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Key moment for arts institution

(China Daily)

Updated: 2021-11-05


The Music Without Boundaries concert is performed by the Tianjin Juilliard Orchestra on Oct 26. [Photo provided to China Daily]

As the sixth president of the Juilliard School in New York for 34 years (1984-2018), the longest presidential term in the history of the school, Joseph W. Polisi, the sixth person to hold the office, traveled to China frequently before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

In October, Polisi, 74, returned to China again, his first trip to the country after nearly two years. On Oct 26, he appeared at the Tianjin Juilliard School's campus dedication ceremony.

"When I came to experience this campus in person a week ago, I saw the beautiful roof, stones and trees. It's a great moment which I will never forget," says Polisi, who is also an accomplished player of the woodwind instrument, the bassoon. "We have worked for over 10 years to arrive at this moment, which is a time when we can celebrate the beginning of a collaboration between China and the United States that will flourish for many years to come."

Located in Tianjin's Binhai district, the Tianjin Juilliard School, a short high-speed train journey from Beijing, is the first and so far only branch campus of the Juilliard School in the world.

With a partnership with the Tianjin Conservatory of Music, the Tianjin Juilliard School's campus broke ground on June 15, 2017. Polisi had attended the event.

The Tianjin school offers programs for pre-college and graduate levels. The graduate school, which opened in fall 2020 with the first class of students, is taught in English and offers a US-accredited master's degree from the Juilliard School in New York. The opening of the Tianjin campus took place amid the pandemic, which had delayed the official campus dedication until now.

Peng Liyuan, the wife of President Xi Jinping, sent a congratulatory message to the dedication ceremony of the campus of the Tianjin Juilliard School on Oct 26.


Joseph W.Polisi (right) visits the Tianjin Juilliard School on Oct 20. [Photo provided to China Daily]

"I hope that China and the US would conduct extensive people-to-people exchanges to boost mutual understanding," she said in the letter while lauding the Tianjin Conservatory of Music and the New York-based Juilliard School for their high-level art cooperation, adding that the two schools have enhanced people-to-people exchanges between the two countries.

"Art is a bridge that can transcend national borders and connect people's hearts and minds," Peng said in the letter. "The cooperation between the two countries in the area of education would help to cultivate more talents, advance cultural exchanges and mutual learning, and spread art and friendship."

Established in 1905, the Juilliard School is a private performing arts conservatory and is widely regarded as one of the world's leading drama, music and dance schools. It has trained some of the world's best artists, including Van Cliburn, Renee Fleming and Yo-Yo Ma. The Juilliard School has enrolled students from China since the 1920s.

The cooperation for the Tianjin school was announced by Polisi when Peng visited the Juilliard School in New York on Sept 28, 2015, while accompanying Xi on his weeklong state visit to the US.

The Tianjin campus is a joint effort of people from both countries and this occasion marks a major step forward for the Tianjin Juilliard School in broadening access to Juilliard's rich tradition of performing arts education across China and Asia, Polisi adds.

A celebration concert was also held on Oct 26 at the Tianjin campus. Chen Lin, director of the conducting department at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, led the Tianjin Juilliard Orchestra to perform William Schuman's American Festival Overture, selections from Chinese composer Bao Yuankai's Chinese Sights and Sounds, and selections from Tchaikovsky's Symphony No 5.


A student from Taiwan performs at the school. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Other celebrations included a rousing performance of Fanfare from ballet piece La Peri by the Tianjin Juilliard Brass Ensemble.

The same day, 13-year-old Yenfei Wang, a pre-college student of Tianjin Juilliard School, performed June: Barcarolle from The Seasons, Op 37, by Tchaikovsky, and the Shanghai Quartet, the school's resident faculty quartet, performed the first movement of Beethoven's String Quartet in B-flat Major, Op 18 No 6.

"The Tianjin Juilliard School exemplifies that music has the unparalleled power to connect us in ways that words cannot. Polisi's original vision and unbridled passion for this project paved the way for the artistry and community we celebrate today. The school will inspire future generations of students and audiences alike in the years to come," says Alexander Brose, executive director and CEO of the Tianjin Juilliard School.

"Not only is this a stunning architectural achievement, but this school will become a hub for cultural exchange, for collaboration, for musicianship, and for adventurous programming in Tianjin. As the bond grows between our New York and Tianjin campuses, we will continue to shape the future of music and of the arts on an international scale," says Damian Woetzel, president of the Juilliard School in New York, through a video.

The Tianjin Juilliard School offers master's degrees in orchestral performance, chamber-music performance and collaborative piano, which highlights collaboration.

"It complements the current music education in China, mostly training soloists," says Yu Long, veteran conductor, who heads the international advisory council of the Tianjin school.

Yu, who is also the music director of Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, adds that students of the Tianjin school will go to Shanghai in December to perform with students of the Shanghai Orchestra Academy, an orchestral training program run by a partnership among the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic and the Shanghai Conservatory of Music.

According to He Wei, artistic director and dean of the Tianjin Juilliard School, in September, the school opened its second class for new graduate students and launched the Tianjin Juilliard Orchestra's 2021-22 music season. Conductors, including Lin Daye, Jing Huan and Zhang Guoyong, will perform with students there featuring music works by composers like Igor Stravinsky, Johannes Brahms and Gabriel Faure.

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