What’s a director of advancement at a music school?

What’s a director of advancement at a music school?


norman lebrecht

December 11, 2018

You’d think it was something to do with helping the students to mature as musicians and human beings, right? Just what Simon Rattle said they needed.

Or giving them a little extra help with exams.

Not a bit of it.

Apparently, advancement is the new US arts euphemism for the arduous job of lunching wealthy widows for a slot in their will. It used to be called development.

Juilliard, for instance, has just poached Alexandra Wheeler to be its VP and chief advancement officer after a stellar lunching career at the Whitney Museum.

Advancement, pah!


  • drummerman says:

    “Advancement” is a commonly-used term in the US for development/fundraising, especially for higher education. No need to get worked up about it, Norman.

    • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

      Correct. Some even call it “institutional advancement.” This term has been used for 10 years or more. Development and fund-raising are other euphemism formerly used. Public relations (publicity) is often under the advancement umbrella as well as alumni and parent relations.

      The term for lunching wealthy widows to leave money in their will is called “planned giving” a rubric usually included under advancement.

    • Brian says:

      It is amusing to consider the ways arts orgs come up with euphemisms to make fundraising sound more genteel. “Development” always struck me as an odd term to describe what they really do. Similarly, “Community Engagement” instead of outreach.

  • Tiredofitall says:

    Get up on the wrong side of the bed today? True, it is not normally called advancement as it is in colleges in the US, however, by any name, fundraising remains a vital part of the survival and success for US nonprofits. So what’s the euphemism for your job? We should get some mileage of of that…fair’s fair.

  • John says:

    This is arguably the hardest job at any U.S. arts non-profit, especially in an environment of uncertainty with a stock market going haywire. Just look at the turnover in these positions, and how long they stay open when an incumbent departs. Much more to it than lunching. Alexandra is quite a “get” for Juilliard — good luck to her there.

  • Eric says:

    Agreed, in the US, this is fairly common term amongst non-profits and education institutions, covering a variety of things but almost always fundraising and outreach. Not uncommon at all.

  • Shalom Rackovsky says:

    Slipped Disc readers who are not familiar with the American academic world [including, apparently, Norman] may be enlightened by taking a look at the University Title Generator:


    • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

      There appears to be an inverse proportion between the complexity of the title and the salary: the simpler the title the higher the wage. Using the “title generator” I found the salary commensurate with my skills: $2.9M.

  • kaa12840 says:

    Without these “lunches” there will be no advancement for the Juilliard students. I hope that they succeed even more in garnering these sorely needed funds so that they will manage to make Juilliard tuition or at least debt free for their wonderful students

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    Sort of like a post-mortem affirmative action, if you like. No more or less ridiculous than that either.

  • SRB says:

    A search on the term “advancement” on the Musical America jobs page yields 53 hits at the moment. It’s a common term for fund raisers in the arts and higher ed on this side of the pond. Wishing Ms. Wheeler every success at shaking the money tree for Juilliard!

  • Eventually everyone will figure out what “advancement” really means and yet a new label will be needed.

  • Arthur Kaptainis says:

    Hard to say why “advancement” superseded “development” as a euphemism for fundraising (in Canada as well as the U.S.) but we can be thankful that theorists do not speak of the advancement section of a sonata-allegro.

  • Luigi Nonono says:

    There is no end to the jargon administrators come up with in order to make themselves seem more superior, more expert, more lofty, when it really is a failure to communicate. The more jargon, the more paperwork. Self-justification. Advancement is a poor choice of words, indeed.

  • Jamson says:

    Ugh these awful people and their FUNDRAISING, and the WORDS they use, can’t they just have nice things and not have to worry about paying for them, I’m far too interesting and important to think about this “money” business

  • Judy says:

    Nothing new about the term “advancement.” People who are critical of the fundraising jargon need to understand that “fundraising” is actually a large basket of various activities that combine together to make a healthy organization. For example, alumni relations (including magazines full of articles), trustee relations (including prepping trustees to understand their full set of responsibilities), working with various employees of the organization to help them connect the importance of outside relations with funding for their own departments (shall I call this “good manners”?), and work with every working department to help it understand how its public face matters to the bottom line — these activities and more are the “advancement” agenda. Next time you hear a great concert, thank an “advancement officer.”