Students demand fees freeze. Juilliard says no. So they are occupying the building

Students demand fees freeze. Juilliard says no. So they are occupying the building


norman lebrecht

June 08, 2021

One third of the student body, along with hundreds of alumni, faculty, workers and family, have asked the Juilliard administration for a freeze on tuition fees.

They say that another tuition raise post-Covid will make it harder for students to afford food, rent and transportation costs, and will forces them into even deeper debt. Around a quarter of Juilliard’s students are estimated to have a household income of below $30,000.

Juilliard just stonewalls.

This won’t end well.


  • DAVID says:

    They should all withdraw for these overpriced programs and pursue their instrumental training with a private teacher. Much better education for a fraction of the cost, and in most cases they’ll stand a much better chance to get an actual job.

    • Bone says:

      This is way too logical for the woke generation to ever attempt.

      • Sue Sonata Form says:

        Yes, there’s a rigidity there – a lack of creative ideas about alternatives – that have rusted-on with this generation which thinks it’s entitled and can throw toys from cots if things don’t go well. I’m sure the music school is also at the end of its tether, but try adding complexity to any argument with this cohort; pfft.

        • k says:

          Thanks Sue. Your non-knowledge of these matters always makes an anti – interesting contribution.

          • irony says:

            “The Socialist Penguins” are upset about PAYING for school?!?! Really?

            All they need to do is find one in say South America or Cuba where socialism is WORKING!

            Perhaps Saudi Arabia would be more DIVERSE for them (especially the girls) on second thought…

          • person says:

            sorry, but im fairly certain they are upset since tuition has been raised yet no actual tangible benefit comes from the increased cost. if anything, the education during this time is worse online than it would be in person, so an increase in tuition is insane. pretty sure most of these people cannot afford to pay the increased cost as well. tuition used to be around $600 a year at these schools 50 years ago, and now its over $50,000. there is an argument to be made that the degree will help a lot in the job field even if you study with the same person privately, mostly as your studies are validated and you are able to teach students yourself with a valid degree. studying privately does not give you the rehearsal experience or broader musical education you need either.

            to my knowledge, the administration tried to lock the protesters in the building overnight and have already banned these students who have protested from accessing the main building of the school where their classes, rehearsals, and lessons take place. if this sort of situation happened at my school a few blocks north, the staff would have been fired and there would be an investigation into why staff would react in that way. the actions of the school in this case are insane given that students are protesting and expressing their rights to share their experiences and voices. i completely understand saying “no” to them, but banning the people from accessing the school they are still paying to go to is literally insane. given that many of my teachers have told people that had low scholarship offers compared to other schools that its probably more worthwhile to study at a different school that is more affordable, and that they can still study with them on the side means that even the teachers agree that the cost of these private conservatories is ridiculous. i am going to one and i am only paying for housing, yet its still overpriced because it is cost of living in nyc. i saved probably around 12 grand by just staying at home then i would have if i traveled back to school last year, and i maintained so much more sanity by spending the year with family rather than in a petri dish in nyc…

            its completely understandable to request a freeze on tuition if your family lost their livelihood during the pandemic, and you will never be able to pay the school back for all this online “education” that was so worthwhile to your total degree. if you think these kids should pay an extra couple grand for some sub-par online conservatory experience that is missing in-person interaction and rehearsals, then maybe your vision of reality is warped. i feel bad for my friends because they paid nearly the same amount they did past years for completely online school without many of the things that we chose to go to a school specifically for. usually you pay more for something that is better. i must just be so silly for thinking that though.

      • Anna says:

        Yep. Any logical person would just throw away the years and hundreds of thousands of dollars they’ve spent on their education so far. The current generation is just a bunch of idiots that value their time and money

    • NotToneDeaf says:

      Right – no orchestra, no other ensembles, no ear-training, no theory, no history, no exposure to other arts forms, no interacting with future colleagues. Definitely sounds like a “better education.” #clueless

      • Hayne says:

        Because they certainly can’t do any of that on their own.

      • Tim says:

        The truth of the matter is, theory, ear training and history are not necessary components to be a fantastic instrumentalist and even musician; Especially when it’s in poorly taught courses that cost $4000 a pop that lecture about what one mostly can learn on their own from reading a book.

