Student Essay | William Stanley, M.Div. ’15

Admissions, Student Life, Yale Divinity School

Happy Friday (and a happy long weekend at that!)!   We’ve just finished our first full week of spring semester classes, which means that our student community is either a) settling comfortably into new course schedules, rehearsals, and routines; b) debating between whether to take a large survey lecture course (like Old Testament, New Testament, Systematic Theology, Medieval Theology) or a smaller, more subject specific  seminar (“Marx: Religion & Critique,” “Eudaimonism & Divine Command”, or “Reading Calvin’s Institutes,” for example); or c) curled up in the fetal position somewhere on campus, silent tears of anxiety streaming down their face out because they thought it would be a good idea to shop* every single course offering at Yale University.  My word of advice to you, should you make your way to Yale:  go easy on yourself during shopping period–it can be worst than Black Friday!!

At any rate, today’s post is brought to you by a swarthy Southern gentleman who’s  managed to make the most of his time in New Haven, without crumpling into a  puddle of sad tears and anxiety.  Will Stanley is currently in his second year at the ISM and YDS, he is also enrolled at Berkeley Divinity School, pursuing ordination in the Episcopal Church.  And if that weren’t enough institutional names and hats to keep straight, Will likely often gets mistaken for a musician at the Yale School of Music, as he can be found singing in an ISM/YSM sponsored choral ensemble on most any day of the week!  In his own words: .”I thought I’d take this opportunity to tell you a little about how I ended up at this wonderful place!”


A native of Washington, DC, I was involved in music at an early age through my local Episcopal church. That community of faith and practice formed me in my early years, instilling in me a love of sacred music and liturgy that has never left. During my middle school years, a chance visit from a visiting boy choir—The American Boychoir, based in Princeton, New Jersey—led me down a quite unexpected path: leaving home at the age of 12 to spend two years at a boarding, choir school that spent close to half of the year touring across the country (and world)! During these years I was privileged to sing with some world-class orchestras and ensembles, and learned a good bit about our diverse country as we traveled from city to city. I returned to Washington for high school, where I continued my involvement in all things church and music. For college, I made my way down to the University of the South in Sewanee, TN. I ended up in rural Tennessee in large part because I was beginning to sense a call to ordination in my tradition, the Episcopal Church. There I studied religion, music and even began taking organ lessons. As I found myself dreaming of a time in seminary one day, I heard about the ISM from a friend. And the dream of coming to Yale became a (somewhat surprising) reality in the spring of 2012. I was overjoyed!


I should mention that as an Episcopal student pursuing ordination, I am also a student at Berkeley Divinity School, an accredited, Episcopal seminary that became fully affiliated with Yale in 1971. Each year there are usually a few of us enrolled in the trifecta of YDS/BDS/ISM and it makes for an incredibly rich (and, correspondingly, incredibly busy!) life in both intellectual and social terms. The resources at our disposal—faculty, staff, practice space and so much more—are truly unparalleled. We are so very lucky. And one of the great things about the ISM is that students here have such a varied and diverse group of interests. One is never bored! For instance, this year the ISM is preparing for our bi-annual international study tour. This summer the entire ISM (close to 100 people) will be traveling for nearly two weeks to Italy. Our weekly, Wednesday Colloquium series has been largely focused on preparing for this trip, with visiting lectures and presentations on a myriad of things Italian. I can’t wait to travel with my close friends to this magical place!


I would be remiss if I didn’t also explain some of the ways I’m currently involved with this rich environment as a YDS/ISM/BDS student. Here, I am able to exercise my musicianship in new and various ways. I currently sing in the Chapel Choir of YDS’s Marquand Chapel, where we sing for the weekly sung morning prayer services on Wednesdays and the ecumenical eucharist services each Friday of the week. As an Episcopal student, I’m also privileged to sing as part of Berkeley Divinity School’s Chapel Choir, which sings for our community eucharist service each Wednesday evening in Marquand. And to round it all out, this past semester I sang with the Yale Repretory Chorus, the practice ensemble specifically for my  ISM first-year choral conducting colleagues.


As a future pastor and priest who takes part in all of these choral endeavors alongside future conductors and organists, I have the distinct opportunity to learn much more about these distinct vocations…these distinct ministries of the church. Once I leave these place, I feel confident that I will have gained much more insight and understanding about the worlds of church musicians. And I’m confident it will make me a much more able priest and colleague!


I hope this article has given you a small glimpse into one person’s particular path to being an ISM student. Please come visit us and see the place for yourself!


Will Stanley, M.Div. ’15



*Shopping period refers to the two-weeks at the beginning of  each semester when Yale students are able to “shop” an assortment of courses before officially registering for them, in order to “try them on”  before deciding (though you’re still technically responsible for the readings/homework should you decide to enroll).  In theory, you can sit in on as many classes you want–a scholar’s dream come true!  But then imagine Hermoine Granger from the Prisoner of Azkaban, only minus the Time Turner bit.   It’s not pretty.