In a move that will undoubtedly bolster ties between the New York Philharmonic and The Juilliard School, Alan Gilbert, the Philharmonic’s music director and a Juilliard alumnus, will become the director of conducting and orchestral studies at the School. Gilbert, who will assume the post in September, is the first person to have both jobs simultaneously.
Gilbert takes over from James DePreist, who will become principal conductor and director emeritus.
On announcing the appointment last month, President Joseph W. Polisi said, “Alan’s transformative vision for the Philharmonic has yielded remarkable results that can only inspire the students who will be privileged to work with him at Juilliard.”
While every Philharmonic music director has had some sort of relationship with Juilliard, Gilbert, 43, has made teaching much more of a priority than his predecessors. When his appointment was announced, Gilbert said that it had long been his dream to create a comprehensive conducting program, adding that the goal is “to build a really rich program that moves beyond the essential matters of technique to explore a multidimensional element that includes a broader cultural and philosophical understanding.” Gilbert also said the wants the program to “inform well-rounded musicians who are also advocates for music itself.”
As part of his new responsibilities, Gilbert will require that the conducting students attend Philharmonic rehearsals and have them meet with orchestra members. He has also talked about exploring additional roles at the Philharmonic for them. As part of the position he will oversee the Juilliard orchestras and their decisions on guest conductors, repertory, and concerts. He’ll also conduct the Juilliard Orchestra in each academic year.
Gilbert will continue to hold the William Schuman Chair in Musical Studies, the duties of which include mentoring, leading performance master classes (with instrumentalists, chamber musicians, singers, and conductors), overseeing cooperative projects involving young Juilliard artists and the musicians of the New York Philharmonic, and co-teaching graduate-level seminars. The Schuman Chair is named for Juilliard’s fourth president, the distinguished composer who led the School from 1945 to 1962 before becoming president of Lincoln Center.
One benefit of Gilbert’s holding the position is that it will strengthen the School’s links with its Lincoln Center neighbors. After Gilbert’s music directorship at the Philharmonic was announced in 2008, he told The Journal, “I would like the connection between the two institutions to be powerful and real. To me it’s obvious, and not only because we’re neighbors, but because I think both organizations have so much to give each other.”
Gilbert takes the baton from distinguished faculty member James DePreist, 74, who has been the director of the conducting program since 2004. DePreist, the laureate music director of the Oregon Symphony, led the Juilliard Orchestra on its first extensive domestic tour during the School’s 2005-06 centennial season and has also led it on tours in Europe and Asia. As principal conductor, he will lead the Juilliard Orchestra in three concerts next season.
Gilbert has spent much of his almost 44 years on the Lincoln Center campus. His mother, Yoko Takebe (Diploma ’64,violin), and father, Michael Gilbert (B.M.’64, violin), were both violinists with the Philharmonic for many years; his father retired in 2001 but his mother is still a member of the orchestra and has served on the Juilliard faculty since 2007. Alan’s sister, Jennifer Gilbert (Pre-College ’87; M.M. ’96), is also a Juilliard alumna and a violinist.
At Juilliard Alan Gilbert studied violin with Margaret Pardee in the Pre-College Division and was a substitute violin player with the Philadelphia Orchestra while studying at the Curtis Institute of Music. He subsequently switched to conducting, receiving his Master of Music in conducting from Juilliard in 1994. Gilbert also holds a Bachelor of Arts from Harvard.
He made his conducting debut with the New York Philharmonic in 2001 and became its music director in 2009. In a review of Gilbert’s first concert in that capacity, in September of that year, Anthony Tommasini, chief music critic ofThe New York Times, wrote: “Every orchestra promises a new day when a new conductor takes over as music director. But with the coming of Mr. Gilbert ... the promise could turn out to be quite true. His program was not just a collection of terrific pieces that made musical sense together but a statement of purpose. Yet the music, and the music-making, were so fresh and dynamic that not a trace of agenda came through on this celebratory night.” Gilbert is among the youngest music directors in the orchestra’s history—and the first native New Yorker.