        In my time in the conservatory, the only needed components I found were ensembles, private lessons and a practice room. Absolutely not worth it if you have to pay $40,000 extra for the other stuff!

        • NotToneDeaf says:

          1) If you think theory, ear-training and history aren’t necessary components of being an excellent musicians . . . I don’t even know what to say. 2) Unless you went to Juilliard (which is so very clearly not the case), how are you able to comment on whether or not these courses are taught “poorly”? 3) I’m sorry that all you got out of your education was practicing scales in your practice room for hours on end. I can make some pretty good guesses about what your current career is like. P.S. I’m sorry you blew your Juilliard audition and didn’t get accepted.

      • M says:

        oh no no! i’m loving this. you are right about what a musical education is… however… everyone getting into juilliard is plenty good enuf to get PAID to play in an orchestra. nor just volunteer. you learn more from sight reading string quartets with friends then you do in pre-formed ensembles (and it is WAY more fun), history: read a book. theory- ok well that is harder to teach oneself but if you have an ear it really is not that complicated. as for exposure to other arts forms the best thing you can do is NOT go to juilliard and go to a museum, go see a play or ballet… and in terms of life- get off that 4th and 5th floor and see friends and feed a homeless person, and take a walk. no great interpretation has ever come from those miserable closets on the 4th and 5th floor, trust me.

        • Max says:

          It is not true that everyone who gets into Juilliard is plenty good enough to be paid to play in orchestras. Also, as someone who has freelanced on both sides of the Atlantic I can also say that it is one thing to get paid to play in orchestra and another to make a living playing in orchestras. Many of the gigs especially around New York City don’t pay very well.

          FWIW I was accepted at Juilliard but decided to study for almost no tuition fee in Europe

      • Karl says:

        All of those things, literally all, are available to one degree or another, for free or at low cost elsewhere. Juilliard had the chance a while ago to aim for tuition-free. They blew it. Then decided to virtue-signal and grow a crop of little socialists. This is the low-iq, aggrieved brat result.

      • Tiredofitall says:

        Talented musicians of yore did quite well with private instruction and, simply, experience. What we have now are a few generations of out-of-work, marginal musicians. A degree doesn’t give you talent.

      • Sue Sonata Form says:

        How do you think music students, or any others, got along in London during the blitz when most were living in the underground railway stations? Too bad for them, aye. This pandemic is a war of sorts.

      • Someone Who Actually Studied and Performs Music says:

        The fact is, to have a career as an orchestral musician, you need one thing, and one thing only: to win a single audition.

        Going to a great school is one way to help get you there, but it’s one of several ways, and not going to Juilliard is not going to hold anyone back. $200,000 student debt for an undergraduate degree, however, will hold plenty of people back.

        I don’t think the students are wrong to ask for a tuition freeze. I don’t think the school is wrong not to grant it, though I’m inclined to believe that an institution whose mission is to foster young artists could also strongly consider the role that financial hardship plays in holding young artists back. I don’t think any students who decide to leave are wrong, and I don’t think any students who decide to stay are wrong. I don’t think the school would be wrong to kick out anyone who doesn’t pay.

        However, if you think that going to a particular school of music is always better than the education you can obtain for yourself elsewhere, then, I do think you are wrong. There are a lot of ways you can spend $200,000 to learn to play music in NYC, and going to Juilliard is far from the best.

        • JoshW says:

          Why don’t you give us an example of what you think is better. Where would you suggest a student without a school play in a professional-level orchestra, work with top conductors, have access to members of the NYPhil, and make the very important connections that they’ll rely on throughout their careers?

    • Nelson says:

      Your logic is staggeringly uninformed. Much better education in what sense? And where are these jobs that they stand a “much better chance” to get with no further theory, history or orchestral training?

