The Juilliard School, on Claremont Avenue and 122nd Street, view from Broadway, November 1931. Photo by Samuel H. Gottscho, courtesy of the Juilliard Archives.

A Brief

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Founded as the Institute of Musical Art 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, actors, composers, choreographers, and playwrights from around the world so that they may achieve their fullest potential as artists, leaders, and global citizens. The Institute of Musical Art was founded by Frank Damrosch, the godson of Franz Liszt and the head of music education for New York City’s public schools, with the idea to establish a music conservatory in New York City that would allow talented musicians to gain advanced musical training on American soil, and not have to travel abroad. Prominent faculty were recruited from Europe, among them flutist George Barrere, pianist Sigismond Stojkowski, and violinist Franz Kneisel. With initial enrollment figures nearly five times what was expected, the Institute quickly outgrew its original home at Fifth Avenue and 12th Street, and in 1910, moved to new quarters in Morningside Heights near Columbia University.

Nine years later, Augustus Juilliard, a wealthy textile merchant, left in his will the largest single bequest for the advancement of music at that time. The trustees of the bequest founded the Juilliard Graduate School in 1924 to help talented music students complete their education. In 1926, the Graduate School and the Institute of Musical Art merged to become the Juilliard School of Music under one president, the Columbia University professor John Erskine. Erskine was succeeded in 1937 by concert pianist and composer Ernest Hutcheson, who served in the position until 1945.

Succeeding Hutcheson as president, from 1945 to 1962, composer William Schuman expanded Juilliard’s identity as a conservatory devoted exclusively to music study with the establishment of the Dance Division in 1951, under the direction of Martha Hill. Schuman also established the Juilliard String Quartet, and the Literature and Materials of Music program, a groundbreaking music theory curriculum.

In 1968, during the tenure of composer Peter Mennin (1962-83), the Drama Division was created, with John Houseman as its first director and Michel Saint-Denis as consultant. The school changed its name to The Juilliard School to reflect its broader artistic scope and moved to its current home, joining the campus of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in 1969. The first production of the Juilliard Opera Center, Igor Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress, celebrated the opening of the Juilliard (now Peter Jay Sharp) Theater at Lincoln Center in 1970.

Following Mennin’s death, in 1983, bassoonist Joseph W. Polisi became the school’s sixth president, serving from the fall of 1984 through the spring of 2018. Major projects that were realized during his administration include the addition of the Meredith Willson Residence Hall; significant additions to the curriculum with new programs in jazz studies and historical performance, the addition of an MFA program in drama, and strengthening the school’s liberal arts program; implementation of numerous educational and community engagement programs; a major expansion and renovation of Juilliard’s facility; and the announcement of the school's first branch campus outside of New York City, The Tianjin Juilliard School in China, which opened in 2020.

In 2018, ballet dancer and arts leader Damian Woetzel became the school's seventh president, and his leadership has championed an institutional focus on creativity and equity as essential to excellence. Under Woetzel, Juilliard has expanded the recruitment of new artistic leadership, staff and faculty; deepened partnerships across the Lincoln Center campus and with leading arts institutions fostering students’ connections to the professional world; significantly increased fundraising efforts—including a $50 million endowed grant for the Music Advancement Program enabling full-tuition scholarships for all MAP students; created a Global Council and other new donor groups; established institution-wide EDIB (equity, diversity, inclusion, and belonging) practices; and launched the school’s digital streaming initiative providing free access to Juilliard’s programs and performances to audiences worldwide.

Today, there are more than 800 students from 42 states and 50 countries 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, and more than 1,200 students are enrolled in Juilliard Extension. 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.

Last updated March 5, 2024

Juilliard building exterior at broadway and 66th street