The Juilliard School holds its 105th Commencement Ceremony on Friday, May 21, 2009 at 11 AM in Alice Tully Hall (Broadway at 65th Street, NYC). Juilliard President Joseph W. Polisi presents honorary degrees to seven outstanding artists and cultural leaders. The recipients are:
- Dancer/choreographer Mikhail Baryshnikov
- Singer Tony Bennett
- Opera director and former member of Juilliard's faculty Frank Corsaro
- L.A.-based philanthropist Glorya Kaufman
- Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner
- Musicologist and Mahler scholar Henry-Louis de La Grange
- Actress/singer and Juilliard alumna Patti LuPone
Mr. Kushner delivers the commencement address and receives an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree. Dr. Polisi is celebrating his 25th year as president of the School, and is only the sixth president of the world-famous conservatory of dance, drama, and music. It was he who inaugurated the School's tradition of presenting honorary doctoral degrees at commencement in 1987.
Juilliard will award 258 degrees (115 undergraduate and 143 graduate) to its actors, dancers, playwrights, and jazz, operatic, and classical instrumental musicians.
Mikhail Baryshnikov entered the school of the Kirov Ballet, graduating from student to principal dancer in 1969. In 1974, he left Russia to pursue a career in ballet and modern companies around the world, settling in NYC in 1979 as a principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre and, from 1979 to 1980, with New York City Ballet. In 1980, he returned to ABT as artistic director. From 1990 to 2002, Mr. Baryshnikov was director and dancer with the White Oak Dance Project which he co-founded with choreographer Mark Morris. Mr. Baryshnikov currently is devoting his time and energy to the Baryshnikov Arts Center. Among his most recent awards are the Kennedy Center Honors, the National Medal of Honor, the Commonwealth Award, the Chubb Fellowship, and the Jerome Robbins Award. He will be receiving an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from Juilliard.
Tony Bennett is an artist who moves the hearts and touches the souls of audiences. He not just the singer's singer, but also an international treasure honored by the United Nations with its Citizen of the World award, which aptly describes the scope of his accomplishments. With worldwide record sales in the millions and dozens of platinum and gold albums to his credit, Mr. Bennett has received fifteen Grammy Awards, including the prestigious Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and two Emmy Awards. He became a Kennedy Center Honoree in 2005 and was named an NEA Jazz Master in 2006, as well as the recipient of Billboard's elite Century Award, in honor of his outstanding contributions to music.
Anthony Dominick Benedetto was born on August 3, 1926 in the Astoria section of Queens. He attended the High School of Industrial Arts in Manhattan, where he nurtured his dual passions, singing and painting. His boyhood idols included Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole, both big influences on Tony Bennett's easy, natural swinging style. He sang while waiting tables as a teenager then performed with military bands throughout his overseas Army duty during World War II. After the war, the GI Bill enabled him to study vocal technique at the American Theatre Wing School. He introduced a multitude of songs into the Great American Songbook that have since become pop music standards. His multi-platinum Duets CD, released on the occasion of his 80th birthday in 2006, became the singer's best selling record to date. Throughout his career, Mr. Bennett has always put his heart and time into humanitarian concerts. He has raised millions of dollars for the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, which established a research fund in his name. His original paintings each year grace the cover of the American Cancer Society's holiday greeting card, proceeds from which are earmarked for cancer research. He conceived and spearheaded the establishment of the Frank Sinatra High School for the Arts in honor of one of his greatest friends and staunchest supporters. This NYC public high school, which opened its doors in September of 2001, offers an extensive arts curriculum. Mr. Bennett will be receiving an honorary Doctor of Music from Juilliard.
