Juilliard doesn’t want you to read this

Juilliard doesn’t want you to read this


norman lebrecht

March 21, 2022

The school has issued a memo to teachers, warning them not to discuss what they are paid.

And with good reason.

It appears that collaborative pianists earn just $21 dollars per hour and $12.50 for playing on juries.

Juilliard’s president Damien Woetzel makes $855,970 before tax.

Students pay $70-80,000 including accommodation.

Why is Juilliard so unequal?


  • waw says:

    $12 to $21 per hour is the going rate for house cleaners on the Upper West Side.

    The unionized cleaning crew employed by Juilliard gets more than that, plus medical benefits.

  • Phillip Sear says:

    If true, that is truly amazing! Given the considerable skills required of a conservatoire collaborative pianist, I find it hard to believe that they would be paid so much less per hour than most pianists here in the UK would charge to play for, say, a children’s grade exam rehearsal.

    • SVM says:

      The difference is that “accompanied a child’s grade 8 exam” does not really enhance a CV, whilst “accompanied for Juilliard” would be a major CV boost… the sort of thing that would enable such an accompanist to double his/her private rates and still have customers.

      • Hannah Shields says:

        While this argument makes sense superficially, those of us in the classical music profession know that it’s not actually the case. I am also a pianist, and have stopped accompanying at conservatories because I can’t afford to work for nearly nothing. At various times in my life I played for students at Juilliard, the Cleveland Institute of Music and the New England Conservatory, and none of this experience affected my ability to charge for private work in the least. The friend whose post was originally quoted (without his permission) by Mr Lebrecht is a highly-trained professional who did post-grad at Yale, competed at an international level, concertizes with world-renowned string players, and has much better things to put on his resume than “collaborative pianist at Juilliard.” Should someone this qualified be getting paid $21/hr and told not to talk about it?

  • JJS says:

    Juilliard is notoriously cheap when it comes to paying teachers and accompanists. Was this not common knowledge??

  • True North says:

    Not a bad landing for “a former New York City Ballet star who has never worked in academic administration” (New York Times). Who’s making these absurd hiring decisions?

    • Simon Black says:

      Not just never worked in academic administration, but never ran anything. A terrific ballet artist for sure, but knew nothing about running any organization

  • Taka Gander says:

    Studio teachers earn 200-300 dollars per lesson, but likely with no benefits or retirement. Here’s another dirty trick: Juilliard gets at least 90% of the calls to hire students to play for gigs, and will not allow the students to include students from other conservatories on the gigs or to use them as substitutes. Hence, the students at Manhattan School of Music, even when much better, have to make do with a small slice of the pie. And many people use students because they can pay much less and assume they’ll get the best. At least, that’s how it was when I was a student. And that means, when there is one teacher in a department for one instrument, they can totally control who works and who does not.

  • Robin says:

    And one has to ask: given the many talented musicians who have become successful without going to the Juilliard, is the Juilliard really as good as it’s said to be? It certainly rests on a proud history of its great students of the past but, today, is it really head and shoulders above other schools of music? Will the phrase “I graduated from the Julliard” set one up for a life’s successful career in music? It may be a brief stepping stone but in the end somehow talent makes the musician not the snob value of a music school with high fees.

    • Syliva Schneider says:

      There are few jobs in orchestra, opera companies, etc., and it has been the case for years. Most of the music students at Juilliard leave the field, which begs the question not of the talent of the student but the overall education they receive.

      • Music Lover says:

        (Recent Youtube uploads):

        “7 Unforgettable Lessons I Learned at the World’s Best Music School”

        “What we wish we knew before going to Juilliard for Music… with Timothy Chooi!”

    • JBVio says:

      Juilliard is an overrated, self-important institution filled with money grubbing administrators. Lots of talented students, lots of mediocre teachers.

    • Fliszt says:

      When I was a music student in the 1970s, the snob factor amongst Juilliard faculty and administration was so extreme that it was comical. The females over age 70 insisted on being called “madam” and their imperious behavior was pure caricature. The education was mediocre at best, and many of us studied our instruments with private teachers outside the school. What a farce!

    • Music Lover says:

      (Recent Youtube upload):

      “Is Juilliard Worth It?”

  • Ben says:

    Pretty common stuff.

