Juilliard to Confer Honorary Doctorates Upon Carolyn Adams, Jessica Chastain, Emerson String Quartet, and Tania León At Its 119th Commencement Ceremony

Wednesday, May 01, 2024
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Commencement Concert to Feature the Juilliard Orchestra Conducted by Marin Alsop


Juilliard Orchestra, Led by Marin Alsop: May 23, 6pm Class of 2024 Commencement Ceremony and Conferral of Honorary Doctorates: May 24, 11:30am

NEW YORK, May 1—The Juilliard School will hold its 119th commencement ceremony in New York on May 24 at 11:30am at Lincoln Center’s David Geffen Hall. It will celebrate more than 325 students graduating from the music, dance, and drama divisions, and honorary doctorate degrees will be bestowed upon the following artists in recognition of their outstanding contributions to the fields of classical music, dance, education, and theater and film: critically acclaimed Paul Taylor principal dancer, educator, and community activist Carolyn Adams (Juilliard faculty 1984-2011); Academy Award-winning actor and producer Jessica Chastain (Group 32); nine-time Grammy Award-winning Emerson String Quartet (cellist Paul Watkins; Eugene Drucker, Diploma ’72, violin; Philip Setzer, BM ’73, violin; MM ’74, violin; Lawrence Dutton, Pre-College ’72, viola; BM ’77, viola; MM ’78, viola); and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Tania León.

The ceremony will be led by Juilliard’s president, Damian Woetzel. Speakers will include the chair of Juilliard’s board of trustees, Vincent Mai, and vice chair Julie Choi (BM ’85, MM ’86, piano), along with members of the school’s leadership. The program will also be livestreamed at juilliard.edu.

“We look forward to celebrating the class of 2024, which represents the bright future of music, dance, and drama,” said President Woetzel. “As our graduates embark on an ever-wider array of traditional and innovative next steps, we honor the careers of seven extraordinary artists—four of whom are Juilliard alumni—who have paved the way forward embodying Juilliard’s commitment to artistic excellence. This year, we are proud to bestow honorary doctorates upon Carolyn Adams, Jessica Chastain, the Emerson String Quartet, and Tania León for their profound contributions to the arts.” 
Juilliard’s Commencement Concert will take place on Thursday, May 23 at 6pm at Alice Tully Hall. Marin Alsop (Pre-College ’72, violin; BM ’77, violin; MM ’78, violin; honorary degree ’21) will conduct the Juilliard Orchestra in a program that opens with the world premiere of Sercy, a Juilliard-commissioned work by Hilary Purrington (MM ’15, composition), and also includes Strauss’ Don Juan and Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra

About Juilliard’s 2024 Honorary Degree Recipients 
Carolyn Adams was a principal dancer with the Paul Taylor Dance Company for nearly 20 years, creating roles in such Taylor masterpieces as Esplanade, Arden Court, and Cloven Kingdom, and further distinguishing herself in Taylor’s classic Aureole. After retiring from the stage, she maintained close ties to the company, restaging works, teaching Taylor technique and repertory at Juilliard, the City College of New York, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, and the Ailey School. She now serves the Taylor Company as director of education.  

Adams’ passion for teaching emerged early in her career along with her commitment to community development and preservation. In 1969, the Adams family founded the Harlem Brownstone Preservation Committee to save historic buildings and established the Harlem Dance Studio “to nurture an endangered art form in an endangered community.” In 1993, she and her sister, Julie Adams Strandberg, founded Dancing Legacy to develop programs addressing access, education, and preservation. She was founding artistic director of the NYSSSA School of Dance where, for 32 years with co-director Strandberg, she developed innovative workshops for middle and high school students.   

Celebrated for her work across film, television, and theater, Jessica Chastain (Group 32) holds an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, a Drama Desk, five Critic’s Choice, and three SAG awards. She has also received multiple nominations including for an Emmy, two Tonys, five SAGs, two BAFTAs, three Oscars, six Critics’ Choice, and nine Golden Globes. 

After she trained at Juilliard, Chastain’s journey began with breakthrough roles in acclaimed films such as The Help, Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life, and Zero Dark Thirty.

