At the time of The Juilliard School’s foundation in 1905 (as the
Institute of Musical Art), the idea of establishing a music academy
in America which would rival the European conservatories was a novel
one. But Dr. Frank Damrosch, the godson of Franz Liszt and the head of
music education for New York City’s public schools, was convinced that
American musicians should not have to go abroad for their training.
But the Institute is only half the story of what is now known as The
Juilliard School; Augustus D. Juilliard and the Juilliard Graduate School
provide the other half. When Mr. Juilliard, a wealthy textile merchant, died
in 1919, his will contained the largest single bequest for the advancement
of music at that time. In 1924, the trustees of that bequest founded the
Juilliard Graduate School to help worthy music students complete their
education. In 1926, the Graduate School and the Institute of Musical
Art merged as the Juilliard School of Music under one president, the
distinguished Columbia University professor John Erskine, but with
separate deans and identities. In 1937, Ernest Hutcheson succeeded
Erskine as president of the combined institutions.
Composer William Schuman, became president of the combined
schools in 1945. Under his administration, the merger process of the
schools was completed. Schuman established the Dance Division in 1951.
He also established the Juilliard String Quartet in 1946. He resigned in
1961 to become president of the newly constructed Lincoln Center.
Dr. Peter Mennin, another well-known composer, was Schuman’s
successor. In 1968 Mennin created a Drama Division and oversaw the move
of Juilliard to Lincoln Center in 1969. The School changed its name to The
Juilliard School to reflect its broader artistic scope. In 1983, Dr. Joseph W.
Polisi became the School’s sixth and current president. Dr. Polisi’s term at
Juilliard has been a time of vitality for the School, with the establishment
of new student services, alumni programs, a revised curriculum, a new
emphasis on the humanities and liberal arts, and the realization of two major
goals: the completion of its first residence hall — the Meredith Willson
Residence Hall — which opened in 1990, and the establishment of a jazz
program — the Institute for Jazz Studies (a collaboration of The Julliard
School and Jazz at Lincoln Center) — which began in September 2001.