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Viola Davis, Joyce DiDonato, Philip Glass and More to Be Honored at Juilliard's 109th Commencement, 5/23

Viola Davis, Joyce DiDonato, Philip Glass and More to Be Honored at Juilliard's 109th Commencement, 5/23

Eight remarkable artists and philanthropists will be hooded and handed their degrees in person when The Juilliard School confers honorary doctorates during its 109th Commencement Ceremony on Friday, May 23, 2014 at 11 AM in Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center (Broadway at 65th Street, NYC).

Mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato gives the commencement address.

Juilliard President Joseph W. Polisi reads special citations and presents degrees to all eight honorees who are garbed in Juilliard's colorful academic robes and velvet caps, and who will receive their ceremonial doctoral hoods onstage.

The awards begin a ceremony in which Juilliard's 289 (130 undergraduate and 159 graduate) actors, dancers, and musicians receive diplomas and learn who among them are receiving Juilliard's graduation prizes - a closely-held surprise and an additional highlight of each commencement.

Receiving Juilliard's Honorary Doctor of Music are:

  • Mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, who has soared to the top of the industry as both a performer and a fierce arts advocate. Ms. DiDonato is known for her impeccable technique and her joy of expression and her enthusiasm.
  • Inventive and pioneering architect Frank Owen Gehry, winner of the prestigious Pritzker Prize (1989), AIA Gold Medal, and National Medal of Arts, among numerous others, and architect of some of the world's most iconic cultural buildings, including: the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles; New World Center in Miami; Bard College's Fisher Center for the Performing Arts in Annandale-on-Hudson; Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao and Abu Dhabi; Pritzker Music Pavilion in Chicago; Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein; Experience Music Project in Seattle; and just announced Facebook West Campus design in Menlo Park.
  • Composer and Juilliard alumnus Philip Glass, whose repertoire includes music for opera, dance, theater, chamber ensemble, orchestra, and film. His scores (Kundun, The Hours, Notes on a Scandal) have received Academy Award nominations and a Golden Globe Award (The Truman Show).
  • American jazz pianist, composer, arranger, and educator Marcus Roberts, who has been honored to receive many commissioning awards from Jazz at Lincoln Center, Chamber Music America, ASCAP, the North Carolina Association of Jazz Educators, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, and the Savannah Music Festival.

Receiving Juilliard's Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts are:

  • Actress and Juilliard alumna Viola Davis, who received Academy Award nominations for the films, The Help (2011) and Doubt (2008), and won Tony Awards for her portrayal of Tonya in King Hedley II (2001) and for her role as Rose Maxson in the Broadway revival of August Wilson's Fences.
  • Choreographer and Juilliard alumnus Lar Lubovitch, one of America's most versatile and popular choreographers. His dances are also performed by major companies throughout the world including Juilliard's Dance Division. Juilliard Dance recently performed his 1986 work, Concerto Six Twenty-Two. He founded the Lar Lubovitch Dance Company in New York City 45 years ago.

Receiving Juilliard's Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters are:

  • Philanthropists Bruce and Suzanne F. Kovner, who, through the Kovner Foundation, support education innovation and reform and performing arts institutions. They recently donated $60 million to Juilliard, the largest one-time donation in the School's history, to create the Kovner Fellowship Program.

Juilliard's 109th Commencement Ceremony will be streamed live so that the global community and- families across the country and around the world can share the day with the graduating actors, dancers, and musicians. Juilliard's current student body is drawn from 35 states (plus Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico) and 44 countries outside the United States. The public at large is invited to watch as well at:


Viola Davis is a critically revered actress of film, television and theater, winning outstanding praise for her performances of intriguingly diverse roles. Audiences across the United States and internationally admire her work, including her celebrated, Oscar-nominated performances in The Help (2011) and Doubt (2008). In little more than 15 years as a professional actress, Ms. Davis has given her audiences a substantial list of performances: appearances in 23 films, more than 40 episodes of television dramas, and seven Broadway and off-Broadway productions, earning a cascade of awards and nominations. Ms. Davis began her acting career on the stage. Her 2001 portrayal of Tonya in King Hedley II brought her Tony and Drama Desk awards for the best featured actress in a play. She won her second Tony Award in 2010 for her portrayal as Rose Maxson in the Broadway revival of August Wilson's Fences. Her television credits include episodes of more than two dozen shows from NYPD Blue to Providence, Law and Order, CSI, Jesse Stone, Without a Trace, and United States of Tara (2009), the last of which brought her a nomination for the NAACP's Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. She recently signed on to star in Shonda Rhimes' How To Get Away series on ABC. Ms. Davis can next be seen in the upcoming James Brown biopic Get On Up alongside Chadwick Boseman and Octavia Spencer. Ms. Davis also stars in the upcoming release of Michael Mann's as yet untitled cyber-thriller with Chris Hemsworth. She is a graduate of The Juilliard School (Diploma, 1993) and holds an honorary doctorate of fine arts degree from her other alma mater, Rhode Island College.