      • E Rand says:

        What you and others are getting staggeringly wrong is that, even when Juilliard WAS a great school, it still wasn’t about some incredible general education. It was great because it was a unique concentration of talent, and you were amongst that talent and had to confront it daily. Juilliard wasn’t great because it taught orchestra best, or taught theory best, or ear-training best, (even though there were excellent faculty in those areas), it was great because it was the center of the universe for talent for about 50 years. It no longer is. Therefore, it no longer is a great school. Now, it is a facade, within a destroyed metropolis. The world has moved on. Maybe these kids would be better off figuring that out.

        • JoshW says:

          And where do you suggest they go to school now that is better than Juilliard? North Texas State? Michigan? The esteemed Mannes School?

          • Ralph W. says:

            Can’t tell if you’re disingenuous or ignorant. Likely both.
            To name just a few where the talent is now going –
            Yale, Colbern, Rice, Eastman (though less and less so), SMU has some amazing hires of late and now Zukerman is teaching there. The truth is that the competitive students are no longer uniformly graduating from Juilliard or Curtis. It is more often than not one of the schools listed above.

          • JoshW says:

            Right – we all know about the esteemed Yale Orchestra. . . Unless you’ve seen the resumes and outcomes of the past several years of auditions at the major orchestras, you don’t know what you’re talking about. How many Yale graduates can you name in the NY Phil or Chicago Symphony? Or even the second tiers likes Indianapolis or Minnesota?

          • Zergafritz says:

            Carter Brey, Principal Cello of NY Phil went to Yale, as did Sharon Yamada, Patrick Jee and Kerry McDermott. Qianqian Li, Principal Second Violin studied at New England Conservatory. Cynthia Phelps, Principal Viola, studied at USC and Michigan. Cheryl Staples and Michelle Kim: USC. Sherry Sylar: Indiana. Alan Baer: Cleveland Institute. Judith LeClair: Eastman. Christopher Lamb: Eastman. Robert Langevin: Montreal Conservatory. Allison Fierst: Carnegie Mellon. Mindy Kaufmann: Eastman. Chris Martin: Eastman. Cellists Elizabeth Dyson and Alexei Gonzalez: New England Conservatory. Qiang Tu: Rutgers. Clearly it’s JoshW who doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Do your homework.

        • John Porter says:

          “…a destroyed metropolis?” Hardly. You think COVID destroyed NY? You’re watching just a bit too much of Fox News.

          • E Rand says:

            John- I don’t know your age, but if you think the current nyc is the same in economic (gig) opportunity as the circa 1990 New York City, I can’t help you. This is to say nothing of the decimated culture and flavor of the city I’ve watched evaporate in my lifetime. And, as an aside, nyc wasn’t destroyed by Covid- it was destroyed a low-iq progressive rot, lead by Mayor Putz.

          • Anna says:

            So the intelligent and progressive Juilliard students shouldn’t go to New York….because it’s progressive. I’m sure they really regret not going to school in the deep south for musical talent. And all these criticisms about how Juilliard is not as good as it used to are irrelevant anyways because the conversation is about Juilliard raising the tuition costs for students who have already committed to the school, spent hundreds of thousands on their education as well as possibly years. So whether or not Juilliard is worth the hype doesn’t matter–you don’t always know what you’re signing up for when you’re 18 and they’re there now and this is the problem they’re facing

    • Bill says:

      Can you supply some notable examples of people who were successful with this approach?

  • Curvy Honk Glove says:

    Don’t worry. Everything is OK. Juilliard is virtue-signalling for pride month. Otherwise, couldn’t the teachers take a pay cut to support their students and lower tuition? Aren’t these teaching gigs second jobs for most of these professors anyway? Where’s all the generosity from you musician types out there to cover these students’ fees? Why not start a union program to divert dues (maybe additional dues?) from the top, say, 5% to 10% of union earners in the top orchestras and studios to contribute their surplus earnings? I got it! Let’s have all orchestras give some their grant money over to these young artists to offset these burdensome costs. Come on, everyone! Let’s put our money where our mouths are, and redistribute our earnings to these starving students! Who’s with me?!

    • Anon says:

      Mr. Curvy Honk Glove,
      “Let’s put our money where our mouths are”?
      Who’s mouth is there? Yours?

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      Bingo. It certainly throws into sharp relief the shallowness of virtue signalling. Bezos gets away with paying peanuts to his army of workers by mouthing woke platitudes.

