Juilliard Must Address Complicity in Levine Misconduct (by Dieffenbach & Parker)

Like many, we are deeply saddened by the recent news reports of Juilliard alum James Levine’s alleged longstanding history of sexual abuse. That an esteemed, beloved artist could abuse his position of power and influence to such an extreme degree is unthinkable. It violates our most basic moral sense and our concept of what an artist should be. And yet—as we are increasingly being made aware—sexual abuse, harassment, and misconduct occur all too often both in classical music and outside it.

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Like many, we are deeply saddened by the recent news reports of Juilliard alum James Levine’s alleged longstanding history of sexual abuse. That an esteemed, beloved artist could abuse his position of power and influence to such an extreme degree is unthinkable. It violates our most basic moral sense and our concept of what an artist should be. And yet—as we are increasingly being made aware—sexual abuse, harassment, and misconduct occur all too often both in classical music and outside it.

As recently reported, Juilliard’s administration has removed Levine from an upcoming conducting engagement with the Juilliard Orchestra following a statement issued by the Juilliard Student Council. President Joseph Polisi has also issued a statement reminding all Juilliard community members of the school’s Sexual Misconduct and Adjudication Procedure and encouraging the reporting of any misconduct to the Title IX Coordinator or any Deputy.

These actions are necessary and are to be commended. It seems James Levine may never conduct at Juilliard again, and rightly so. And students must indeed be aware their institution’s leadership seeks to create a safe learning environment and does not tolerate sexual misconduct.

But if reporting and adjudication procedures alone were enough, we would not live in a world where sexual violence and abuse still thrive.

Numerous musicians, off the record or on, now admit they have been aware of Levine’s alleged sexually abusive behavior—and understood it to be a well-known open secret—for decades. We can’t help but reflect on the number of times Juilliard has engaged Levine as a performer and educator amid these pervasive rumors. Equally unsettling are the prestigious awards Juilliard has bestowed on Levine, including an Honorary Doctorate in 2000 and the President’s Medal in 2005, on the occasion of Juilliard’s Centennial.

Juilliard is not alone in this largesse and what seems to many a longstanding, willful disregard of Levine’s behavior and the irrevocable harm it has caused. Many major performing arts organizations have thus been complicit in sustaining a culture that enables celebrated artists to abuse vulnerable young people without repercussion.

These circumstances present a crisis of conscience for our field. Juilliard’s response, thus far, is not enough. President Polisi, in his book The Artist as Citizen, speaks of the vocation of the performing artist as leader and communicator of human values. As a universally respected arts leader and public intellectual, Polisi now has a unique opportunity to leverage the full power of his platform and create lasting change in building a culture of accountability. In his final year at Juilliard’s helm he has everything to gain by taking a truly principled stand.

Levine’s conduct should have been investigated decades ago, but our institutions and communities turned a blind eye. Now, four courageous, credible survivors of sexual violence have publicly detailed the violations and pain they experienced. Through whatever means necessary, challenging as they may be, Juilliard must examine its own complicity and lead the way for our Lincoln Center neighbors to do the same.

Keats Dieffenbach
BM ’04, MM ’06, GD ’19

Daniel Parker
MM ’18

Barrett Hipes (Associate Dean for Student Development) Addresses Winter Closure of Residence Hall

Barrett Hipes (Associate Dean for Student Development ) responds to the recent student concerns regarding the closure of the Residence Hall over winter break.

I am writing in response to the recent editorial, “Student Concerns re: Residence Hall;” the related article in the New York Post; and subsequent reactions on social media and among the larger Juilliard community. I hope to provide some useful background and contextual information regarding the decision to close the residence hall over the winter break, which was made a year ago. First of all, since this is the first time I am addressing readers of The Citizen-Penguin, I assume some may not know me, and those who do may not be aware that I have recently taken on a new role within the school. As Associate Dean for Student Development, I broadly oversee the offices of Residence Life, Student Affairs, International Advisement, and the Marks Center (where I was stationed most recently as director).

My Student Development colleagues and I are encouraged by the empathy that the author and undersigned citizens have shown for their fellow students, and by the active willingness to speak out in support. I recognize that the decision is unpopular, and I will not be able to allay every concern with this response. However, I would like to attempt to clarify a few of the more critical implications that seem to have caused confusion.

The decision to close the residence hall was made last winter, and the Residence Life staff began reaching out to students who had stayed in the hall over the previous winter break on March 21. Subsequent notifications were sent to all students informing them of the closure prior to reapplication and room selection. New students were also informed that the residence hall would not be open during the break prior to their enrollment. This was not a surprise announcement made just a few weeks before the break.

It is true that last winter about 15 students requested late departures or early arrivals, and a smaller subset of that group requested housing for the entire break. Historically, the majority of residents who have remained in the city over the break have opted to stay with friends, family, or fellow students. Services and amenities during this time are few. The dining hall, health and counseling services, and the fitness center have always been closed over the break, and the school building is also closed for the holidays.

