First Day Message

July 1, 2018

Today, I have the great privilege of becoming Juilliard’s president, and I am so honored to join with you in creating the next chapter of this extraordinary institution.

Over the past year, I have spent my time preparing for this day by listening and learning. The faculty, students, staff, and alumni I have had the opportunity to speak with have graced me with their passionate commitment to Juilliard and its history, and with their ideas and aspirations for our school’s future. I am profoundly grateful to President Polisi, whose influence and example have been a guiding star for me; first in creating the road map for the life of artist as citizen, and now in this moment as we go forward into a new era at Juilliard. I am so appreciative of the guidance Joseph has given me, and I will continue to rely on him as he today becomes president emeritus and chief China officer, leading our efforts in Tianjin to the successful launch of Juilliard’s new global campus. All of us at Juilliard owe President Polisi a true debt of gratitude for his visionary leadership over the past 34 years.

In listening to all of you, I have clearly heard a set of goals for our school: to continue to be the highest-caliber educator for new generations of young artists and also to be the creative engine behind a more inclusive, arts-driven society. In the years ahead, we will seize the opportunity to build further on our base of educational excellence, encouraging an ever-wider range of creative collaboration that breaks new artistic ground and also brings the uniquely valuable qualities of the arts to bear on the world around us.

Fundamental to this mission must be a commitment to fostering a truly inclusive and supportive environment that reflects the world around us and the world we hope to live in. Excellence in life and in the arts can only be fully realized when we embrace a robust representation of experience and perspective. The communities we work in at Juilliard—the communities of students, teachers, staff, peers, collaborators, and audiences—must include all voices. Here at Juilliard, we dedicate ourselves to that true excellence that is achievable only when all doors are open and all barriers are cast aside. In the months ahead, we will introduce new initiatives that help us embody this commitment and carry it forward.

We know that music, dance, and drama are not static art forms. As we pass on the finest artistic education built on centuries of tradition, we recognize that the creative enterprise is constantly evolving. Today’s artists are entrepreneurs, educators, leaders, and change agents. Artistic careers are imagined, reimagined, and applied in ever more inventive and community-building ways. We therefore seek to honor the traditions that have made us a premier performing arts institution while providing a stage for the next generation of creative innovation. Our commitment to our students must be to provide an evolving platform that offers them the fullest range of opportunity for their individual futures. And as we develop new ideas and programs to that end, we can look forward with anticipation to the mind-blowing things they will do!

Today, I also want to welcome our two new artistic leaders: Alicia Graf Mack for the dance division and Evan Yionoulis for the drama division. We are so fortunate to have them join us, and I could not be more energized to begin collaborating with them and our music division leadership, alongside our esteemed provost and dean, Ara Guzelimian.

Together, we will all work to preserve and build on Juilliard’s core distinction since 1905: pioneering excellence in performing arts education. That excellence expands in possibility with each class we welcome to the school, and I am inspired to join with you in this magnificent ongoing project that is Juilliard.


Damian Woetzel
The Juilliard School

Last Updated Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021, 05:20PM