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Damian Woetzel

Damian Woetzel is the seventh president of The Juilliard School. Since retiring in 2008 from a 20-year career as a principal dancer with New York City Ballet, Woetzel has taken on multiple roles in arts leadership, including artistic director of the Vail Dance Festival since 2007 and director of the Aspen Institute Arts Program (2011-18). As an independent director, choreographer, and producer, his recent projects include DEMO at the Kennedy Center; Spaces by Wynton Marsalis for Jazz at Lincoln Center; Kennedy Center Honors tributes to Natalia Makarova, Patricia McBride, and Carmen de Lavallade; an arts salute to Stephen Hawking for the World Science Festival; two Turnaround Arts performances at the White House and the White House Dance Series hosted by Michelle Obama. Woetzel has collaborated on numerous initiatives with Yo-Yo Ma, including the Silk Road Connect program in the New York City public schools. In 2009, Woetzel became the founding director of the Jerome Robbins Foundation’s New Essential Works (NEW) Program, which initiates grants to support new dance works. President Obama appointed Woetzel to the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities in 2009, and he served throughout the Obama administration. Woetzel holds a Master’s in Public Administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and was a visiting lecturer at Harvard Law School. He received the 2015 Harvard Arts Medal and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Woetzel serves on the boards of New York City Center, Sing for Hope, and Ava DuVernay’s ARRAY Alliance.

Read the press release naming Damian Woetzel as Juilliard's seventh president


“Our commitment to our students must be to provide an evolving platform that offers them the fullest range of opportunity for their individual futures.”
- President Damian Woetzel, First Day Message

Institutional Focus

Since beginning his presidency in 2018, Woetzel has championed an institutional focus on creativity and equity as essential to excellence, with two institutional pillars coined Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging and Creative Enterprise.

Damien standing with the Juilliard String Quartet
Keith Haring artwork
students dancing on stage at the gala

Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging

Noting Juilliard’s unique leadership position in the cultural sector, Woetzel committed his work at Juilliard to Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging (EDIB), which has since included the hiring of a Director for EDIB Initiatives within the Office of the President and the establishment of an EDIB Taskforce.

Learn more about EDIB at Juilliard.

Creative Enterprise

Housed in the Office of the President, Creative Enterprise amplifies Juilliard’s unique multidisciplinary focus with a range of collaborative opportunities taking place throughout the school. Work in this area includes special projects in partnership with divisions and departments, mentorship, public programming, and ongoing initiatives such as JuilliART, which brings to Juilliard a rotating series of visual art, and the Creative Associates, a presidentially appointed group of artists in residence whose work exemplifies collaborative and interdisciplinary innovation.

Learn more about Creative Enterprise at Juilliard

“For our voice to be true, we must be intentional and proactive in fostering a robust inclusivity.” – President Damian Woetzel, 2018 Convocation

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Bolero Juilliard | April 2020

Juilliard President’s Medal

President Woetzel presented the first President’s Medal of his tenure to civil rights icon Clarence B. Jones on January 23, 2020 as part of the school’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Lecture. A noted activist and lawyer, Jones studied clarinet at Juilliard’s summer school high school program in 1946 and 1947. He later joined the civil rights movement and served as lawyer, draft speechwriter, and political advisor to Martin Luther King Jr. Among the speeches he assisted King with is his celebrated “I Have a Dream” speech, which he delivered at the March on Washington on August 28, 1963.

Read the full press release here.

The Juilliard President’s Medal was established in 2005 to honor individuals who have made in indelible impact on society and serve as significant role models at Juilliard and in the broader community. The medal itself was created by renowned graphic designer Milton Glaser.

Arts and Society Course

During select fall semesters, Woetzel teaches a survey course titled Arts and Society open to both undergraduate and graduate level students across all divisions. The course examines the intersection of the arts and society, looking specifically at the role of the arts and artists in addressing issues facing the world today. Through reading lists, case studies, individual and group projects, and conversations with distinguished guests, the class explores areas including but not limited to law, education, literature, and civic participation to consider an ideal version of a collective future, and how arts, creativity, and culture can lead the way. Occasionally, Arts and Society guests also participate in public facing events that celebrate and ignite creative and civic discourse at Juilliard. The Arts and Society course follows in the tradition of a course that former President Joseph W. Polisi taught starting in 1993 titled American Society and the Arts. 

Jazz musicians performing on stage
In 2018, Mitch Landrieu, former Mayor of New Orleans and Arts and Society guest, participated in a public event titled Voices of New Orleans with director of Juilliard Jazz Wynton Marsalis.

Past Arts and Society Guests have included:

Alan Alda, actor, writer, and director
Elizabeth Alexander, president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and poet
Bryan Doerries, artistic director of Theater of War Productions
Ava DuVernay, filmmaker and founder of ARRAY
Oskar Eustis, artistic director of The Public Theater
Renée Fleming (’86, voice/opera), soprano and creator of Music and the Mind
Jeannie Suk Gersen (Pre-College '91, piano), professor of law at Harvard University
Vijay Gupta (Pre-College '02, violin), violinist and founder of Street Symphony
John Heginbotham (BFA ’93, dance), founder of Dance Heginbotham and cofounder of Dance for PD
Sarah Johnson, director of Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute
Mitch Landrieu, former Mayor of New Orleans
Sarah Lewis, associate professor of History of Arts and Architecture and African and African American Studies at Harvard University
Eric Liu, cofounder and CEO of Citizen University
Yo-Yo Ma (Pre-College ’71; Professional Studies ’72, cello), cellist and humanitarian
Robert Schenkkan, playwright, screenwriter, and actor
Caroline Shaw, Juilliard Creative Associate and composer, vocalist, violinist, and producer
Weston Sprott, dean of the Juilliard Preparatory Division and Metropolitan Opera Orchestra trombonist
Jose Antonio Vargas, journalist, filmmaker, producer, and human rights advocate
Camille Zamora (MM ’02, voice, Artist Diploma ’04, opera studies), soprano, cofounder of Sing for Hope, and Juilliard trustee


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