While a number of students, alumni, and friends have rallied online to offer housing assistance to impacted students in the wake of these publications, the residence life staff has received an extremely small number of requests for housing extensions since this decision was rendered and, in every case, those students were able to find reasonable housing accommodations. While this may remain a point of contention or inconvenience, I feel it is important to note that an overwhelming need for winter housing from our residents has certainly not been expressed to us directly.

We know that living in NYC is expensive and complicated, and maintaining a high rise on the Upper West Side is no exception. The residence hall has been open year-round for many years. In addition to the academic year, we provide housing for a number of summer programs for Juilliard as well as external organizations in an effort to generate revenue and minimize increases to cost for Juilliard students. This means we rarely have the opportunity to do building-wide assessments of infrastructure or even take a comprehensive inventory of aesthetic needs. We want to improve the residence hall, and closing the building while school is not in session gives us the opportunity to make strategic plans and substantive changes.

The decision to close was not made lightly, and we were aware that some students might be adversely impacted. We tried to get the word out about this change early and repeatedly, and we have done our best to assist any students who have come to us with their concerns.

The Student Development staff will be hosting community forums, distributing surveys, and asking for your feedback in the coming months about a host of issues. We strongly encourage you to work with us to help make our school a better place. While not all concerns can be addressed 100 percent of the time, we can guarantee that your voices will always be heard. Not every decision that we make as an institution will be popular, but we assure you that we value our students’ perspective and input. My door is open and my inbox is ready. Please never hesitate to speak to me or any of my colleagues if you have a concern. We will do our best to provide you with accurate information, listen, and lend support.

Sincerely,

Barrett Hipes

Student Concerns re: Residence Hall

“As citizen artists, we are responsible for the health of our communities, especially within the current socioeconomic climate of this country.”

Sign your name: https://goo.gl/forms/5ZpPzPr2Es5uU5oC2

**If this resonates with you, please SIGN your name with the link above; we need all the support possible**

We, the undersigned students, are extremely concerned with the Office of Residence Life’s decision to close the Meredith Willson Residence Hall for the entirety of winter break this year. We fear that no students were consulted in the decision, so we are voicing our concern now.

Over 30% of our small student population is international; of those, the majority hails from East Asia. It can be financially devastating to travel the globe for a two-week holiday. This situation renders them effectively homeless and puts many students and their families in a position of financial burden. We are concerned by the email sent to the students from the Office of Residence Life, which states, “flight costs are not a reason for which we will grant extension past 8pm on the 22nd [of December] or prior to noon on Sunday, January 7th.”

President Polisi has reiterated the philosophy of the “Artist as Citizen” throughout his 33-year tenure. To charge students $15,990 – $19,970 to reside in the Residence Hall—including the first-year undergraduate students who are required to live on-campus—and then to treat them with such inconsideration for their financial and emotional wellbeing, is antithetical to that philosophy. As citizen artists, we are responsible for the health of our communities, especially within the current socioeconomic climate of this country.

Additionally, there still exists a separation of church and state in this country. So, why must the Juilliard School assume Christmas is a holiday celebrated by all students? Why must these students sacrifice their time and money in light of a religious holiday that is not their own? This assumption isolates many students in an attempt to clear the Residence Hall for thus far unknown reasons.

In previous years, Resident Assistants have been paid less than $50 per day to continue their duties during the winter break in the Residence Hall. Additional professional on-call positions were created this year, which ought to make it easier to staff the dorms. Especially considering that international students paid $150 to stay over during the vacation, we are confused with how these numbers add up.

But even more than financial considerations, we question the considerations as concerns building community at Juilliard. We ask the Office of Residence Life to reconsider their decision and reinstate the option for students to stay in the dorm over future breaks, as well as communicate with the student community on such decisions.

