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More Than Just Music

Fletcher School graduate Joseph Polisi, the longtime president of New York’sJuilliard School, encourages those who study at the famed conservatory to become “missionaries for the arts.”

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [03.06.06] The 21st century artist, says Juilliard President Joseph Polisi, can no longer afford to be entirely absorbed in his or her own art. Instead, the Fletcher School graduate and 22-year president of the famous New York City-based conservatory says artists need to become ambassadors as well and spread the word about the value of the arts to society.

"He has, in every way, made it clear to the people who are studying at Juilliard that it takes more than winning a gold medal and dressing up in a fancy tuxedo and playing a concert," Joel Krosnick, head ofJuilliard’s cello department, explained to The Journal News, which serves Westchester, Rockland and Putnam Counties in New York . "One has to be communicative, literate, intelligent, sympathetic with different kinds of needs of music, and that's really what he's brought: a broader approach. The idea of training to be a musician, just in the abstract — getting very good at playing — is not enough.''

It surely wasn’t enough for Polisi, a longtime bassoonist who decided to study political science as an undergraduate rather than attendingJuilliard or his father’s alma mater, the Curtis Institute of Music. He then earned a master’s degree in international relations from Tufts’ Fletcher School in 1970 before turning his full attention back to music.

"I'm not at all patient with the concept of the self-absorbed artist who needs to be looking within 100 percent of the time in order to create art,” Polisi said to The Journal News. "I think if it ever existed, it shouldn't exist in the 21st century. We've got to heighten that understanding of why the arts are important.”

More than that, though, Polisi told the newspaper that Juilliard graduates need to take the message that the arts are important out into the world.

"Every person, as far as I'm concerned, has some sort of role to play, but certainly as graduates of Juilliard, they really have to be missionaries for the arts in the future, as leaders and as representatives and as effective spokespersons,” he told the newspaper.

During his tenure at Juilliard, Polisi has made several changes to prepare people for this endeavor, according to The Journal News.

“He has added humanities and liberal arts studies to the curriculum, urged the construction of a 352-bed residence hall that mixes students in all disciplines, emphasized community outreach and promoted teaching as an integral part of the artist-in-training experience,” the newspaper reported.

“Teaching is a way of giving back,” Polisi told The Journal News. “I think that’s an extremely important part of the persona of any artist.”

According to Polisi, the artists who graduate from Juilliard, regardless of what they studied, have much to offer back.

"We have actors, dancers and musicians, all of whom are individuals and who function in very different ways, but I can say, quite honestly, that the things they do share are an absolute passion for what they do, total and complete dedication to what they do, an amazing discipline in which they're willing to put in hours and hours of work,'' he told the newspaper. "In other words, they really don't settle for second best. They're always 100 percent there, and I hope (they have) a joy that comes from the whole experience."

 

 

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