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Drama M.F.A. Program; Bowers Wins Monk Competition; Breaking Barriers Award

Bowers Wins Top Prize in Monk Competition

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When Kris Bowers won first prize in the vaunted Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition last month, he came away with $25,000 and a recording contract with Concord. But there were other highlights, too, the second-year master’s student told The Journal. After he performed in the semifinals on September 11 at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, soul legend Aretha Franklin (who was being honored at the same time by the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, the competition’s sponsor) asked to see him—and told him she loved his rendition of “The Summer Knows,” Michel Legrand’s theme song for the movie The Summer of ’42. “And the next day when I won, she told me she picked me,” Bowers said.

The morning after the competition, Bowers and second- and third-place winners Joshua White and Emmet Cohen, met President Obama at the White House. Obama jokingly asked one of the all-star judges, Herbie Hancock, if the finalists were any good (they were, Hancock said). When the president then asked the three to e-mail him suggestions for his iPod, Bowers was ready with a ballad called “Hope” that he’d written during Obama’s campaign. 

Carl Allen, the artistic director of Juilliard Jazz, has played drums in the Monk competition for about 10 years. He admitted to having a sort of “out-of-body experience” when Bowers triumphed, as he flashed back to countless sit-downs he and others in the Jazz Studies department had with Bowers during his years as an undergrad (he earned his bachelor’s in 2010) and now as a master’s student. “I’m so excited and proud for him,” Allen said.

Drama to Begin M.F.A. Program

For the first time in its 44-year history, Juilliard’s Drama Division will be offering a Master of Fine Arts degree. Each year (with the admissions cycle starting in April 2012), 8 to 10 students will be admitted into the new four-year M.F.A. program. “This is an exciting and substantial threshold moment for the Drama Division and a chance for us to continue to meet the challenges and needs of this ever-evolving art form,” said James Houghton, the Richard Rodgers Director of the Drama Division, who announced the program last month with President Joseph W. Polisi. “We’ve been fortunate enough to work with some of the finest students, faculty, and staff any program could hope for every step of the way, and there’s no question the M.F.A. program will ignite new possibilities for the division,” Houghton added. M.F.A. students will participate in advanced courses in addition to working with undergraduates in certain classes and performance projects. More about the program can be found at juilliard.edu/drama.

Juilliard Receives Breaking Barriers Award

When Veronica Stocker joined the Juilliard staff as Concert Office assistant a year ago, no one imagined it would lead to an award for the School. But last April, Cynthia Baker, the coordinating producer in the Concert Office, accepted the 2011 Breaking Barriers Award, which recognizes employers for providing opportunities for visually impaired individuals, on behalf of Juilliard. 

“Veronica is such a valuable asset to our office,” Baker told The Journal.  “I hope her success will encourage others to concentrate more on what people can do instead of what they cannot.”  The award, which was presented by the Metropolitan Placement Consortium, cites Juilliard’s “commitment and excellent partnership to provide successful employment to a visually impaired individual.”

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