When the charismatic former New York Town Ballet megastar Damian Woetzel was named president of the distinguished Juilliard Faculty in 2017, the varsity’s robust chairman, Bruce Kovner, praised his “ordinary combine” of highbrow and inventive qualities.
However previous this yr Kovner instructed Woetzel that an inner analysis had discovered a insecurity in his management and requested him to surrender through the tip of June, a yr sooner than the tip of his contract, consistent with a letter Woetzel despatched to the varsity’s trustees that was once acquired through The New York Instances.
Woetzel fought again and succeeded in rallying fortify at the back of him, getting testimonials from a number of eminent artists together with the trumpeter and composer Wynton Marsalis, who directs Juilliard’s jazz program, and the pianist Emanuel Ax, a number one member of the school. And he wrote in his letter to trustees that the efficiency assessment “was once peculiar and extremely inconsistent with best possible follow in nonprofit governance — it was once conceived, initiated and controlled through our board chairman.”
Issues got here to a head at a board assembly ultimate month. The trustees had been knowledgeable of the analysis and Kovner’s advice that he depart, however declined to take steps to ease Woetzel out. Kovner, lengthy the varsity’s greatest benefactor, is making plans to step down this June after 22 years as its chairman, a transfer that one affiliate stated had lengthy been deliberate.
Kovner declined to remark, and Juilliard equipped a observation from the board to The New York Instances by which it stated that “at its most up-to-date assembly, the board strongly reaffirmed its fortify for President Damian Woetzel” and the 10-year strategic plan that the varsity created in 2019.
The observation stated that the board was once “unwavering in its center of attention on the most productive pursuits of the scholars of the Juilliard Faculty, and stays dedicated to supporting the varsity’s outstanding college, workforce and control.”
Some noticed the battle as an extraordinary energy combat between two outstanding figures within the cultural global, a showdown between previous guard and new blood.
Given Kovner’s immense affect as Juilliard’s greatest patron — and as a very powerful determine at Lincoln Heart, Juilliard’s house, the place he serves at the board and has given huge sums — some had been stunned to look Woetzel be successful. One trustee likened it to a David and Goliath tale.
Woetzel, 54 — who earned a master’s degree in public management from the John F. Kennedy Faculty of Executive at Harvard whilst nonetheless dancing — has constructed a countrywide popularity, having directed the Aspen Institute Arts Program and the Vail Global Dance Competition and served on President Barack Obama’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities.
Kovner, 75, whose internet price Forbes estimates at $6.2 billion, has been one thing of an enduring executive at Juilliard, having served as chairman for an surprisingly very long time. Together with his spouse, Suzie, Kovner’s items have incorporated $25 million towards a brand new wing and scholarships in 2005; a trove of treasured track manuscripts in 2006; $20 million for the early track program in 2012; and $60 million for a brand new scholarship program in 2013.
At Lincoln Heart, Kovner was once one of the vital greatest donors to the redevelopment of the acting arts advanced, serves at the board of the Metropolitan Opera and was once previously a trustee of the New York Philharmonic.
The standoff posed a problem for the board and the varsity, for the reason that Kovner’s ongoing fortify of Juilliard stays a very powerful.
Woetzel’s analysis was once despatched to 49 contributors of the school and workforce — together with each and every division head and 18 direct stories — 43 of whom answered to it anonymously. There are about 700 full-time and part-time contributors of Juilliard’s college and workforce.
The assessment was once designed and performed through Kovner and J. Christopher Kojima, a vice president, Woetzel’s letter to the board stated. His letter stated that it was once “no longer performed at an arm’s duration distance through an impartial celebration as is best possible follow for nonprofit establishments of our scale.”
The responses incorporated 143 feedback, greater than three-quarters of that have been destructive, consistent with any person aware of a abstract of the record who was once granted anonymity to explain this delicate workforce topic.
The comments amounted to a number of key criticisms, consistent with the abstract, which was once described to The Instances: that Woetzel inquisitive about efficiency as an alternative of schooling; had vulnerable administrative management; did not seek the advice of college contributors on key selections; and created an environment of concern and intimidation.