      The Left; not the sharpest tools in the shed.

    • Robyn Marks says:

      where did you ever get the idea that musicians make money? if these are second jobs it is most likely because the instructors can’t make it on a musician’s pay.

      • JoshW says:

        Yes, pity the poor musicians of the NYPhilharmonic with their high six-figure salaries. The Juilliard faculty isn’t exactly made up of free-lance musicians who play Broadway shows.

        • E. Rand says:

          One of the very last things Juilliard could be known for would be for paying their faculty well.
          As far as six-figure salaries in the nyphil- consider that net income after the progressive’s confiscatory tax bill, then cost of living, then avoiding the rotten progressive-destroyed public schools. Couldn’t pay most people enough to try and live in nyc.

    • Anna says:

      Or let’s just make the school freeze tuition–not even lower it, freeze it because it keeps going up–because they can easily afford it

  • Dennis says:

    Dismiss them from school then. Who exactly do they expect to pay for their educations? Prices and costs of living rise. That’s life (well, actually in a proper economy there would be no inflation, but that’s a whole ‘nother subject!). If 25% of the students truly come from families making less than $30k a year (which is well below median income in USA, so I question whether 1/4th of Juilliard students truly come from this demo), then they are clearly getting massive financial aid and/or scholarships to begin with to afford Juilliard, so art really paying anyway (I don’t know the total cost of a year there, including room and board, but I’m guessing it’s easily $60-70k, at least – so about double what we’re told is the total family income of 1/4th of the students).

    • V.Lind says:

      Explain to me the word ” ‘nother.” The beginning suggests you realise you are abbreviating “another.” So your phrase would read “that’s a whole another subject!”

      What’s wrong with the correct “that’s a whole other subject!”? Or “that’s another subject!”? (Preferable).

      • Deborah Curtin says:

        Nother: it’s an often used colloquialism, as if you didn’t know. There’s nothing wrong with a formal or informal approach since after all, this is a blog, not a peer-reviewed academic journal.

      • Ashu says:

        [What’s wrong with the correct “that’s a whole other subject!”?]

        What’s right with it?

  • E Rand says:

    This is just so perfect. When I studied there, years ago, the scuttlebutt was that the admin was aiming to go tuition-free, like Curtis. Instead, Juilliard raised and frittered away 100’s of millions on a stupid renovation, and then, far worse, went woke. As I’ve said in multiple other posts at this site, young players are increasingly wise to Juilliard’s decline, within the rotting, fetid city with less gig work than ever. And as is always the case, no amount of wokeness is ever enough. Despite committing public seppuku at the altar of George Floyd, Juilliard must now suffer the woke socialists it curated. Eat your own cooking, Juilliard! Congrats President Woetzel.

  • V.Lind says:

    If Juilliard is like most education institutions, it charged the full whack for remote learning. So it seems to me the request for a freeze — not reduction — of fees is a pretty modest ask. I think most students deserve refunds for the past few terms of at least part of their tuition which is, indeed, supposed to cover more of a life experience than just learning how to play better.

  • Sara says:

    I’m right here. I have given generously to Juilliard recently for this very purpose and plan to continue. There are many, many, contributors. Doesn’t mean the fees aren’t sky high. But try not to blame those who actually care.

    • Karl says:

      Sara has announced publicly that she enjoys giving her money to fund diversity officers and other progressive grifts.

  • MusicBear88 says:

    When I was looking at schools, all of the big private universities in the Boston area and the Conservatory were within less than five thousand dollars in annual tuition, and I suspect the same is still the case. Because a classical musician is just as likely to make the money back as somebody intending on being a lawyer, right? /s

    • Bill says:

      This was in 1975, right?

      NEC annual tuition and fees is $50,460 for the 2019-20 school year.

      Boston College tuition and fees for that same year was $57,910.

      MIT was $53,790 (yes, they do have a music program, though I think it is safe to say that most are doing studies in other fields simultaneously).

      • Couperin says:

        I think she meant that the different tuitions were roughly within $5,000 of each other.. not that the tuitions were actually $5,000.

