Mr. Kovner said: “One is always looking for a perfect mix of qualities, and Damian is an unusual mix — but I’m not bothered by it, and our faculty and board was not bothered by the unconventionality of Damian’s background. Because he personally embodies these qualities — these intellectual qualities and these artistic qualities — to a degree that is really unusual.”
Juilliard faces major challenges. It is one of the most prestigious conservatories in the world, and has a huge endowment, but costs continue to rise — tuition and board is now north of $60,000 a year — at a moment when the job prospects for even the best trained artists is murky. Competitors, including the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia and the Yale School of Music, offer free tuition to attract talented students. Juilliard has been working to bring in new revenue streams by developing curriculums for private primary and secondary schools, creating online education products, and by making plans to build the Tianjin Juilliard School in China.
Mr. Woetzel will become president-designate at Juilliard next school year, giving him the chance to work with its outgoing president, Joseph W. Polisi, who transformed the school during his more than three decades there. Mr. Woetzel said he wanted to build on the school’s efforts to prepare a new generation for what he called the “D.I.Y. world,” where they must create their own opportunities.
He said that while he had never been responsible for such a big institution, his recent career — toggling between Aspen and Vail and Harvard — had taught him to balance the needs of different stakeholders. “While it hasn’t been concentrated, I’ve been responsible for such a variety of things at the same time that this is somehow bringing the orchestra together,” he said.
One noted alumnus, the cellist Yo-Yo Ma, called the appointment of Mr. Woetzel “an inspired and thoughtful choice.” The two men worked together on the campaign to bring arts education to Chicago’s public schools, and Mr. Ma said he was a compelling advocate for culture.
Mr. Woetzel’s path to becoming a college president was an unusual one: His father, a professor, had been surprised when he decided to forgo college to dance ballet. Mr. Woetzel recalled a visit from his father to see him take a class at the School of American Ballet. “As we left he said to me, ‘Do you know, it’s a beautiful world that you’re entering,’” he recalled. “And I knew what he was talking about because we were walking by open rooms with music going on, and it was just that art of the possible existing in one place.”