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Juilliard School Celebrates 100 Years of Training Artists

One of the world's most celebrated training grounds for performing artists is marking its centennial. The Juilliard School is commemorating its 100th year with a series of international and national tours.

The names of students and teachers who have passed through the halls of Juillard during its first 100 years are awe-inspiring. The list includes Broadway and movie composers Richard Rodgers and Marvin Hamlisch, jazz impresario Wynton Marsalis, contemporary avant-garde composer Steve Reich, comic genius Robin Williams, violinist Itzhak Perlman and opera legend Leontyne Price.

Juilliard's president, Joseph Polisi says the school has been showcasing extraordinary talent since it first opened its doors in 1905.

"We are continuing to do everything possible to ensure a healthy future for the arts and to educate our young people, not only in their respective disciplines, but also as responsible citizens, people who will reach out and be effective representatives for arts in their communities in this nation and around the world," he said.

The school was founded as the Institute for Musical Arts by the head of music education in New York's public schools, Frank Damrosch. He believed Americans should not have to go abroad for high quality musical training. The school grew rapidly. Today Juilliard includes dance and drama divisions, the Institute for Jazz Studies, a pre-college division and a graduate program.

Benjamin Harkarvy, the late artistic director of Juilliard's dance division, once summed up the school's role in the contemporary world of the performing arts this way.

"Juilliard is the bridge from the studio to the stage," he said. "It is very difficult to become and artist and we are not afraid to use the word artist at Juilliard."

Today, Juilliard attracts students from every corner of the globe. To highlight its international reputation and student body, Juilliard students will perform abroad and at home throughout the centennial year, starting with a European tour for The Juilliard Orchestra in August. The Jazz Orchestra will undertake a weeklong program in San Jose, Costa Rica. Students in drama, dance and music will perform at locations across the United States.

Joseph Polisi says the touring schedule will add special excitement and meaning to the centennial year.

"Touring allows us to give back something artistically to areas that have provided the early training to young artists who have come to study at Juilliard," he said. "It also provides our current students with the invaluable experience of performing in exceptional concert halls and theaters."

Julliard has commissioned 37 new works for dance, drama and music for the centennial season. Renee Fleming, Leontyne Price and Emanuel Axe will perform on a nationwide telecast celebrating the school's centennial. A one-day forum "The Arts and American Society" in September will feature speakers as diverse as historian David McCullough and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

The dance division will debut a new ballet choreographed by Eliot Feld, which will use the entire student body of 80 dancers. The dance is set to music composed by one of the school's most celebrated contemporary alumni, Steve Reich.

During its first half century, Juilliard was known for its classically trained musicians. But today competition is fierce to join its dance and drama divisions. Those who make it, like dance student Tueree Shard, are amazed at the rigorous training.

"They told me from the beginning that it would be from nine-to-nine. I thought nine-to-nine every day? It is impossible. But when you get here, that is really how it is," she said.

In recent years, the success of students from its drama division on Broadway and in the movies has added to the lure of Juilliard. Stars such as Laura Linney are proud to have begun their careers at Juilliard.

"Juilliard is Juilliard. There is a grand, solid, Rock of Gibraltar feel to it. But then you get here and you realize that it is just a lot of people working very hard," said Ms. Linney.

Some of the school's most illustrious graduates return to teach or mentor current students. Drama student Morena Baccarin was particularly lucky to have taken a class with award winning actor Kevin Kline.

"I am lucky to be in this atmosphere where every single actor wants to become an actor," she said. "Kevin Kline has taught two classes. It was interesting to see his opinion on Richard III, in a scene violent and physical.

Heaven with lightning strike the murderer dead or I…

"But he felt that was not the way to go about it," Ms. Baccarin said.

"Anger, I have always found that anger is the easiest place to go," Kline said. "When you feel like nothing is happening, let's get some emotion in here. Anger because you are angry that nothing is happening. You are angry because it is not working. If you can trust confusion as being a valid emotional state then you will be where you are an something can happen."

"The risks we take here eventually build up to a point where we don't feel we are taking risks anymore," Ms. Baccarin said.

Juilliard will end its centennial celebration at the school's 101st commencement in May 2006, when the school sends out yet another class of artists, eager to take over the stages of the world's performing arts centers.