Opera director Frank Corsaro has been associated with New York City Opera since 1957, where his productions have included Korngold's Die tote Stadt, Delius' A Village Romeo and Juliet, Janacek's The Makropolous Case, and The Cunning Little Vixen, and Purcell's Dido and Aeneas (in collaboration with George Balanchine and Peter Martins). For Glyndebourne, he directed Prokofiev's Love for Three Oranges, a double bill of operas by Oliver Knussen (designed by Maurice Sendak), and Ravel's L'heure espagnole and L'enfant et les sortileges. For the Metropolitan Opera, Mr. Corsaro directed Handel's Rinaldo, the first production of Handel at the Met, which originated in Houston. Mr. Corsaro's recent engagements include Faust at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, where he earlier had staged the highly successful production of La traviata with Renée Fleming, a production first seen at Houston Grand Opera. Mr. Corsaro has been honored by the NEA Opera Honors in 2009. He joined the faculty of Juilliard's American Opera Center in September 1987 and taught acting during his first year. In 1988, he was appointed artistic advisor/director in residence of the opera department and became artistic director in 1992. At Juilliard, his productions included Hansel and Gretel, and a world premiere, Stephen Paulus' Heloise and Abelard. Mr. Corsaro became faculty emeritus from Juilliard in May 2008. He also was the artistic director of the world-renowned Actors Studio (1977-1985) in New York City. Mr. Corsaro will be receiving an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts from Juilliard.
Glorya Kaufman, whose altruism extends from the arts and education to research and medical science, celebrates life through philanthropy. Juilliard's Glorya Kaufman Dance Studio overlooking Broadway in the newly-renovated section of Juilliard's Irene Diamond Building was dedicated in her honor. Ms. Kaufman's $18 million gift to UCLA helped renovate the University's historical dance building, which was renamed Glorya Kaufman Hall. Ms. Kaufman grew up in Detroit and her ideals are rooted in early memories of her family, their love of music and dance, and their emphasis on giving to the needy. She believes intercultural studies enrich life for all people and that the arts - especially dance and music - are a universal language. Ms. Kaufman is a member of the steering committee for the Royce Center Circle, the primary support group for UCLA's Performing Arts. She also is a President's Circle Patron of the Los Angeles County Music of Art and a Founding Member of the Los Angeles Music of Contemporary Art. Ms. Kaufman will be receiving an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Juilliard.
Tony Kushner was born in New York City in 1956 and raised in Lake Charles, Louisiana; he is best known for his two-part epic, Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes, which was had its workshop and first NYC production at Juilliard prior to its historic Broadway run. Mr. Kushner's other plays include: A Bright Room Called Day, Slavs!, Hydrotaphia, Homebody/Kabul, and Caroline, or Change, the musical for which he wrote the book and lyrics, with music by composer Jeanine Tesori. He wrote the screenplay for Mike Nichols' film of Angels in America and Steven Spielberg's Munich. His books include But the Giraffe: A Curtain Raising and Brundihar: the Libretto, with illustrations by Maurice Sendak; The Art of Maurice Sendak: 1980 to the Present; and Wrestling with Zion: Progressive Jewish-American Responses to the Palestinian/Israeli Conflict, co-edited with Alisa Solomon.
Mr. Kushner's latest work includes: a collection of one-act plays, entitled Tiny Kushner - featuring characters such as Laura Bush, Nixon's analyst, the queen of Albania and a number of tax evaders (Fall 2009); and The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Capitalism & Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures (which premiered at the Guthrie Theater in May 2009 and will premiere in NYC in Spring 2011). During the 2010-2011 season, a revival of Angels in America will run off-Broadway at the Signature Theater in New York.
Mr. Kushner is the recipient of a Pulitzer Prize for Drama, an Emmy Award, two Tony Awards, three Obie Awards, an Oscar nomination, an Arts Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the PEN/Laura Pels Award for a Mid-Career Playwright, among many others. Mr. Kushner will be receiving an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from Juilliard.
Henry-Louis de La Grange was born in Paris in 1924, of an American mother and a French father, who was an aviator, senator, one-time government minister, and Vice-President of the International Aviation Federation. He studied humanities in Paris and New York and literature at the Aix-en-Provence University and at the Sorbonne. From 1945 to 1953, he studied music at Yale University School of Music, and later privately in Paris, under Yvonne Lefébure (piano); and Nadia Boulanger (harmony, counterpoint, and analysis).
