Though she was born in Boston, Lee Cioppa and her family moved to Canada when she was 3. Most of her family still live there, except for one brother and one sister who followed her to New York. She earned a B.M. from the University of Ottawa in oboe performance, followed by an M.M. from the Manhattan School of Music. Before joining the Juilliard administrative staff, she was director of admissions at the Manhattan School and served briefly as assistant director for the Alberto Vilar Global Fellows at New York University.
How long have you worked at Juilliard, and what do you remember about your first day? What is one of your favorite memories from your years here?
I’ve been at Juilliard for five years—and clearly remember my first day. It was the first day of orientation, so I started with all the new students! My favorite memory is attending my first repertory dance performance at Juilliard, and seeing Paul Taylor’s Esplanade, which is set to one of the most glorious pieces of music on earth: Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins. I looked over at my husband during the Largo, and he had tears in his eyes; it was one of the most moving artistic moments I can remember.
What job at Juilliard would you like to try out for a day and why?
I am fascinated by the production side of things at Juilliard—all of the set, costume, and lighting designs that make our performances in all three divisions so incredible. To affect the unconscious mind rather than the conscious—I’d love to try to do that, create the visual story that accompanies music, dance, or theater.
What is the strangest or most memorable job you’ve ever had and what made it so?
Probably being a work-study in admissions when I was a graduate student—I suppose that was the start of my whole career! Not that it was strange; just that the small job that I had in order to buy oboe-reed cane and groceries led to where I am today.
What might people be surprised to know about you?
I come from a very large family: I have six brothers and sisters. We are all very close, and I am so grateful for them—but I don’t know how my mother did it! I’m sure lots of people think I have one incredibly accomplished sister (I have four), because I often talk about “my sister” … the geologist? The writer? The grief counselor? The manager of an exclusive chain of private gyms? And I have two brothers, one of whom is a chef; the other (the youngest) is just finishing up a math degree.
What was the best vacation you’ve had, and what made that trip so special?
Several years ago, I was acting as the administrator for a vocal program and part of my job included running the program—in Italy! My husband was able to join me, and we spent a month in a tiny Italian town, trying to learn Italian, drinking amazing wine for just a few dollars a bottle (this was the year before the Euro), having a siesta every day, eating incredible food, and experiencing living in Italy rather than just visiting.
What is your favorite thing about New York City?
The food! I love reading the food section in The New York Times every Wednesday, and finding all the hidden gems of the city. Not just the famous places, but the best burgers, best bagel, best sushi, best vegetarian (my sister is a vegetarian)—there are so many! Not to mention the fact that you can also buy any ingredient you can possibly imagine, if you go to the right neighborhood.
What book are you reading right now?
It seems like most of what I’m reading right now is children’s books, with my 3½-year-old daughter! My niece gave her a huge collection of Winnie-the-Pooh books, and I think we’ve read all of them about 50 times. She loves to “read stories,” and has an astonishing ability to sit for extended periods of time and read book after book after book.
If out of the blue your boss said to take the day off, what would you do with your free time?
There aren’t enough hours! I’d go to the Bronx Zoo with my daughter, shop for shoes, have a great dinner out with my husband ... and sleep!