Sincerely,
Michelle Geffner
Äneas D. Humm
Katelan Terrell
Aaron Albert
Alaina Rea
Angela Wee
Evan Atwell-Harris
Sarah Silverman
Carlyle Cooney
Annie Gard
Jake Darnell
Ricardo Pedrares
Matthew Liu
Khady Gueye
Xu Cheng
Natalia Kutateladze
Hannah Tarley
Leerone Hakami
Matthew Robert Maimone
Michał Biel
Michael Gabriel
Minji Kim
Lydia Graham
Iona Batchelder
Sylvia Jiang
Nathan Hirschaut
Taylor Ann Massa
Pablo O’Connell
Luke Sutliff (class of 2019)
Clarissa Castaneda
Isaiah J. Thompson
Janice Gho
Mitchell Kuhn
John Hewitt
Sophia Steger
Juliette Kenn de Balinthazy
Lisa Sung
Emma Richman
Salome Jordania
Phillip Solomon
Michael Vascones
Maximilian Morel
Jaylyn Elaine Simmons
Jesse Brault
Kaine Ward
David Bender
Joe Peterson
Russell Hoffman
Tyler Cunningham
Tiffany Sun
Ayoun Kim
Jessica Hong
Bianca Norwood
Rosie Yates
Sarah Sung
Rannveig Marta Sarc
Manon Gage
Michael Garcia
Alaina Surgener
Kevin Takeda
Kresley Figueroa
Frida S. Oliver
Helenmarie Vassiliou
Anthony Barrington
Sterling Elliott
Lynn Sue-A-Quan
Sam Siegel
Julius Rodriguez
Claire Satchwell
Olivia McMillan
Calvin Smith
Shereen Pimentel
Rinat Erlichman
Ariel Horowitz
Mikaela Bennett (International Alumni)
Nathaniel Silberschlag
Emily Tate
Casey Hess
Dominic Law
Matthew Quigley
Ma. Regina C. De Vera
Brittany Hewitt
Felix Moseholm
Álvaro Olmedo
Chea Young Kang
Phoebe Gardner
Hava Polinsky
Chris Reynolds
Lauren Siess
James Rootring
Anne Qian Wang
Philip Norris
Rachel Ahn
Alec Manasse
Noah Wang
Emma Pfitzer Price
Jieming Tang
Nicholas Podany
Jeffery Miller
Natalie Vargas Nedvetsky
Abigel Kralik
Anastasia Magamedova
Cameron Liflander
Mark Prihodko
Toney Goins
Jacqueline Tso
Erin Pitts
Chisa Kodaka
Keshav Moodliar
Mikey Garcia
Athena Tsianos
Nina Bernat

Benjamin Sosland (Assistant Dean of the Kovner Fellowship) Responds to Editorial

I found the editorial “Four Concerns with the Kovner Fellowship,” recently published in The Citizen-Penguin, to be timely, as economic inequality is an important part of our national conversation right now. At Juilliard, we are keenly aware of the feelings and perceptions surrounding this complex issue.

I found the editorial “Four Concerns with the Kovner Fellowship,” recently published in The Citizen-Penguin, to be timely, as economic inequality is an important part of our national conversation right now. At Juilliard, we are keenly aware of the feelings and perceptions surrounding this complex issue. And for a scholarship program that offers comprehensive support, such as the Kovner Fellowship, it is brought into even greater relief. While no amount of scholarship assistance can fully address the complexities of financial disparity, no student should feel more or less valued because of the dollar amount of the scholarship package he or she receives. I would be dismayed to learn of students who assume they are somehow less valued by Juilliard because they did not receive a Kovner Fellowship.

The Kovner Fellowship was established and endowed by Bruce and Suzie Kovner to address a specific problem that became acute soon after the financial crash of 2008: many of the scholarship offers we were making were losing their effectiveness, and excellent applicants were declining our offer of admission for purely financial reasons. While there is not (yet!) a scenario that allows Juilliard to provide every dollar of unmet financial need for our students (e.g., full-tuition scholarships for everyone), the Kovner Fellowship makes a significant impact: There are now 54 Kovner Fellows, a figure that represents nearly 10 percent of the entire eligible music population at Juilliard. That statistic might not mean much to a non–Kovner Fellow, but as a result of the donation of Mr. and Mrs. Kovner’s gift—at $60 million, the largest in the school’s history—it has been possible to more widely distribute scholarship funds to drama, dance, and music students, thus increasing the amount of scholarship assistance in circulation. This is an overall benefit to Juilliard students, since the main goal of our institutional fundraising efforts is to increase the amount of available scholarship dollars.

A common misconception is that “Most Kovner Fellowship recipients come from families that can already afford a Juilliard education.” In fact, the financial profile of Kovner Fellows mirrors that of the overall Juilliard population: a small percentage come from families of means; most demonstrate financial need. It is worth noting that 85% of all college-level Juilliard students receive scholarship assistance.

The editorial is correct to note that there is no application or interview process for the Kovner Fellowship. That is because every eligible student who applies to Juilliard has also applied for the Fellowship by default. The parameters of the Kovner’s gift stipulates that eligible candidates are undergraduate and graduate Classical music majors, including Historical Performance.

Another common misconception is that the selection of Fellows is based solely on a 15-minute audition. This is not the case. After hearing entrance auditions, the faculty, either as a unified group by instrument area or as individuals, recommend applicants for consideration to the Kovner Fellows Selection Committee, which comprises President Polisi, Ara Guzelimian (Provost and Dean), Joan Warren (Vice President for Enrollment Management and Student Development), Adam Meyer (Associate Dean and Director of the Music Division), Kathy Tesar (Associate Dean for Enrollment Management), Tina Gonzalez (Director of Financial Aid), a revolving member of the Liberal Arts faculty who serves a three-year term, and me (as an ex officio member). We convene in mid-March for an extensive meeting to review letters of recommendation, admissions essays, faculty recommendations, high school and college transcripts, and all other aspects of the standard Juilliard application. A similar, second round of selection for continuing students takes place in late May or early June, when the committee also reviews comments on annual jury forms.