    People in positions of high authority are usually the scum of the human race; they usually need to be able to metabolize and live with their own hypocrisy in exchange for the rewards

    … it’s nothing new.

    • Music Lover says:

      Concerning “People in positions of high authority …”, to reach the top, do you have to be anxious to do what it takes to reach the top? Or do you have to be OVERanxious to do whatEVER it takes to reach the top?
      Ask the sopranos whose careers were at the mercy of a leading tenor.

      • Antonia says:

        I would not say that even top opera singers are in “positions of high authority” unless they run another organization such as a competition for young opera vocalists.

  • JackofAll says:

    I guess “diversity, equity, and inclusion” only goes so far.

  • J Barcelo says:

    Here’s all that matters: Mr. Woetzel has a demanding, stressful job. It’s hardly an 8-5 gig. If he were working for any corporation with such a large number of employees and a huge budget, he’d be making much more than Julliard pays. And while his salary is quite handsome, for New York, it’s not all it seems.

    Now for the pianists: this is simply supply/demand. There’s probably an abundance of qualified players in NY competing for the same gigs. The hourly rate seems really low, frankly. Private music teachers in NY regularly are paid $75 and up and up per hour. Union gigs pay far more per session, too. But if Julliard offers $21 and there are people who take the job, that’s capitalism!

  • Nathaniel Rosen says:


  • Is that directive illegal?

    “…the National Labor Relations Act contains a provision, Section 7 (29 U.S.C. § 157), that gives all employees the right to “engage in concerted activities”, including the right to discuss their terms and conditions of employment with each other. Section 8(a)(1) of the NLRA (29 U.S.C. § 158(a)(1)) makes it an unfair labor practice for an employer to deny or limit the Section 7 rights of employees. Based upon those two provisions, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has taken the position for decades now that employers may not prohibit employees from discussing their pay and benefits, and that any attempts to do so actually violate the NLRA. Courts have basically uniformly supported that position. Moreover, those particular sections of the NLRA apply to both union and non-union employees, so there is no exception made for companies where the employees are non-unionized.”



  • MacroV says:

    Are these students, or already degreed professionals? That rate might make sense as a work-study thing, but not as a job.

    35 years ago the pianist I worked with was charging $30/hour, which with inflation would be about $75/hour today.

  • Althea T-H says:

    Why is classical music so unequal, full stop? This problem is frequently replicated in conductor and soloist vs freelance orchestral salaries.

    What are so many higher education institutions unequal – around the globe?

    Inequality has been a default setting of Western late capitalism since the 1980s.

    • Music Lover says:

      – The forces in a capitalist society, if left unchecked, tend to make the rich richer and the poor poorer.

      Jawaharlal Nehru

  • Gerry Feinsteen says:

    “I suggest that you” is different from “You may not.”

    Perhaps at Juilliard the administration takes a Craigslist approach to wages: The exposure will be good for you.

    Who would turn down the chance to “work” at Juilliard if for only $21 per hour? Decades later, living in Offthepath, Minnesota, this kind of experience will be impressive to your students: And how cool is it that they’ll be the ones paying for a former Juilliard employee to accompany Lightly Row?

  • fflambeau says:

    Most work places have a similar rule.

  • Dan P. says:

    This is not surprising. During my time there as a student in the early 70s it was commonly understood among students that faculty – even famous faculty – were paid very poorly, the rationale being that just the association with the institution was compensation by itself. Whether this was true or not, I have no idea. Since the median age among instrumental and voice faculty at that time was in the mid-seventies, I’m sure they all must have been on Social Security and Medicare. My ear training teacher had been at the premiere of The Rite of Spring and took two changes of lights to entirely cross Broadway. The “younger” faculty often taught at more than one institution.

  • MusicBear88 says:

    I started as a collaborative pianist at a music school back in 2005. I knew people who were answering phones at other schools and making double what I was per hour. And I was expected to coach the singers as well.

  • Disinterested bystander says:

    It’s like much of US academia: stars and slaves.

  • EK says:

    This is pretty shameful pay for a school that is supposed to be making and inspiring the artists of the future–
    Yes kids, your future looks bright–getting paid what a teenager working at Target gets. This is after shelling out the 50 grand or so to go to school there….These staff pianists are the lucky ones too….sad…very sad.