        • Anna says:

          In the 60s to 70s they were actually around $5000 so their assumption wasn’t ridiculous. There are people in the comments that went then

  • Patrick says:

    There a so many great schools. Just go someplace else.

  • fflambeau says:

    Good for the Juilliard students and progressive students everywhere. Where would we be without them?

  • anon advocate says:

    I urge all of you to visit this student group’s Instagram page. The students lay out well-reasoned arguments for their “demands,” pointing out the glaring imbalance between Juilliard’s monstrous endowment (currently valued at over $1B) and its oft-stated “belief in the resilience of the arts,” with its flat-out refusal to freeze tuition for their own student-artists during the ongoing pandemic.

    In addition, Juilliard’s financial aid program is itself inequitable, leaving many students relying on loans, while spending by far the most dollars (in the form of the all-expenses-paid Kovner fellowship) to lure desirable students away from peer institutions such as the Curtis Institute and the Colburn School, both of which somehow manage to educate *all* of their students for free, or nearly for free, on far smaller endowments.

    Juilliard needs to put its money where its mouth is.

  • Kent Lindsay Brosveen says:

    Juilliard is not a money making entrprise. In order to attract top talent to the faculty they have to pay. Even then many of the professionals working at the school did so at bargain rates. Juilliard has to provide world class facilities. Where do you think the money is coming from? When I was a student there in the late 60’s the tuition was $4000. That translates into $30,000. today. Wake up protesters Juilliard is not the federal govt. They can’t just print money when they need it.

    • Paul Brown says:

      Don’t get me wrong, I am not one of the oh joy, let’s attack Juilliard and praise Colburn and Rice crowd, but the fact is that Juilliard has an obscene amount of endowment in proportion to its enrollment and could easily go tuition free. They don’t want to. The board doesn’t want to. They give full rides whenever they feel they have to and yes, they lose some students to all sorts of other school for all sorts of reasons, including the program, the teacher, and the location. Juilliard could easily freeze and for that matter, lower its tuition without blinking, but they won’t, because they are just growing and growing that endowment. And yes, there institutions such as NYU that raised tuition during the pandemic, but NYU doesn’t have the wealth per student that Juilliard does. Oh, and by the way, Juilliard doesn’t even pay all that well to most of its faculty. I have friends who get paid more at MSM and Mannes than they do at Juilliard.

    • Anna says:

      Juilliard just got a 1.1 billion dollar endowment and the president got a bonus 3x his average salary. You really think they can’t afford it? And the current tuition is $51,000–far more than $30,000

  • Ruth Albert says:

    The simple fact is that all of the major conservatories are excellent schools and the only difference in reputation comes from whether or not they are tuition free or close to it. The one exception to that is Juilliard, which owns the brand. There are some schools which have taken a different approach more contemporary and experimental, like a CalArts, Mannes/New School, or Berklee/Boston Conservatory, and then, the free schools, which tend to be extremely conservative and almost all traditional classical. If Rice, Colburn, Yale, Curtis, etc., weren’t tuition free, you would notice that their programs and faculty are nothing special and in fact, not as good as many of the schools that have to charge tuition.

  • Simon Carter says:

    “Around a quarter of Juilliard’s students are estimated to have a household income of below $30,000.” That data point is a load of baloney and everyone at Juilliard knows it. There are not that many students who have families living at or below the poverty line.

    • The View from America says:

      The stats may be correct — but like so many stats that people use to argue their case, misleading.

      Quite a few Juilliard students have been out on their own for a few years — long enough to be filing their own income tax statements. No doubt, the vast majority of those people are reporting household incomes below $30,000.

      • Margaret Cohen says:

        Completely misleading. Most of these students, who are graduate students filing income tax returns are supported by their families.

  • Bill Gates says:

    Bro they just all need to hit some Juul and chill out

  • Simeon White says:

    It’s comical to read all the comments about a particular school leading to an “orchestra job.” There are only few jobs open at any given moment and if you think going to Rice or Colburn or Juilliard is going to mean you’re going to get the job, you’re off your rocker. The majority of these students have to do a whole bunch of things to earn a living, for few of them get the jobs, not matter what Curtis and Colburn will tell you.