Among the many reasons the Selection Committee will choose to recommended an applicant for the Fellowship are a combination of the following: a high school transcript (for undergraduate programs) that reveals the potential to do college-level work; a well-written and creative essay; an academic history that indicates community engagement or leadership potential; a college transcript (for graduate program applicants) that demonstrates a commitment to learning and academic curiosity; strong letters of recommendation; remarks on the faculty’s audition or jury comment sheets that indicate the highest artistic standard; and English language proficiency in accordance with prevailing admissions standards. We also take into account the fact that we are in competition with peer institutions to yield applicants in certain instruments more than in others. We have learned from the editorial that the information about the selection process on our website needs to be updated so that prospective students can better understand eligibility criteria.

The number of nominations from the faculty varies each year, as does the number of open Fellowships, but the latter is usually in the range of 17 to 20. As mentioned above, there are currently 54 Kovner Fellows at Juilliard, 30 undergraduates and 24 graduate students. Once accepted, Kovner Fellows carry that designation for the duration of their enrollment in their degree program, and must exceed the normal Juilliard academic standards in order to retain their status. Kovner Fellows are not guaranteed the continuation of their Fellowship from one degree program to the next (e.g., a bachelor’s degree student applying to the master’s degree program) and are reconsidered along with the incoming applicant pool.

Kovner Fellows do not have their own orientation, as the editorial stated. Rather, they follow the same orientation requirements as any other new-to-Juilliard students. They also have the chance to thank Mr. and Mrs. Kovner in person at the beginning of the year and, in addition to divisional and program orientation meetings, they are required to attend one extra meeting to go over the expectations of the Fellowship. As do many generous Juilliard scholarship donors, Mr. and Mrs. Kovner invite Fellows for various outings, as the editorial mentions.

As the sole merit-based scholarship program that funds the full cost of attendance at Juilliard, the Kovner Fellowship understandably comes under special scrutiny. I appreciate the editorial’s willingness to express a strong opinion, and I hope that this letter provides clarity on several points.

Benjamin Sosland
Assistant Dean for the Kovner Fellowship

Student Council asks Juilliard to cancel James Levine appearance, issues statement

We are devastated to learn of conductor James Levine’s history of sexual abuse. We believe sexual violence has no place in the performing arts. We respectfully ask the administration…

Dr. Joseph Polisi, President
Ara Guzelimian, Provost and Dean
Dr. Adam Meyer, Associate Dean and Director, Music Division
Joseph Soucy, Assistant Dean for Orchestral Studies
Cc: Damian Woetzel, President-Designate

To the above and the greater Juilliard community:

We are devastated to learn of conductor James Levine’s history of sexual abuse. We believe sexual violence has no place in the performing arts. We respectfully ask the administration:

  1. to cancel Levine’s 2/23/18 Juilliard Orchestra-Lindemann Program appearance in the Peter J. Sharp Theater, and employ different conducting personnel as necessary, and
  2. to make a statement to the Juilliard community about Levine’s conduct.

We note that Juilliard dealt decisively with the recent sexual misconduct revelations surrounding Drama alumnus Kevin Spacey and ex-Music faculty Choong Mo Kang. We hope for a commensurate response to this weekend’s disturbing news.

We urge survivors of sexual violence to strive to find the courage to continue speaking out. We look forward to the day when sexual abuse by leaders in our fields is unthinkable, but we know it is still all too common. In this case, we believe a swift and meaningful response is a necessary step toward that vision.

The Juilliard Student Council

***

CORRECTED: Letter from Student Council said the concert was 2017, but it is in 2018.

the Church and the Court

an editorial by Jasper Snow ’18, with illustration by Matthew Quigley ’19: The divine right of kings, original sin, and their transfigurations hang heavy over Manhattan. When, in 1099, Pope Urban’s crusaders captured Jerusalem, Christianity, at the threshold of deep fissures between Orthodox and Catholic sects, was legitimized as the event horizon of the West, or “Urbanity.” In the centuries since, the West has become known as the capitalist cancer of socio-political evolution, dominating the global economy. And so creation and performance, colloquially, “the arts” (in this millennia of technology-as-nature, full flush sedation via hot-media entertainments and prescription pharmaceuticals), are hinged upon a thousand-year-old stack of architectures and compositions for the Bible’s God and its Kings.

