As the lithe runner with the boyish grin dashed through the streets, the crowds along the route yelled out “Julio! Go Julio!” He smiled and kept going. But the runner wasn’t “Julio” at all—he was Joseph W. Polisi, Juilliard’s new president, and he was running the New York City Marathon. Misreading his racing shirt—it was emblazoned with a tongue-in-cheek Juilliard Track Club—the crowds had apparently decided that his name was Julio. And so he crossed the finish line, Julio all the way.
That was in 1984. Five years later, President Polisi donned track shorts and running shoes again, this time for a Juilliard Orchestra rendition of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring on the Lincoln Center plaza. The performance was followed by a footrace around the fountain and the Henry Moore sculpture, with laps marked by conductor Zubin Mehta beating a large gong. (Also in 1989, alumnus Bill Conti and the Juilliard Orchestra made broadcast history as a “living soundtrack” from the Juilliard Theater for the 20th annual New York City Marathon. They matched images with appropriate music in real time, as ABC’s Wide World of Sports producer informed Conti what would appear next onscreen.)
Juilliard and athletics have never been synonymous, to say the least, although tales of past athletic activity—badminton, basketball, hockey, ping-pong, and tennis—periodically surface. The softball team strives valiantly and festively. Juilliard bikers have participated in rides that raised funds for multiple sclerosis research. In September, cello student Patrick McGuire organized 21 Juilliard students who ran the Music That Heals 5K race in Brooklyn, with Rozalyn Chok, Jennifer Liu, and Chelsea Smith all placing within the top three for their respective age categories. It is in the intrepid spirit displayed by the School’s president and all others with an athletic bent at Juilliard that a new venture is launching: the Juilliard Running Ensemble.
This writer, a graduate of the School and now a member of the staff and faculty, was inspired to take up running almost exactly a year ago. It was the day after the New York City Marathon, and though I had no history as a runner, the thought popped into my head, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful to try a marathon next year?” The next day, trumpet alum Katie Miller happened to drop by my office and mention a training team (which I would ultimately join), and that seeming coincidence made me even more determined to achieve my goal. I discovered a number of runners, walkers, and would-be runners in the Juilliard community. Included in that group were Alexander Technique faculty member Lauren Schiff, assistant to the dean Yassmeen Abdulhamid, and special events manager Meghan Lynch, who formed a remarkable support group as I began to train by running longer distances and entering races. As winter turned into spring and then summer, the four of us reached out to the larger community.
With jokes about the soloistic/small ensemble/large ensemble possibilities of running pace groups, the Juilliard Running Ensemble began with a handful of staff members. It was decided that group walks and runs would be scheduled, and periodic lunches would allow members to get to know one another and share experiences. Students, faculty, and later alumni were invited to join—and suddenly the J.R.E. had 75 members, ranging from people wanting to get started with a simple walking plan to experienced marathoners and triathletes.
And so, the student-staff-faculty-alumni Juilliard Running Ensemble is underway. We don’t have extravagant goals other than encouraging each other in a healthy and fun activity. And in the 41st running of the New York City Marathon on November 6, there will be at least seven Juilliard runners including myself; Colleen Campbell, the assistant director of financial aid; ear training and Pre-College teaching fellow Nick Csicsko; viola student Marie Daniels; oboe doctoral student Merideth Hite; Lori Padua, the director of planned giving; and Literature and Materials of Music faculty member Michael Shinn. Cheer for us, even if our names aren’t Julio!