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Academy Revamps Program

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The Academy, the education and performance initiative founded and jointly administered by Juilliard and Carnegie Hall, will reduce both the number of musicians it accepts as fellows next season as well as the number of New York City public schools it serves, beginning in the fall. The decision to scale down was announced in February by Clive Gillinson, Carnegie’s executive and artistic director, and Joseph W. Polisi, the president of Juilliard.

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The program, which engages gifted postgraduate musicians and provides them with performance opportunities and residencies in city classrooms where they gain hands-on education experience, will partner with 20 schools next year, down from 33 this season.  Mr. Gillinson said that this change was made not only to reduce the Academy’s operating budget in a difficult economy but also to help ease the financial burden on schools. Moving ahead, the work of Academy fellows will be provided essentially for free, replacing an $8,000 annual fee, paid previously by each school, with a nominal charge.

“Even before the economic downturn, public schools were stretched,” Mr. Gillinson said. “While our school partners have consistently told us how highly they value the Academy and the work of our fellows in the classroom, finding funds to cover the program has been a challenge for them from the start. We want to ensure that money is never a barrier for them.”

Officially called The Academy: A Program of Carnegie Hall, The Juilliard School and the Weill Music Institute, the program launched in January 2007 with a grand mission—to provide a highly select group of musicians the chance to continue their musical training and to perform at Carnegie Hall, Juilliard, and elsewhere while honing their music-education skills. Currently, each of the Academy’s 33 fellows is matched with a public school, from kindergarten through the 12th grade, for a 36-day residency focusing on student-centered musical skill-building.

But with the country in a recession and money from fund-raising drying up, scaling back became essential to the long-term health of the Academy. “Essentially, in an effort to keep the Academy going, we had to decrease its size and its budget,” Mr. Polisi said, adding that when the N.Y.C. Department of Education indicated that “it could not guarantee the funds that help support the program, and when we sensed that the 33 schools could no longer afford to pay the $8,000 each to have an Academy fellow in their respective schools, we decided that we could not take the chance of making up the shortfall through even more fund-raising to support the Academy at its present size.”

Fellowships in the Academy come with an annual stipend of $24,818, health benefits, and a monthly Metrocard. Fellows also receive free lessons and coachings, as well as pedagogy training from the city’s Education Department. They must have a college degree and are admitted to the Academy through a rigorous audition and interview process. Once admitted, each fellow gives approximately 20 hours per week to the program.

This year the Academy’s budget was $2.4 million, much of which came from fund-raising; $140,000 was from the city’s Education Department. Next season, the budget will be approximately $1.7 million, in effect, a 30 percent reduction. To compensate, the Academy will not hold auditions for a new group of fellows for the coming season. Instead, it will continue with 15 current second-year fellows and 5 alumni, dropping the number of fellows from 33 to 20.

The performing arm of the Academy, Ensemble ACJW, presents about 20 concerts a year, and has received consistently positive reviews. According to Mr. Gillinson, there are no plans to reduce the number of concerts that the ensemble presents; additional alumni will be engaged for programs that include large-scale works requiring more than 20 players.

“The Academy is a very special model program that has exceeded all of our expectations, providing distinct opportunities for our fellows to explore their own potential as performers and advocates and connect with their communities, and allowing students and teachers to gain invaluable classroom resources and potential role models in these extraordinary musicians,” Mr. Gillinson said. “In an economic landscape where music education resources become more scarce, the Academy is more important than ever. We are confident that we have found a solution for next season that keeps the program moving forward productively, paving the way for its future development.”

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