Mr. La Grange began his career as a music critic in 1952, writing for Opera News, Saturday Review, New York Herald, New York Times, Musical America, Opus magazine in the United States, and Arts, Disques, La Revue Musicale, Harmonie, Le Nouvel Observateur in France. Since the early 1950s, his main interest has been Mahler's life and works. His research has taken him to most of the major libraries and archives of Europe and North America. He sought out and consulted the surviving witnesses of Mahler's life and times, made the acquaintance of Alma Mahler, and became a close friend of her daughter Anna. His collection of documents is now deposited in the Mahler Multimedia Library (Médiathèque Musicale Mahler), which he co-founded with Maurice Fleuret in 1986. The first volume of his Mahler biography was published by Doubleday (New York) in 1973 and Gollancz (London) in 1974. An enlarged and updated French version was published by Fayard in 1979. It was followed at the same publisher's by a second and third volume, the whole book comprising circa 3600 pages. A fourth volume appeared in New York and Oxford in 2008. This monumental work has received many awards, among them the Deems Taylor Award (U.S. 1974). Mr. La Grange was awarded the title of Professor by the Austrian government in 1988 and received the medal of Officer of the Order of the Légion d'honneur. He will be receiving an honorary Doctor of Music degree from Juilliard.
Patti LuPone, a graduate of the first class of Juilliard's Drama Division, has achieved a career of distinction in theater. She and her graduating class began their professional careers as Founding Members of John Houseman's The Acting Company touring the country for four years performing a variety of classic plays in repertory. A two-time Tony Award winner for Best Actress in a Musical for her performances as Eva Peron in Evita and Rose in Gypsy (for which she also won the Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards for Best Actress in a Musical and the Drama League Award for Distinguished Performance of the season), she is equally at home on the dramatic stage as she is in musicals and credits her Juilliard training for this versatility.
Ms. LuPone's other recent stage credits include her debut with the Los Angeles Opera in Weill-Brecht's The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny (under the musical direction of her Juilliard classmate maestro, James Conlon), the world premiere of Jake Heggie's opera, To Hell and Back with San Francisco's Baroque Philharmonia Orchestra, Mrs. Lovett in the Broadway production of Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd (Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle nominations; Drama League Award for Outstanding Contribution to Musical Theatre), the title role in Marc Blitzstein's Regina, a musical version of Lillian Hellman's The Little Foxes at the Kennedy Center, and a critically-acclaimed performance as Fosca in a concert version of Sondheim's Passion, which also was broadcast on PBS' Live From Lincoln Center. Beginning in 2000, she's appeared regularly in the Ravinia Festival's Sondheim series (often with Juilliard alumna Audra McDonald). Ms. LuPone's recent recordings include the 2008 Broadway cast recording of Gypsy, Patti LuPone at Les Mouches, The Lady with the Torch, and Sweeney Todd.
Ms. LuPone has worked with fellow Juilliard alumni Boyd Gaines, Many Patinkin, and Michael Urie. She will be receiving an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from Juilliard.
ABOUT THE JUILLIARD SCHOOL
Honorary degrees were first conferred at Juilliard commencements in 1987, instituted by Juilliard President Joseph W. Polisi, who is completing his 25th year as head of the world-famous conservatory. The Juilliard School established this country's standard for education in the performing arts, beginning with music in 1905. In 1951, its Dance Division was established, with combined training in contemporary and ballet technique. Juilliard became part of Lincoln Center in 1968, and added a four-year drama program. In 2001, Juilliard broke new ground with the addition of its jazz program; a graduate program in Historical Performance begins in fall of 2009, the same year that Juilliard inaugurates its partnership with the Metropolitan Opera's Lindemann Young Artist Development Program. As Juilliard commences its second century of excellence, it has expanded its facilities with a 39,000 square-foot addition, completed in 2009. Currently more than 800 young artists from 44 states (plus Washington, D.C.) and 46 foreign countries attend Juilliard. For more information, visit Juilliard's Web site at www.juilliard.edu.