“the figure of God’s majesty, / His captain, steward, deputy-elect, / Anointed, crowned…” —Richard II, 4.1

The divine right of kings, original sin, and their transfigurations hang heavy over Manhattan. When, in 1099, Pope Urban’s crusaders captured Jerusalem, Christianity, at the threshold of deep fissures between Orthodox and Catholic sects, was legitimized as the event horizon of the West, or Urbanity.” In the centuries since, the West has become known as the capitalist cancer of socio-political evolution, dominating the global economy. And so creation and performance, colloquially, “the arts” (in this millennia of technology-as-nature, full flush sedation via hot-media entertainments and prescription pharmaceuticals), are hinged upon a thousand-year-old stack of architectures and compositions for the Bible’s God and its Kings.

Ultimately, as the West politicized a formal division between the Church and the Court, the tradition of artful offerings to both pillars remained intact. Transference of the aristocratic court caste to the contemporary-citizens of luxury-constitution (bourgeoisie), is paralleled by transference of the public Church to spaces of quasi-religious institutions, organisms of doctrine and dogma, conglomerate corporations. The Church’s spiritual nourishment, fractured amidst contemporary postmodern society, is resumed through artful actions, chemical alterants, sex, and psychiatry.

Among the remnants of this Western European lineage, Classical Music, or the progression from poorly notated, localized church song, to fluently linguistic German harmony—and finally beyond the reaches of atonality—intimately tracks many centuries of offerings to the divine and the elite. From the great unwashed masses of public church chorales, to the virtuosic instrumental feats of high-aptitude men, to the theatrical-spectacular happening of multi-sensorial opera narratives, this “classical” music may be heard as worship to the scope of Western development.

Though music and architecture were similarly wed to the power-cycle of divine politics throughout the millennia, it wasn’t until the Baroque when churches as architectural spectacles were finally equalled by the musical service portions. While the church buildings were ornate spaces of the grandest human construction and conception, the provincial Northern German organs were the the most advanced mechanical contraptions built to date.

At the turn of the Classical period, as the epicenter of music shifted from the town church-space to the cities’ cosmopolitan courts and public halls, the makers of this wholesome music increasingly became pets of the European aristocrats and not pious servants of the fracturing Christian church. Their offerings to these noblemen were of an intellectual brawn and dexterity, or a soulful egotism, a catharsis of the self for a private, no longer public, God. And into the romantic period, in close conjunction with Europe’s burgeoning political nationalism, the role of musician and composer split, the music, becoming increasingly publicized and disseminated. Finally, the turn of the twentieth century saw the public become increasingly engulfed in imagist entertainment, the sensory palate shifting starkly to illusionary visuals, the noblemen rapidly shape-shifting to moguls of industry and tycoons of trade.

The quality of the established musical supply created a demand for such highly proficient musicians that training became conglomerated into the conservatory model, while the composer as genius archetype emerged into the socio-mythological fabric. And through to modernity, postmodernity, and now to contemporary stature and fruition, whatever seemed to have quickly flit from provincial Northern Germany, to Vienna, to Paris, to Manhattan, in the second half of the millennia, it is dominated by the sociological and psychological pillars of the church and the court.

Through this trajectory the musical artist’s ties to the church of God became systemically secondary to their ties with the new Churches of man: those chimeric organisms of corporations, figments of business and the market. And of the archetypal transfiguration: the provincial North German Kapellmeister—proud, dutiful man of god and noble service—has been relegated, in postmodernity, to the cosmopolitan jester or whore, and is certainly as interwoven in the delicate link between the church-of-capitalism’s dogmatic institutions and the bourgeoisie as always. Now the classical musical artist’s fixation is on making relevant a history of beautiful sonic relics. This stratospheric endeavor is supported almost entirely by the charity and elitism of the wealthy. Further—and with no denigratory affect—the elitism of the wealthy patron is equaled by the unspoken elitism of the classical musician’s fixation, for it is not the contemporary public which uplifts these vestiges of Christian-European domination.

Four Concerns with the Kovner Fellowship [UPDATED]

Editorial from Joseph Peterson ’20: At The Juilliard School, not a week goes by when I haven’t listened to concerns regarding the program that provides full tuition, housing, and special privileges to certain members of the student body, based solely on a 15 minute audition and alleged high school performance. This is the Kovner Fellowship program, or the Juilliard equivalent of winning the lottery. I have written these concerns down so that they are no longer just angry whispers out of fear of being silenced.

UPDATED: Read a note from the author in the comments.


At The Juilliard School, not a week goes by when I haven’t listened to concerns regarding the program that provides full tuition, housing, and special privileges to certain members of the student body, based solely on a 15 minute audition and alleged high school performance. This is the Kovner Fellowship program, or the Juilliard equivalent of winning the lottery. I have written these concerns down so that they are no longer just angry whispers out of fear of being silenced.

As a disclaimer, I should write that this article is in no way intended to criticize or call out Kovner Fellowship recipients themselves. They are entitled to the best possible education. But then, so are the rest of us.