Winner of the 2012 Grammy Award for Best Classical Vocal Solo for Diva, Divo, mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato entrances audiences and critics alike across the globe and has been proclaimed 'perhaps the most potent female singer of her generation' by The New Yorker. With a voice 'nothing less than 24-carat gold' according to The Times, Ms. DiDonato has soared to the top of the industry as both a performer and a fierce arts advocate. Born in Kansas and a graduate of Wichita State University and The Academy of Vocal Arts, Ms. DiDonato trained in the young artists programs of San Francisco, Houston, and Santa Fe opera companies. Her signature parts include the bel canto roles of Rossini, leading the Financial Times to declare her Elena in La donna del lago, 'simply the best singing I've heard in years.' Ms. DiDonato's discography includes Grammy Award-winning Diva, Divo, Drama Queens, and ReJoyce! - a retrospective of her first ten years of recordings, released in August 2013 (Erato/Warner Classics). Other prizes include a Gramophone Award (Artist of the Year), a place in the Gramophone Hall of Fame, and a German Echo Klassik Award (Female Singer of the Year). Recent engagements include the Last Night of the 2013 Proms (Royal Albert Hall), the title role of Maria Stuarda (Metropolitan Opera), Elena in La donna del lago (Covent Garden/Santa Fe), and Romeo in I Capuleti e I Montecchi (San Francisco/Munich). Highlights of the 2013-14 season include I Capuleti e I Montecchi (Kansas City), Cendrillon (Barcelona), La Clemenza di Tito (Chicago), Angelina in La Cenerentola (Metropolitan Opera), and the title role of Maria Stuarda (Covent Garden). Ms. DiDonato is generous with her time training future generations of singers in master classes, including two live-streamed at Juilliard. (Joyce DiDonato Master Class at Juilliard)

Raised in Toronto, Canada, Frank Owen Gehry moved with his family to Los Angeles in 1947. Mr. Gehry received his bachelor of architecture degree from the University of Southern California in 1954, and he studied city planning at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. In subsequent years, Mr. Gehry has built an architectural career that has spanned over five decades and produced public and private buildings in America, Europe, and Asia. His work has earned him several of the most significant awards in the architectural field, including the Arnold W. Brunner Memorial Prize in Architecture, the Pritzker Prize, the Wolf Prize in Art (Architecture), the Praemium Imperiale Award, the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Award, the National Medal of Arts, the Friedrich Kiesler Prize, the American Institute of Architects Gold Medal, and the Royal Institute of British Architects Gold Medal. Notable projects include: Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain; Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum Expansion at the University of Minnesota; Nationale-Nederlanden Building in Prague; DZ Bank Building in Berlin; Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York; Maggie's Centre, a cancer patient center in Dundee, Scotland; Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, California; Jay Pritzker Pavilion and BP Bridge in Millennium Park in Chicago, Illinois; Hotel Marqués de Riscal in El Ciego, Spain; Transformation Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, Ontario; Peter B. Lewis Science Library in Princeton, New Jersey; Lou Ruvo Brain Institute in Las Vegas, Nevada; Ohr O'Keefe Museum in Biloxi, Mississippi; New Campus for New World Symphony in Miami, Florida; Eight Spruce Street Residential Tower in New York City; Opus Hong Kong Residential; Signature Theatre in New York City; and House for the Make it Right Foundation in New Orleans, Louisiana. Current projects include: Guggenheim Abu Dhabi; LUMA Foundation in Arles, France; Dr. Chau Chak Wing Building for the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia; Eisenhower Memorial in Washington, D.C.; and West Campus for Facebook in Menlo Park, California. Projects under construction are Puente de Vida Museum of Biodiversity in Panama and Foundation Louis Vuitton Museum in Paris, France.