A query about self assurance in Juilliard’s long run met with a destructive reaction from greater than part of those that answered, consistent with the individual accustomed to the abstract.
On Jan. 27, Woetzel was once requested to depart, consistent with his letter to the board.
“Bruce Kovner communicated — on behalf of the Government Committee — that my provider as president could be terminated previous to the tip of my contract, and that the verdict was once ‘irrevocable,’” Woetzel wrote within the letter to trustees.
“Having communicated to me this intent to terminate,” the letter stated, “Bruce then emailed me an be offering of a severance bundle that would come with a collectively crafted observation that may create a false narrative that I used to be resigning as of June thirtieth.”
The letter gave Woetzel 96 hours to reply. He determined to not surrender.
On Feb. 4, Kovner despatched the result of the analysis to the entire board, pronouncing the findings had been regarding and could be mentioned on the continuously scheduled board assembly 4 days later.
Woetzel marshaled fortify from a variety of outstanding artists and co-workers, who despatched letters to the board upfront of the assembly.
“Damian has a file of excellence in his management of the varsity, particularly throughout two pandemic years and those deeply troubling social, political and fiscal instances that experience modified the social panorama of The us,” Marsalis wrote in his letter, acquired through The Instances. “He has been engaged with scholars, college and board in making an attempt to create a contemporary establishment this is nimble and in a position to handle the very actual considerations of scholars and alumni all over the world.”
“I believe how we’re going about this brings our ethics into query,” Marsalis endured. “This try to take away him appears to be poorly idea out, poorly finished, and it’ll position a stain on our establishment that even our love of sources and fragile spirit won’t simply take away.”
The trombone participant Weston Sprott, who’s the dean of Juilliard’s Preparatory Department, warned in an electronic mail to Ax, an influential college member, that “a call to terminate Damian will probably be extremely destructive to the establishment.”
“In the middle of managing the bumps and bruises that may be anticipated in navigating the nationwide reckoning relating to racial injustice,” Sprott endured, “Damian has put in combination possibly essentially the most numerous, inclusive and a hit management group in our business — one this is revered through scholars and college and is the envy of its competition.”
Kovner and the manager committee be expecting Woetzel to handle the issues raised within the analysis with outdoor coaches and beneath the steerage of the trustee Reginald Van Lee, a former management consultant, consistent with the individual accustomed to the abstract. However one trustee stated no such plan of action has been determined through the entire board.
Woetzel began out as an unconventional selection for Juilliard, having by no means labored in instructional management, let on my own at one of the vital global’s main acting arts faculties, which on the time of his appointment had a $110 million annual finances, a $1 billion endowment, and greater than 800 scholars.
At Juilliard, Woetzel has made a number of noteworthy advances, securing a $50 million gift to increase the varsity’s weekend coaching program aimed in large part at Black and Latino schoolchildren; filling several key positions; and guiding the varsity during the difficult two years of the pandemic.
However he has additionally had bumps alongside the best way. After a drama workshop on the faculty involving the re-enactment of a slave auction prompted an outcry, Woetzel issued a “heartfelt apology” in a word to the neighborhood.
Closing June, students protested a deliberate tuition building up, occupying portions of Juilliard’s Lincoln Heart campus and protecting boulevard demonstrations. (A number of different main music and drama schools be offering loose tuition.)
Kovner, who made his fortune as a hedge fund supervisor, has contributed broadly to conservative reasons and has served on the boards of the American Endeavor Institute and the Ny Institute, each right-leaning assume tanks. Closing Might, Town Magazine, which is revealed through the Ny Institute, criticized what it described as the varsity’s “rising cadre of range bureaucrats” in a piece of writing headlined “The Revolution Comes to Juilliard: Racial hysteria is consuming the school; unchecked, it will consume the arts.”
Kovner has additionally supported left-leaning organizations, together with the Innocence Challenge, which objectives to loose the wrongfully convicted; and Lambda Legal, dedicated to civil rights for lesbian, homosexual, bisexual and transgender other people.
Now Juilliard is getting ready for the following bankruptcy. This week the varsity’s Duke Ellington Ensemble was once scheduled to accomplish a party of the 20 th anniversary of Juilliard Jazz on the Chelsea Factory, a brand new arts area.