Concern with Transparency

There is a complete lack of transparency in the decision-making process behind the Kovner Fellowship. The Juilliard website states that the following criteria goes into choosing Kovner recipients: “Artistic merit of the highest caliber; a successful academic history; [and] a personal capacity for intellectual curiosity, commitment to the value of art in society, and potential for leadership in the field.” There is no written application for the Kovner Fellowship. There is no interview. There is only the initial 15 minute entrance audition and, allegedly, an inquiry into the applicant’s high school academic achievement, though this can be quickly ruled out after speaking briefly with a survey of Kovner recipients. How can a personal capacity for intellectual curiosity, commitment to the value of art in society, and potential for leadership in the field be determined after a 15 minute audition where there is no more human interaction than a brief “thank you” after playing? Either there are other unspoken considerations taken into account, including which summer programs one has been to and who one might happen to know on the selection committee, or the Fellowship is solely awarded based off of an interpretation of merit, based on a 15 minute audition. Either way, this should be made clear to the Juilliard community.

Concerning Our Community

The Kovner Fellowship is dividing our community. The Juilliard School website states that Kovner recipients benefit from “enhanced programmatic content,” and the following “enhanced” activities have been confirmed: Kovner Fellows are entitled their own entrepreneurship classes, their own orientation, and even go on apple picking trips together. Because these activities are not open to the whole community, it gives the impression that non-Kovner recipients are less valued within the Juilliard community, which very well could be true. This makes excluded students defensive and bitter, and moreover, resentful when a Kovner recipient receives a special opportunity they didn’t audition for, even when it could very well have been earned. Given the already intensely competitive environments that Juilliard students are subjected to, these hierarchical politics should be the last thing on the minds of students, which is why the enhanced programmatic content should be offered to all students, not just the special few.

Concern with Merit

Most Kovner Fellowship recipients come from families that can already afford a Juilliard education. To be worthy of receiving any merit-based award, one first needs money to spend on the best private lessons, money to spend on the best pre-college program, money to spend on the best summer programs, and, of course, money to spend on application fees, audition fees, flights, hotels, and trial lessons. This is a theme for all top-tier colleges and universities: “Roughly one in four of the richest students attend an elite college universities that typically cluster toward the top of annual rankings […] In contrast, less than one-half of 1 percent of children from the bottom fifth of American families attend an elite college; less than [50 percent] attend any college at all.”1 The same can be said for merit-based awards at The Juilliard School – recipients are essentially being rewarded for their wealth and circumstance, something out of their control, while those with fewer privileges are left footing the bill. This continues the cycle of poverty.

Concerning the Juilliard Endowment

Juilliard has a $980 million endowment. Considering only around 850 students attend Juilliard, it is absurd that there are students paying $60,000 a year, period. The Curtis Institute of Music has an endowment somewhere between $130 million and $236 million, and they are completely tuition-free. Juilliard owes it to their students, who are entering some of the most competitive fields on the planet, to lower, if not eliminate, tuition costs.

What is to be done?

The Kovner Fellowship needs to be much more transparent, so that there is no longer ambiguity or suspicion surrounding the award itself. The enhanced programmatic content Kovner recipients receive should be open to all students on a case-by-case basis. Juilliard boasts a commitment to community building, and in that vein, all students should be treated equally, regardless of their financial aid package. Scholarship funds should also be distributed based on need rather than merit to combat the ridiculous wealth gap at Juilliard.

This essay is meant to make the concerned voices of many within the Juilliard community heard, as well as provide several solutions. This writer hopes that it will lead to a more open and transparent dialogue—no longer whispered, but articulated loud and clear.

 

1 Source: Aisch, Buchanan, Cox, & Quealy. “Some Colleges Have More Students From the Top 1 Percent Than the Bottom 60. Find Yours.The New York Times, 18 Jan. 2017)

CORRECTED 11/18: Curtis endowment data has been updated with information from their latest Annual Report.

What I Saw at a Columbia Protest

…The life of a Juilliard student is incredibly goal-oriented; it has to be in order for us to meet the standard imposed upon us by this world-class institution. But sometimes in our struggle for extreme technical proficiency and artistic excellence, we forget that we live in a diverse world full of people with totally different experiences and adversities than our own…

On October 30th at 8pm, White Supremacist and unapologetic misogynist Mike Cernovich was scheduled to give a talk at Columbia University’s Lerner Hall, sponsored by the Columbia University College Republicans.

