethoven's Third Piano Concerto and a performance of the King's composition "Suite for Saxophone and Orchestra" with Pathorn Srikaranonda as soloist.

"I was privileged to meet His Majesty the King," says Blocker. "It is unusual for a foreigner to be granted an audience, especially if that foreigner is not a head of state. But this deeply compassionate and kind man wanted to share some of his ideas about a musical legacy."

Blocker's upcoming recital for Yale's Faculty Artists series will take place at 8 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 28, in Morse Recital Hall of Sprague Memorial Hall, 470 College St. Admission is free.

The pianist, who has a particular interest in the life and work of Johannes Brahms, will perform an early work by that composer, the Sonata in f minor, Op. 5. The program will also include J.S. Bach's Toccata in D Major and Maurice Ravel's "Valses Nobles et Sentimentales."

For further information, call (203) 432-4158 or visit the School of Music's website at www.yale.edu/schmus.


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