Some of her most notable roles include her captivating portrayal of Tammy Faye Bakker in The Eyes of Tammy Faye, the astronaut Melissa Lewis in The Martian, the enigmatic Murph in Interstellar, and the real-life Molly Bloom in Molly’s Game. In addition, Chastain has appeared in numerous other films including Take Shelter, Lawless, Miss Sloane, and Crimson Peak. On television, she starred in the critically acclaimed miniseries George & Tammy for Showtime and Scenes From a Marriage for HBO.

Her notable roles in theater include Nora in A Doll’s House, Catherine Sloper in The Heiress, and in the title role in Salomé, opposite Al Pacino.

Chastain’s talent extends behind the camera through Freckle Films, a New York-based film and television production company she launched in 2016. In addition to The 355, The Eyes of Tammy Faye, and George & Tammy, Freckle Films has produced  Mothers’ Instinct for NEON, the upcoming Apple Originals’ limited series The Savant, and Michel Franco’s upcoming film Dreams.

Together for 47 years, the Emerson String Quartet—Juilliard alumni Eugene Drucker, Philip Setzer, and Lawrence Dutton; David Finckel (faculty 2012-present), Emerson cellist from 1979 to 2013; and Paul Watkins, cellist for the quartet’s final decade—made more than 40 acclaimed recordings and was honored with nine Grammy Awards (including two for best classical album), three Gramophone Awards, the Avery Fisher Prize, and Musical America’s ensemble of the year award. As part of its larger mission to keep the string quartet form alive and relevant, the Emerson commissioned and premiered works from some of today’s most esteemed composers and partnered in performance with leading artists including Renée Fleming, Barbara Hannigan, Evgeny Kissin, Emanuel Ax, Mstislav Rostropovich, Yefim Bronfman, James Galway, Edgar Meyer, Menahem Pressler, Leon Fleisher, André Previn, Isaac Stern, and Oscar Shumsky, with whom Setzer and Drucker studied at Juilliard.  

Formed in 1976 and based in New York City, the Emerson was one of the first quartets whose violinists alternated in the first violin position. In 2015, the group received Chamber Music America’s highest honor, the Richard J. Bogomolny National Service Award, in recognition of its lasting contribution to the field. In October 2023, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center honored the quartet with its Award for Extraordinary Service. For the past 22 years, the Emerson has been quartet in residence at Stony Brook University. 

Cuban-born Tania León, a world-class leader on today’s music scene, is highly regarded as a composer and conductor and for her accomplishments as an educator and advisor to arts organizations. Her orchestral work Stride, commissioned by the New York Philharmonic, was awarded the 2021 Pulitzer Prize in Music. In 2022, she was named a recipient of the 45th Annual Kennedy Center Honors for lifetime artistic achievements. In 2023, she was awarded the Michael Ludwig Nemmers Prize in Music Composition from Northwestern University. Most recently, León became the London Philharmonic Orchestra’s composer in residence—a two-year post that began in September. She also held Carnegie Hall’s Richard and Barbara Debs Composer’s Chair for its 2023-24 season. León has been awarded the XIX Premio SGAE for Iberian American Music Tomás Luis de Victoria 2023, becoming the first woman to be honored with the highest composition prize conferred by Spain. In 2024, she was awarded the distinguished artist award by the International Society for the Performing Arts.

Her groundbreaking activities include founding member and first music director of the Dance Theatre of Harlem, founder of the Brooklyn Philharmonic's Community Concert Series, co-founder of the American Composers Orchestra’s Sonidos de las Américas Festivals, new music advisor to the New York Philharmonic, and founder/artistic director of Composers Now, a presenting, commissioning, and advocacy organization for living composers. 