For a brief background on Cernovich and his politics, I present to you the following quotes (Trigger Warning: racism, sexism, xenophobia) 

On Diversity: “diversity is a code for white genocide” —Mike Cernovich

On Immigration: “IQ tests for immigrants would solve most of our problems. If I could only do ONE act, that would be it.” —Mike Cernovich

On Sexual Assault: “ …‘date rape’ does not exist… It leads to a lot of false rape accusations.” —Mike Cernovich

On Gender Roles: “Women follow the strong men, and the weak men follow the women. It is and always will be that way.” -Mike Cernovich

About 200 community organizers, students, and Harlem residents organized to protest the event. The aim was to deny Cernovich a platform to espouse his hateful and backwards rhetoric, and to let the Columbia administration know that the community would not stand for the administration’s apparent ambivalence toward white supremacy on campus. People were invited from neighboring campuses and neighborhoods to express solidarity. Around 7:45, a few members of the Juilliard community and I caught up with the group as they were moving across campus. I heard them before I saw them, chanting, “Black Lives Matter” and “It’s Not Free Speech, It’s Fascist Thuggery.”

It was a diverse coalition of black, brown, and white faces, women and men, young college students and older members of the Harlem community.  We converged on Lerner Hall and packed into the cramped lobby backed up to the entrance, all the while chanting, “Let Us In” and “No Justice, No Peace.” A few people pounded on drums and paint jugs, giving the chants a rhythmic fervor.

It’s difficult to put into words what one feels at an event like this. You tend to start out self-conscious, especially in an unfamiliar place surrounded by strangers. But when you remember why you’re there, to gather in solidarity and let the world know that you refuse to stand for bigotry in your city, you trade your inhibitions for inspiration and find the strength to become part of something bigger than yourself. As you chant louder and louder, you feel a sort of catharsis; after all of the times you’ve had to watch in anger and frustration as public figures openly degrade members of our society, you finally have a chance to do something.

The life of a Juilliard student is incredibly goal-oriented; it has to be in order for us to meet the standard imposed upon us by this world-class institution. But sometimes in our struggle for extreme technical proficiency and artistic excellence, we forget that we live in a diverse world full of people with totally different experiences and adversities than our own. As citizens of the world, we owe it to ourselves and each other to be informed, to sincerely listen to those with different experiences, and to constantly question our own biases and preconceptions. And maybe, if we do, our conscience might compel us to take some action to make this world of ours a more compassionate and empathetic place.

For me, part of that action includes drawing a line between free speech—which can facilitate mutual understanding and growth—and fascist hate speech, which aims to dehumanize and denigrate people. The latter has no place on college campuses.


Sources and More Information:

NYTimes: Who is Mike Cernovich? A Guide

ADL: From Alt Right to Alt Lite: Naming the Hate

In Their Element

Earlier this year, WSJ. Magazine (of The Wall Street Journal) published a fashion spread featuring Juilliard students. At first, I appreciated the Magazine’s effort to photograph students from all departments and provide a window into student diversity. At a time when I was hearing about the devastating consequences of other-ing—from microagressions to shootings and police brutality—I thought it was brilliant to present a diverse group of artists in a positive way.

Earlier this year, WSJ. Magazine (of The Wall Street Journal) published a fashion spread featuring Juilliard students. At first, I appreciated the Magazine’s effort to photograph students from all departments and provide a window into student diversity. At a time when I was hearing about the devastating consequences of other-ing—from microagressions to shootings and police brutality—I thought it was brilliant to present a diverse group of artists in a positive way.

However, when I reached the end of the photos, my head started to spin. I realized there were no Asian or Asian-American students in the photos. The omission has been explored by Scout James in an article in The Citizen-Penguin, for which I was interviewed. Talking to Scout helped me process my reaction, but my confusion persisted.

Essay continues after gallery

In California, I did not often feel like an “other” as a first-generation American born to Taiwanese immigrants. At Juilliard, I also do not feel like an “other.” This privilege of being an Asian American can be double-edged, and I am still trying to ask myself the right questions about this—questions of race and privilege. Why were there no Asians depicted in the feature? Are there generally fewer Asians presented in media? Should I be vocal about this? Have I been vocal about other instances of underrepresentation, whether or not I was part of that underrepresentation?

An article appeared in the Citizen Penguin before the semester ended investigating WSJ. Magazine’s original photo shoot

Uncertain of my own thoughts, I met with Dean Cory Owen, Assistant Dean of International Advisement and Diversity Initiatives. She had reached out to me after Scout’s piece ran, asking if there was anything she or any Juilliard staff could do to help. It was at our meeting that the idea of organizing a photoshoot became tangible. After the student photographers she recommended agreed to participate, we were ready to organize our own photoshoot. An open call was sent out in an email to all students, who could sign up for the photoshoot if they felt they were not represented in the WSJ. Magazine feature.

As you can see from these photos, many responded. Weeks of planning and a 7-hour shoot day resulted in hundreds of photos to pick from. Everyone who was photographed is featured here. Dancer Taylor Massa appears again, this time self-styled. My hope is that these photos add to the conversation the Magazine’s feature provoked.