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Philip Glass is a graduate of the University of Chicago and The Juilliard School (M.S. in Composition, 1962). In the early 1960s, Mr. Glass spent two years of intensive study in Paris with Nadia Boulanger and while there, earned money by transcribing Ravi Shankar's Indian music into Western notation. By 1974, Mr. Glass had a number of innovative projects, creating a large collection of new music for The Philip Glass Ensemble, and for the Mabou Mines Theater Company. This period culminated in Music in Twelve Parts, and the landmark opera, Einstein on the Beach for which he collaborated with Robert Wilson. Since Einstein, Mr. Glass has expanded his repertoire to include music for opera, dance, theater, chamber ensemble, orchestra, and film. His scores have received Academy Award nominations (Kundun, The Hours, Notes on a Scandal) and a Golden Globe (The Truman Show). Symphony No. 7 and Symphony No. 8 - Glass' latest symphonies - along with Waiting for the Barbarians, an opera based on the book by J.M. Coetzee, premiered in 2005. In the past few years several new works were unveiled, including Book of Longing (Luminato Festival) and an opera about the end of the Civil War entitled Appomattox (San Francisco Opera). His Symphony No. 9 was completed in 2011 and was premiered by the Bruckner Orchestra in Linz, Austria on January 1, 2012, and his Symphony No. 10 received its European premiere in France on August 9, 2013. Teatro Real Madrid and the English National Opera commissioned his opera The Perfect American, about the death of Walt Disney, which premiered on January 22, 2013 while the Landestheater Linz premiered his opera Spuren der Verirrten on April 12, 2013. Upcoming projects include a song cycle for Angelique Kidjo and the Brussels Philharmonic, as well as an opera based on Franz Kafka's The Trial for Music Theatre Wales.

Bruce Kovner is chairman of Caxton Alternative Management LP, which he established in January 2012 to manage his investment, trading, and business activities. From 1983 to 2011, Mr. Kovner was the founder and chairman of Caxton Associates LP, a diversified trading company. He serves as chairman of the board of The Juilliard School and vice chairman of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. Mr. Kovner also serves on the boards of the Metropolitan Opera, the American Enterprise Institute, and Synta Pharmaceuticals. He received his B.A. from Harvard College in 1966. Mr. Kovner continued his studies at the John F. Kennedy School of Government until 1970. Suzanne F. (Suzie) Kovner is a founding member of the Drama Council at Juilliard. She serves as a trustee of Carnegie Hall leading the Ensemble ACJW's advocacy group that builds support and expands awareness of the program. Mrs. Kovner is a board member of the American Associates of the National Theatre of Great Britain, and a member-at-large of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center's Administrative Board. She received her B.A. from Colgate University in 1990. Through the Kovner Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. Kovner support education innovation and reform, and performing arts institutions in the United States and Europe. They recently donated $60 million to Juilliard, the largest one-time donation in the School's history, to create the Kovner Fellowship Program - a scholarship endowment covering full cost of attendance for selected classical music students beginning September 2014. (Kovner Fellowship Program)

Originally from Chicago, Lar Lubovitch began his dance training at The Juilliard School in 1962 where his teachers were Martha Graham, José Limón, and Antony Tudor. One of America's most versatile and popular choreographers, he founded the Lar Lubovitch Dance Company in New York City 45 years ago. The company has since gained an international reputation as one of the America's top dance companies. His dances are also performed by major companies throughout the world. His Othello - A Dance in Three Acts, originally created for the American Ballet Theatre, appeared on PBS' "Great Performances" (and was nominated for an Emmy Award). His dances on film also include Fandango (International Emmy Award) and My Funny Valentine for the Robert Altman film, The Company (nominated for an American Choreography Award). Mr. Lubovitch has also made a notable contribution in the field of ice-dancing, having created dances for Olympic skaters John Curry, Dorothy Hamill, Peggy Fleming, Brian Orser, JoJo Starbuck, and Paul Wylie, as well as two ice-dance specials for television: The Sleeping Beauty (PBS) and The Planets (A&E) (nominated for an International Emmy Award, a Cable Ace Award, and a Grammy Award). His work on Broadway includes Into the Woods (Tony Award nomination), The Red Shoes (Astaire Award), and the Tony Award-winning revival of The King and I. In 2007, he founded the Chicago Dancing Festival with co-artistic director, Jay Franke. The festival is a series of performances by major American dance companies that take place the last week of August at the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Harris Theater, the Auditorium Theatre, and Chicago's Millennium Park. The Chicago Dancing Festival reaches more than 15,000 audience members annually and is completely free to the public. In 2007, Mr. Lubovitch was named "Chicagoan of the Year" by the Chicago Tribune, and in 2008, Lubovitch and Franke were named by Chicago Magazine as "Chicagoans of the Year" for having created the Chicago Dancing Festival. In 2011, Mr. Lubovitch was named a Ford Fellow by United States Artists, and he received the Dance/USA Honors, the dance field's highest award. The choreography for Lubovitch's dance, Crisis Variations, was awarded the 2012 Prix Benois de la Danse for Choreography at Bolshoi Theater in Moscow. In 2013, he received the American Dance Guild Award for Lifetime Achievement. Mr. Lubovitch recently worked with Juilliard dancers on his 1986 work, Concerto Six Twenty-Two, on the Juilliard Dances Repertory program. (The New York Times, Review: Juilliard Dances Repertory)

