$ 50 million donation to Juilliard targets racial disparities in music


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For three decades, The Juilliard School has sought to bring more diversity to classical music by offering a weekend training program aimed largely at black and Latino schoolchildren.

Now the famous conservatory is planning a major expansion of the initiative, known as the Music Advancement Program: Juilliard announced on Thursday that he had received a gift of $ 50 million that he would use to increase the number by 40%. program enrollments and provide full scholarships. to all participants.

“It will be a transformation,” said Damian Woetzel, president of Juilliard, in an interview. “It will widen the path to the highest level of classical music education in such a significant way.”

The gift comes from Crankstart, a California foundation backed by venture capitalist Michael Moritz and his wife, writer Harriet Heyman, who have long supported the program.

Heyman, in announcing the giveaway, pointed out the lack of racial and ethnic diversity in American orchestras, where only about 4% of musicians are black or Hispanic. “The Music Advancement Program’s commitment to recruiting under-represented minorities will help bring a new spirit, as well as superb young musicians, to orchestras, concert halls and theaters around the world,” Heyman said in a statement.

Juilliard aims to expand enrollment to 100 students, up from 70. The initiative will also expand its reach to include younger students. (It currently serves children ages 8-18.) And in addition to full scholarships for all students, the donation will be used to create a fund to help them purchase instruments.

The program includes aural training, instrument lessons, and theory lessons for its students, many of whom come from New York City public schools. Students can register for four years. The program costs $ 3,400 per year, although many students receive full or partial scholarships, currently funded from various sources.

While only seven Music Advancement Program students since 2010 have made their way into Juilliard’s undergraduate program, others have entered other prestigious institutions including the Manhattan School of Music, Berklee College of Music, and the New England Conservatory. And 61 of the students have been admitted to Juilliard’s prestigious pre-university division.

Anthony McGill, principal clarinet of the New York Philharmonic and artistic director of the program, said the donation would allow Juilliard to reach students who may have been reluctant to apply due to financial considerations.

“We had to make sure there were no barriers to attracting more students than we want to our program,” McGill said in an interview. “We wanted to open the doors, the paths, to their success. “

The program was founded in 1991 with the goal of providing rigorous training to promising young musicians at a time when many schools in New York City were cutting music education classes. The initiative has sometimes encountered financial difficulties. Juilliard almost suspended it in 2009, citing budget cuts and fundraising issues. A group of donors, including Moritz and Heyman, eventually came to the rescue. In 2013, the couple stepped up their efforts even further by donating $ 5 million.

The expansion of the program comes as part of a larger push by artists and cultural institutions to address long-standing inequalities in classical music. Weston Sprott, who helps oversee the program as the dean of Juilliard’s preparatory division, said being a musician of color is too often a lonely experience and ensembles should better reflect the diversity of their communities.

“Often times, as musicians of color, the reward we get for our success is isolation,” Sprott, who is black, said in an interview. “Classical music can’t be the best it can be without these young people that we include in our programs.

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