Robert Blocker has forged an inspired career as an academic leader, an accomplished pianist, and an impassioned educator. Since 1995, he has served as the Henry and Lucy Moses Dean of Music at Yale University, where he holds permanent appointments as a Professor of Piano at the School of Music and as an affiliate Professor of Leadership Strategies at Yale University’s School of Management.
Prior to his appointment at Yale, Blocker was the founding Dean of the UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture, where he held a joint appointment at the Anderson School of Management. He also served as Dean at the University of North Texas College of Music and at Baylor University’s School of Music. In 2005-2006, Blocker served as Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at Southern Methodist University in Dallas before returning to Yale in 2006 to continue positioning the School of Music for success in the 21st century.
An internationally acclaimed concert pianist, Blocker began his study of the instrument at age five, presenting his first public recital two years later. Following baccalaureate studies at Furman University (BA, 1968), Blocker earned graduate degrees in piano performance (MM, 1970; DMA, 1972) at the University of North Texas under the tutelage of the eminent American pianist Richard Cass. He also studied with Jorge Bolet. Today, Blocker performs throughout the world, appearing in recital and in chamber music and orchestral settings. Blocker has been described by the Los Angeles Times as an artist of “great skill and accomplishment” who performs with “a measurable virtuoso bent and considerable musical sensitivity.”
Blocker’s concert engagements have included performances in the United States, Europe, Mexico, China, South Korea, Thailand, and elsewhere. Recent orchestral engagements have included appearances with the Beijing Symphony Orchestra, Shanghai Symphony, Houston Symphony, Monterey Philharmonic, Prague Chamber Orchestra, Moscow Chamber Orchestra, Korean Symphony Orchestra, and Daejeon (South Korea) Symphony Orchestra. The Korea Times has lauded the “great vigor” of his performances, and The Straits Times (Singapore) has recognized the “beauty and sincerity” of his playing. According to the Italian newspaper La Provincia, “He is a pianist of purified technique – one could say perfect … he has an enormous sensitivity, the ability to recognize the emotional message of the work and pour it out in the performance.”
His recordings include performances of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 (2002, Credia Classics) and Mozart’s Piano Concertos Nos. 12, 13, and 14 (scored for quartet and piano by the composer; 2009, Naxos), with the Biava Quartet.
Blocker’s administrative work is imbued with the same passion he brings to the concert stage. His academic leadership has consistently elevated public and private institutions to ever-higher plateaus of excellence. Yale University President Peter Salovey has described him as “a transformative leader,” and former Yale University President Richard Levin has said Blocker “is praised as a superb and visionary leader with a tremendous commitment to students, faculty, and staff at the School.” During his tenure at Yale, the School of Music’s endowment has grown from $29 million to $365 million, including a transformative $100 million gift that made the School tuition-free. Blocker has also overseen unprecedented improvements to the entire School of Music campus, including extensive renovations to Sprague Memorial Hall and the completion of the remarkable Adams Center for Musical Arts, which connects a newly renovated Hendrie Hall to the previously renovated Leigh Hall by way of a new, state-of-the-art facility. More than a decade ago, Blocker forged a coalition with the Yale School of Music, the Yale College Class of 1957, and the New Haven Public Schools to launch the Music in Schools Initiative. Blocker also recently oversaw the expansion of the School of Music’s jazz offerings.
In addition to his academic leadership, Blocker has improved the richness of people’s lives in the local community, through such programs as ArtsCorps at UCLA and Hispanic Friends Pro-Musica at the University of North Texas. His cultural leadership abroad has helped establish a Cultural Olympiad in collaboration with the Central Conservatory of Music of Beijing, where he holds an honorary professorship and is an honorary fellow. He curates a concert series at the Yale Center Beijing and is a senior artistic adviser for global affairs for the National Youth Orchestra of China. In St. Petersburg, Russia, he is a trustee of the legendary Mariinsky Theatre, having been appointed by Valery Gergiev. He has served on the advisory boards of the Avery Fisher Artist Program and the Stoeger Prize at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and at the Curatorium of the Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music in Budapest. Blocker’s contributions to musical scholarship include The Robert Shaw Reader (Yale University Press, 2004), which he edited, and his forthcoming book, Music: The Currency of Hope.
Blocker is the recipient of numerous awards and three honorary degrees. He appears regularly on national radio and television programs as an artist and commentator and is also active as a consultant to major educational institutions and government agencies. He is a member of Connecticut Public Broadcasting’s board of trustees and has been a member of the New Haven Symphony Orchestra’s board of directors since 1995.