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Juilliard President Joseph W. Polisi to Step Down in 2018

Juilliard President Joseph W. Polisi to Step Down in 2018

Joseph W. Polisi, Juilliard's sixth and longest-serving president, announced today that he will step down at the end of June 2018. Polisi will have been in office for 34 years, presiding over one of the most dynamic and successful eras in the school's history, one that is marked by steady expansion of Juilliard's activities within the school, into the broader community, and, especially in recent years, internationally. Juilliard's board of trustees has appointed a committee led by Board Chair Bruce Kovner to conduct the search for Polisi's successor.

During his tenure, Polisi has brought formidable gifts as public speaker, writer, and musician, as well as educator and administrator, to the execution of his duties as Juilliard's president, transforming nearly every aspect of the school. His concept of "the artist as citizen" - the title of his 2005 collection of speeches exhorting performing artists to become informed, articulate, and involved arts advocates in the world community - has had ripple effects in arts education not only at Juilliard, but around the country and the world.

"It has been an immense honor to help lead this distinguished institution in partnership with a motivated and generous board, a brilliant faculty, a dedicated administrative staff, and extraordinary classes of highly talented student artists," said Polisi. "Juilliard is a place that gives back to our global society by educating new generations of artists who enhance the enduring traditions embodied in the art forms of music, dance, and drama. I know that this important mission will flourish in the time ahead."

"Joseph has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to artistic and educational integrity while fostering a spirit of community and humanity at the school," noted Kovner. "For more than three decades, he has embodied and enhanced Juilliard values, elevating educational standards to include an emphasis on entrepreneurship and social responsibilitY. Joseph's contribution to the field of arts education is unparalleled."

Highlights of the remarkable number and diversity of initiatives overseen by Polisi include:

  • Creation of Historical Performance and Jazz Studies programs, and a Master of Fine Arts degree in Drama
  • Construction of Juilliard's first dormitory, the Meredith Willson Residence Hall
  • A major renovation and expansion of the Juilliard building, adding nearly 40,000 square feet of additional space to the Irene Diamond Building at Lincoln Center, supported by major gifts from the Irene Diamond Fund, the Peter Jay Sharp Foundation, and Juilliard Board Chair Bruce Kovner
  • Development of The Tianjin Juilliard School in China, for which he serves as board chair, and which will offer a U.S.-accredited master's degree - a first for any performing arts institution in China
  • Formation of the Juilliard-Nord Anglia Performing Arts Program, a multifaceted collaboration involving an innovative arts education curriculum for students in grades K-12
  • Digital educational initiatives including the development of Juilliard Open Studios apps, online courses, and other products for the consumer education market
  • National and international touring programs for Juilliard's Dance, Drama, and Music Divisions, and the commissioning of hundreds of new music, dance, and drama works
  • The Juilliard Manuscript Collection created through the donation of rare and invaluable items collected by Bruce Kovner, with digital images of materials freely available to all through the Juilliard Manuscript Collection website
  • Creation of the Alan D. Marks Center for Career Services and Entrepreneurship
  • Establishment of the Ellen and James S. Marcus Institute for Vocal Arts
  • Extensive community engagement programs including the Morse and Gluck Fellowships and the Music Advancement Program
  • Numerous and extensive scholarship programs including the Kovner Fellowship Program, which covers the full cost of attendance, and the Jerome L. Greene Fellowship program, the first to offer full-tuition scholarships across all divisions

Polisi, 68, became the school's president in September 1984, having previously served as dean of the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music (1983-84). Prior to that he had been dean of faculty at the Manhattan School of Music (1980-83) and executive officer of the Yale University School of Music (1976-80). A native New Yorker, he studied bassoon with his father, William Polisi, who served on the Juilliard faculty (from 1951 to 1982) and was principal bassoonist of the New York Philharmonic (from 1943 to 1958). Joseph Polisi holds two master's degrees and a doctorate from the Yale School of Music, and has continued to perform as a soloist and chamber musician throughout his career. He also holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from the University of Connecticut and a Master of Arts in international relations from Tufts University's Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. He has been awarded honorary doctorates from Yale University and eight other institutions, as well as Musical America's "Educator of the Year" award for 2005.

When Polisi arrived at Juilliard, it was a commuter school-there was no place to live on campus and little sense of community. One of his first priorities was to change that, first by revitalizing the Student Affairs Office and Health and Counseling Services, and then spearheading the construction of the Meredith Willson Residence Hall, which was completed in 1990 and which gave students from Juilliard's three divisions-dance, drama, and music-the opportunity to live together, thus altering the physical, educational, and social landscape of the campus.

Almost two decades later, Polisi oversaw another dramatic alteration: a major expansion of the Juilliard building, as part of a massive Lincoln Center renovation. The project, completed in 2009, added new classrooms, practice rooms, teaching studios, and rehearsal and performance spaces.

But Polisi's vision for Juilliard incorporated far more than its physical plant. He expanded its curricular offerings extensively, from revising the approach to teaching in the Liberal Arts Department and updating the music history and theory curricula to creating whole new programs: Jazz Studies (2001), Historical Performance (2009), and a Master of Fine Arts in Drama (2012). He also strengthened the Doctor of Musical Arts degree program, expanded chamber music offerings, established the Music Technology Center (now the Center for Innovation in the Arts), reconstituted the Playwrights Program, created an exchange program with Columbia University and Barnard College, and oversaw the development of partnerships with Carnegie Hall and the Metropolitan Opera.