About Marin Alsop 
One of the foremost conductors of our time, Marin Alsop (Pre-College ’72; BM ’77, MM ’78, violin) represents a powerful and inspiring voice. Convinced that music has the power to change lives, she is internationally recognized for her innovative approach to programming and audience development, deep commitment to education, and championing of music’s importance in the world. The first woman to serve as the head of a major orchestra in the U.S., South America, Austria and Britain, she is now in her fourth season as chief conductor of the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra and recently extended her contract as chief conductor of Chicago’s Ravinia Festival, where she curates and conducts the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s summer residencies. The 2023-24 season was her first as artistic director and chief conductor of the Polish National Radio Symphony and her first as principal guest conductor of London’s Philharmonia Orchestra. She begins as principal guest conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra in the 2024-25 season. She also serves as conductor of honor of Brazil’s São Paulo Symphony (OSESP), the first music director of the University of Maryland’s National Orchestral Institute + Festival (NOI+F), and music director laureate and OrchKids Founder of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, where she continues to conduct the orchestra for three weeks each season after an outstanding 14-year tenure as its music director. The first and only conductor to receive a MacArthur Fellowship, she also made history as both the first female conductor of the BBC’s Last Night of the Proms as well as the first woman and first American to conduct the Last Night three times. In 2019, Alsop was honored with the World Economic Forum’s Crystal Award. To promote and nurture the careers of her fellow female conductors, in 2002 she founded the program now named the Taki Alsop Conducting Fellowship.  

About Juilliard’s Commencement Week  
Juilliard’s commencement week festivities begin in New York with the Senior Dance Graduation Concert taking place on Monday, May 20 at 7:30pm at the Peter Jay Sharp Theater.  

Juilliard’s campus in Tianjin, China, celebrates its class of 2024 with its third commencement ceremony, on Friday, May 24 at 10am China Standard Time (May 23 at 10pm ET). Honoring 30 Master of Music students, the commencement address will be delivered by Jaap van Zweden (’80, violin), music director of the New York Philharmonic, in a prerecorded video. The fifth Tianjin Juilliard School’s Pre-College commencement will take place on May 19 at 9am China Standard Time (May 18 at 9pm ET).  

The Juilliard Preparatory Division Commencement will celebrate graduates from the Pre-College and Music Advancement Program on Saturday, May 25, at noon in Juilliard’s Peter Jay Sharp Theater. Standup comedian and violist Isabel Hagen (Pre-College ’09, BM ’13, MM ’15, viola) will give the commencement address. The Pre-College commencement concert will take place on Saturday, May 25 at 7:30pm. Conducted by Adam Glaser (Pre-College ’88), the Pre-College Orchestra will perform Andrés Soto’s Fantasía en la Plaza, Saint-Saëns’ Violin Concerto No. 3 in B Minor, Op. 61, Nicolás Lell Benavides’ Querencia, and Elgar’s In the South.

Commencement is generously supported by the Joseph W. Polisi Artist as Citizen President’s Fund. 
Bloomberg Philanthropies is the lead digital sponsor.

About  The Juilliard School 
Founded in 1905, The Juilliard School is a world leader in performing arts education. The school’s mission is to provide the highest caliber of artistic education for gifted musicians, dancers, and actors, composers, choreographers, and playwrights from around the world so that they may achieve their fullest potential as artists, leaders, and global citizens. Juilliard is led by Damian Woetzel, seventh president of the school, who has prioritized affordability and access to the highest level of artistic education while championing Juilliard’s tradition of excellence.

Located at Lincoln Center in New York City, Juilliard offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in dance, drama (acting and playwriting), and music (classical, jazz, historical performance, and vocal arts). More than 800 artists from 42 states and 50 countries and regions are enrolled in Juilliard’s College Division, where they appear in more than 700 annual performances in the school’s five theaters; at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully and David Geffen halls and at Carnegie Hall; as well as at other venues around New York City, the U.S., and the world. The continuum of learning at Juilliard also includes nearly 400 students from elementary through high school enrolled in the Preparatory Division—Pre-College and Music Advancement Program (MAP); MAP serves students from diverse backgrounds often underrepresented in the classical music field. More than 1,200 students are enrolled in Juilliard Extension, the flagship continuing education program taught both in person and remotely by a dedicated faculty of performers, creators, and scholars. Beyond its New York campus, Juilliard is defining new directions in performing arts education for a range of learners and enthusiasts through a global K-12 educational curricula and preparatory and graduate studies at The Tianjin Juilliard School in China. 

juilliard.edu @juilliardschool

Allegra Thoresen
[email protected] 

Image: Left to right: Carolyn Adams, Jessica Chastain, Emerson String Quartet, Tania León, courtesy Juilliard.  
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