(Special thanks to photographers Samantha Hankey (Vocal Arts), Michelle Lim (Dance), Jieming Tang (Music) and Matthew Quigley (Dance). Thanks to Dean Cory Owen for her help and support during the photoshoot sessions. Thanks to Gloria Gottschalk for granting us permission to photograph on campus. A huge shoutout to Citizen-Penguin editor Scout James for the generous encouragement and providing a platform for our voices and faces to be represented.)

Photo: Jieming Tang

Matthew Chen
Music
From Westlake Village, California
“What keeps me coming back to music is its ability to affect people in a powerful way. I think creating a sonic space for people to experience their emotion is something people in this world will never stop needing.”

Photo: Jieming Tang

Gabrielle Chou
Music
From Pembroke Pines, Florida
“I’m an artist because I constantly look for meaning in the world around me and there is no other way to say the things I want to say. When you’re on stage, the stage is yours, the space is yours, the time is yours to do as you please. In the most high-pressure and vulnerable of situations lies the potential to reach, beyond the normal or everyday, the essence of who we are. It might be just one in a hundred performances, or just a handful in your lifetime, but it’s ‘that moment’ of connection that motivates me to keep pushing myself to my limits.”

Photo: Samantha Hankey

Ariel Horowitz
Music
From Bloomington, Indiana
“I am proud to be a Juilliard student. I am honored to be part of a community of human beings who not only strive for excellence, but who strive to use that excellence to do wonderful things in the world. At Juilliard, art is a means to an end rather than an end in itself. This is why we work hard every day as a community: to do good in the world.”

Photo: Samantha Hankey

Caitlin Javech
Dance
From Miami, Florida
“I want the world to know the importance of dance, and how crucial the presence of the arts is in today’s political climate. As a young dancer, choreographer, and leader, I am eager to advocate for the arts with intelligence, strength, and wisdom.”

Photo: Matthew Quigley

Jane H Kim
Music
From Berkeley, California
“As much as music is in many ways a historic art form, where we the core of our art is music written centuries ago and have been performed countless times over the years, it is still a living, breathing art as well. Yes, there are the iconic performances of Beethoven 9 or a Brahms Symphony, but every generation has a new voice to add even to well-established repertoire, and Juilliard is at the forefront of defining the music of the past for our generation today, both for performers as well as audiences.”

Photo: Jieming Tang

Michelle Lim
Dance
From Singapore
“I find it incredible how life lessons are stored in our anatomy and revealed and understood through dance. It is my privilege to have the ability to access that knowledge through my practice.”

Photo: Jieming Tang

Taylor Massa
Dance
From White Plains, New York
“Dance is an extremely under-appreciated and under-acknowledged art form, within the art world as well as in the outside world. I want the world, as well as other artists to know, that dance is valid and important.  Dancers are serious athletic artists who make art with nothing but their own bodies – and that deserves more respect and appreciation across the board.”

Photo: Matthew Quigley

Max Oppeltz
Music
From Caracas, Venezuela
“To play an instrument is to continuously challenge yourself to rise above your nerve, and to believe that once you’ve achieved all that was possible the unimaginable can become tangible.”

Photo: Samantha Hankey

Nina Peng
Dance
From Shanghai, China
“The stage of Juilliard is priceless, honorable and holy; on this stage, I am growing, exploring and experiencing. After the process, I am given the valuable opportunity to use this stage as an precious treasure to bring love and beauty to the world, and make the world even better!”

Photo: Michelle Lim

Miranda Quinn
Dance
From Baltimore, Maryland
“Look at the clothes you’re wearing, at the architecture of the building you’re in. Art is everywhere you look, in some form or another. Art is innate and inevitable, so I am an artist because I chose to live. As a part of the Juilliard community I have a great responsibility to live my art and allow my art to live in me in as many moments and facets as I can find.”

Photo: Jieming Tang

Katelan Tran Terrell
Music
From Fort Worth, Texas
“Art is what makes us human! No amount of economic success in a society can give us the humanity that art brings to us. Science saves lives, but art makes life worth saving.”

Photo: Jieming Tang

Regina De Vera
Drama
From Quezon City, Philippines
“My favorite part about acting is being able to live in new ways under the context of a written narrative, under the given circumstances of another human being and the unconscious freedom that results from a lot of conscious work.”

Photo: Matthew Quigley

Mariko Hiraga Wyrick
Music
From Mill Valley, California
“I do what I do because I am able to help people. The idea that I can temporarily relieve someone of their daily worries and take them somewhere else free of distress is a unique power that is quite remarkable. The cello is a vessel through which I can tell my story to an audience. It is my way of the purest expression that I have to offer and I am so fortunate to be able to do what I do.”

Photo: Samantha Hankey

Yilun Xu
Music
From Beijing, China
“Just as painters draw their pictures on the canvas, we present our world in the silence. Music is the universal language. We can understand it without words.”