    • Garrett says:

      The problem is you don’t always know what you’re getting yourself into when you’re 18 years old. You should have professors telling you that you’re here to follow a passion and persuade your dreams of playing in an orchestra, chamber music group, or soloist. But diversify your portfolio and broken your horizons. Play new music. Minor in something that could generate income for you in other ways. Unless you get the good paying orchestra job (), the life of a professional freelance musician means struggle.

    • jt says:

      Thank you. I went to Colburn, Rice, then Curtis, and I am struggling more than ever right now. It is not easy to get an orchestra job.

  • Garrett says:

    This is a pathetic path for the Juilliard administration to take. They should set the example (they certainly rely on their reputation so I’m not sure I understand why they would they jeopardize it) make it easier on students and their families not harder. If they’re so concerned about getting more money for nothing, then they should resume on campus instruction at the very least. That being said, their behavior demonstrates their clinging to corporate greed as part of a more systemic problem of how bloated an ‘industry’ higher education has become. As a professional musician and graduate of Jacobs at Indiana University in Bloomington, it’s obvious how out of touch these music schools, including Juilliard, are with the music industry and the arts in general. It’s dying in this country. Our society lets government turn their back on it and cut it’s funding during our most fragile social moments in our history. Ticket prices are through the roof meaning it’s not accessible for everyone anymore, but rather aristocratic and self serving. Personnel managers, marketing directors and pencil pushers get paid more than the artists that live in poverty for making the same program liners year after year. Because people really want to hear Beethoven 5 every year? It’s a great piece but… there is so much rich literature out there to be heard than music (really good music mind you) by a disgruntled deaf white man from a particular period of time. What about the others? He had influencers and other composers making music around him. But if you can only win the job you were told you could have if you work hard enough, if you’re good enough, if you practice more and waste your life away, if you work only a little harder. You’ll be good enough for Cleveland Orchestra, for them to hold auditions and then have the audacity to not hire anyone afterwards. That will pay for the mountain of debt, that will make it all worth it right? And if not, you’re a failure. It’s your fault you didn’t make your education work for you. Is it? They lie to you when they take your money for a price that should guarantee employment when you leave. The jobs weren’t there then and they’re definitely not their now.

    • E Rand says:

      I would essentially agree with this. Juilliard had the reputation, cache and therefore institutional moral imperative to make itself as cheap for its students as possible. They CHOSE not to. They CHOSE to spend hundreds of millions on a silly renovations, they CHOSE to fundraise for other things, they CHOSE to hire more and more grifting admins. The kids SHOULD be angry. But they should also stop going. There are other options out there.

  • Anna says:

    Some of these comments are ridiculous. Criticizing “this spoiled generation” for being upset about this. To the people saying they shouldn’t throw a fit over paying for school: this is a pay increase during a time when they get none of the benefits for the cost–they are not having in person lessons, they are not having concerts, they are not making connections. Just because you can afford an extra $2,000 dollars a year doesn’t mean everyone can–these are broke college students, racking up student debt that they will live with for the rest of their lives. This is preventing them from paying rent, eating, taking the bus TO SCHOOL for the few classes they have in person. And it’s a $2,000 increase A YEAR to an already expensive tuition cost. By their 4th year they’re paying $6,000 more than they had expected.

    To the people saying they should just drop out–that would be years of work and hundreds of thousands of dollars down the drain for NOTHING. You really don’t understand why they might not want to do that? And, no, they cannot get all or more benefits from learning on their own. First of all, the name Juilliard alone can get you a lot of opportunities when they are just starting off. And a large part of performing arts school is building a network in the industry which you can’t just do by paying for lessons.

    The comments of people criticizing 18-22 year olds for speaking up because they cannot afford an insane increase in tuition–not even counting housing which also went up–at a time when unemployment is extremely high for performers is just stupid. “This generation” is not spoiled for not being able to pay for a tuition they have been trapped in.

    And Juilliard can very well afford it. They just got an endowment check of 1.1 billion dollars. The president just got a bonus of 1 million dollars, which is 3x his salary. Do some research before coming to conclusions about how “dumb” the students are for protesting.