During his time here, Polisi has embraced Juilliard's rich history, which stretches back to its founding as the Institute of Musical Art in 1905. In the 2005-06 season he presided over the celebration of Juilliard's centennial, which included the commissioning of more than 40 new works, among them a full-length opera by Lowell liebermann, new choreography by Eliot Feld, and symphonic and chamber works.

Other areas of the school also grew significantly under Polisi's leadership. He expanded the school's touring program, with the Juilliard Orchestra performing throughout Asia and Europe. Polisi also produced Juilliard's first tour of the United States involving all three divisions of the school, with performances in Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Orange County. The Career Services Office, now called the Alan D. Marks Center for Career Services and Entrepreneurship, expanded to reflect the president's belief that for graduates to succeed in the 21st century, they need to develop the creative, technological, and business skills required to generate their own professional opportunities.

In September 2015, in the presence of the first lady of China, Mme. Peng Liyuan, Polisi announced plans for The Tianjin Juilliard School, a key milestone in Juilliard's multifaceted expansion in Asia. In addition to offering a U.S.-accredited master's degree, The Tianjin Juilliard School will be open to a range of arts enthusiasts, with instrumental lessons for people of all ages and abilities, weekly public performances, and an interactive exhibit space. The school is anticipated to open in a new facility designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, the same firm responsible for the 2006-2009 expansion of Juilliard's iconic New York home.

Also in 2015, Juilliard announced the release of Juilliard Open Studios, an app that provides behind-the-scenes looks at Juilliard's educational process. The app, released internationally in English and in simplified and traditional Chinese, offers an insider's view of classes, rehearsals, coachings, and productions in development. Apple awarded Juilliard Open Studios runner-up app of the year in China in 2015. Subsequently, Juilliard released a second app: a deep-dive into Schubert's "Death and the Maiden" quartet with the Juilliard String Quartet, which gives users access to in-depth commentary, historical context, HD video of complete performances, and special features including the ability to highlight individual instruments, a scrolling score, and an innovative visualization of the music.

Polisi is the author of two books, including American Muse: The Life and Times of William Schuman (Amadeus Press, 2008), the first full-length biography of his mentor, who was the fourth president of Juilliard (1945-61) and the first president of Lincoln Center (1962-68). Polisi's collection of speeches and articles, The Artist as Citizen (Amadeus Press, 2005; revised 2016), encapsulates his philosophy that the 21st-century artist must, as he wrote, "be an effective and active advocate for the arts in communities large and small around the globe. These artists must be not only communicative through their art, but also knowledgeable about the intricacies of their society-politically, economically, socially." A Chinese version of the book, titled The Artist as Leader, is being published this year by Beijing Normal University Press.

Polisi's artist as citizen concept has influenced programs at Juilliard and all over the world. It is reflected in his establishment of the Music Advancement Program (MAP) in 1990, an instrument instruction program for highly talented children from backgrounds underrepresented in the performing arts, and in the school's eight community engagement programs, which bring the arts to thousands of schoolchildren, hospital patients, and nursing home residents around the New York region each year while providing Juilliard students with instructional opportunities in classroom teaching and interactive performances. It is reflected in projects such as ARTreach, a student group formed after the September 2001 attacks that organizes an annual trip to New Orleans to help that city rebuild in the wake of Hurricane Katrina; and in the many not-for-profit organizations founded by Juilliard alumni, such as Adam Driver and Joanne Tucker's Arts in the Armed Forces, Monica Yunus and Camille Zamora's Sing for Hope, Mauricio and Cindy Salgado's ASTEP (Artists Striving to End Poverty), and William Harvey's Cultures in Harmony.

"At Juilliard, we prepare students for a career in the arts, while encouraging active participation in political, economic and social discourse. It is the responsibility of all artist-citizens to use their unique talents and perspectives to effect positive change in our schools, institutions and the world," said Polisi. "It may very well be the arts - and artists - that provide the passion and focus needed to energize this nation as we move into the next millennium."

Founded in 1905, The Juilliard School is a world leader in performing arts education. Juilliard's mission is to provide the highest caliber of artistic education for gifted musicians, dancers, and actors from around the world so that they may achieve their fullest potential as artists, leaders, and global citizens.

Located at Lincoln Center in New York City, Juilliard offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in dance, drama (acting and playwriting), and music (classical, jazz, historical performance, and vocal arts). Currently more than 800 artists from 44 states and 42 countries are enrolled at The Juilliard School, where they appear in over 700 annual performances in the school's five theaters; at Lincoln Center's Alice Tully and David Geffen Halls and at Carnegie Hall; as well as other venues around New York City, the country, and the world.

Beyond its New York campus, Juilliard is defining new directions in global performing arts education for a range of learners and enthusiasts through The Tianjin Juilliard School, K-12 educational curricula, and an increasing array of digital education products through its Juilliard Open Education brand.

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