Marcus Roberts grew up in Jacksonville, Florida where his mother's gospel singing and the music of the local church left a lasting impact on his musical style. He lost his sight at age five, and a few years later began to teach himself to play piano. He had his first formal lessons at age twelve and ultimately went on to study classical piano at Florida State University with Leonidus Lipovetsky. Among the many competitions that Mr. Roberts has won and awards that he has received over the years, the one that is most personally meaningful to him is the Helen Keller Award for Personal Achievement (in 1998). He has been honored to receive many commissioning awards including awards from Jazz at Lincoln Center, Chamber Music America, ASCAP, the North Carolina Association of Jazz Educators, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, and the Savannah Music Festival. His first recording contract was in 1988 (BMG/Novus), and he went on to record for both Columbia Records and Sony Classical before starting his own record label, J-Master Records, in 2009. He has released several CDs on that label, including two CDs with the Marcus Roberts Trio and Wynton Marsalis called Together Again: In the Studio and Together Again: Live in Concert (both released in 2013). His recording legacy reflects his tremendous versatility as an artist and includes solo piano, duets, and trio arrangements of jazz standards, original suites of music, large ensemble works, and symphony orchestra recordings. Mr. Roberts' most recent recording project is with a new large ensemble called the Modern Jazz Generation. The group's first CD entitled, Romance, Swing, and the Blues, was recorded in 2013 and will be released in 2014. Mr. Roberts first performed as a soloist with symphony orchestra in 1992 with Juilliard alumna Marin Alsop. Since that time, he has performed with orchestras all over the world, but most frequently with his long-time mentor, Seiji Ozawa. Technology plays an important role in Mr. Robert's life and work, and he has spent many years working with technology experts to make writing a complicated score possible for blind composers. After 20 years of constant experimentation, the right combination of adaptive software was finally available. Mr. Roberts is a dedicated teacher, and he is on the faculty at the School of Music at his alma mater, Florida State University.

The Juilliard School has been presenting honorary degrees to celebrated performing artists and philanthropists at its Commencement Ceremonies since 1987. The tradition was established by Juilliard President Joseph W. Polisi. (Juilliard Honorary Degree Recipients, 1987-2013)

About The Juilliard School: The Juilliard School established this country's standard for performing arts education, beginning with music in 1905. Its alumni are among the most famous recitalists, orchestral and operatic musicians, administrators, and teachers. In 1951, its Dance Division was established, combining contemporary and ballet technique. Its accomplished alumni also include many of today's celebrated choreographers. Juilliard became part of Lincoln Center in 1968, and added a four-year drama program. Jazz performance was initiated in 2001 and Historical Performance in 2009. Most recently, Juilliard expanded its acting education to include a master's degree program whose first class entered in fall 2012. In 2009, Juilliard inaugurated its partnership with the Metropolitan Opera's Lindemann Young Artist Development Program; and also collaborates with Carnegie Hall, founding The Academy, a program of Carnegie Hall, The Juilliard School, and the Weill Music Institute in partnership with the New York City Department of Education, and Ensemble ACJW; Signature Theatre - for Juilliard Drama's 'Professional Studio'; the New York Philharmonic, whose music director Alan Gilbert also is Juilliard's director of conducting and orchestral studies; and Connections Education, instrumental in developing Juilliard eLearning, the School's first online courses for K-12. Juilliard alumnus Wynton Marsalis, artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, was recently appointed artistic director of Juilliard Jazz. Currently more than 800 artists from 35 states (plus Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico) and 44 foreign countries attend Juilliard.

Photo Credit: Shandon Youngclaus

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