  • Tony says:

    Juilliard wants to pay that fee and people of an acceptably high standard will accept it.

    That usually means that supply of talent outstrips demand. Sound a bit like Classical Music? Sadly, price has nothing to do with what you think you’re worth.

    You may as well try taking an axe to economics rather than Juilliard.

    • Juilliard Grad says:

      Hm. Do you really believe that the supply of administrative talent is so meager that a conservatory president should command exponentially more than the gifted musicians who carry out the mission of the institution?

      • Tony says:

        I don’t need to question that, it is obvious from the maths. Where salaries are exponentially higher than other salaries it is because many fewer are available to meet the talent set required to execute that job.
        In your case you seem to think the salary discrepancy is unwarranted but you have a belief common to many looking at higher salaries and both underestimating what is required in those positions as well as misunderstanding market forces.

  • Titurel says:

    I have no idea if the current pay is what is stated by NL. But when I was at Juilliard in the mid 1970s, piano majors who wished to accompany had to audition to determine their rate of compensation. This was based on your sight-reading skill. If you were lousy, the rate was $3/hr. Fair: $3.50 Good: $4. This is no joke, and can easily be corroborated by the many pianists who were in attendance in those years. I always found THAT unfair, as the pianists who were poor readers actually had to spend substantial time learning the notes, whereas the lucky, excellent sight readers could just show up at lessons and rehearsals with no preparation time.

    • Antonia says:

      The quoted rate is accurate. The OP (who isn’t Norman) is my friend.

    • SVM says:

      But a good sight-reader became a good sight-reader after hours and hours of (unpaid) practice and (often badly paid) experience. In general, it is considered appropriate to pay people who perform at a high level more, on the basis that they can “hit the ground running” AND that they had invested a lot of time and money to reach the stage that they could “just show up at lessons and rehearsals with no preparation time”… what you really mean is “no DEDICATED preparation time over and above existing experience”.

      One more point, looking more broadly at the freelance accompanist scene: the better sight-readers tend to get engaged to do the harder gigs (i.e.: the gigs that weaker sight-readers are unable or unwilling to do), so they end up still having to spend quite a lot of time practising, especially if the gig is a public performance (as opposed to a rehearsal).

  • Hunter Biden's Laptop says:

    Heh… Just goes to show ya’ that for all your virtue-signalling and ivory tower ideals and ethics, you musician-types are just as greedy and self-serving as everyone else.

  • Been there done that says:

    Juilliard was a lousy place to study music in the 70s when I attended. I hope that it has improved since. The choice to go there as a student or work there is individual. Nobody is forced to go there so choose wisely before getting involved with the Yard.

  • debuschubertussy says:

    Why is this a surprise to anyone? Most music conservatories/collegiate music departments in the northeast region (NY, Boston, NJ, Conn) have faculties comprised almost entirely of adjuncts and part-time lecturers, so that they can get whatever “world renowned” soloist or residency artist to teach there in their spare time. You think they have much consideration for how much to pay accompanists? lol

  • Gary says:

    Unless their policy has changed over the years, even the most well known faculty members are paid by the hour at a rate considerably lower than what they would earn teaching privately without the Juilliard association. The only faculty under an annual guarantied contract were probably the academic teachers. Also, unless policy has changed, the music faculty were given no benefits like health care or pensions. It was rumored that after retiring from Juilliard in the late 70s or early 80s a famed conductor, who devoted a major portion of his life to Juilliard, died from starvation! With such a rich endowment I sincerely hope that someday Juilliard will be exposed for taking advantage of their faculty who blindly accept their unfair labor practices in return for the prestige and privilege of teaching at this famous school.

  • Antonia says:

    You should not have published this without redacting my friend’s name. He requested that we share this information with their name redacted. You are harming the reputation of someone who has already been abused by music industry people.

  • Gaddi says:

    It’s called slavery and it happens literally in every music school in the US.

  • Thomas M. says:

    And that’s AMERICA: The only way to get a DECENT college education is if your parents are rich (or, less likely, you get a scholarship). No surprise they don’t wanna reveal the level of exploitation.

  • Music Lover says:

    If you can drive a truck, Walmart will offer you a 6-figure starting salary: