Juilliard’s 110th graduation ceremony takes place on May 22, and acclaimed British director Nicholas Hytner will give the commencement address. Hytner will also be one of five honorary degree recipients, along with Suzanne Farrell, Murray Perahia, Dianne Reeves, and Peter Sellars.
Suzanne Farrell had a fabulous career with the New York City Ballet as George Balanchine’s muse, dancing an unprecedented repertory of more than 100 ballets during her 28 years with the company. Since retiring from the stage, in 1989, she has had an equally impressive career as artistic director of her own company and a repetiteur for the George Balanchine Trust, staging his works for some of the world’s most distinguished ballet companies. Farrell, who has been the Francis Eppes Professor of Dance at Florida State University in Tallahassee since 2000, will receive an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree.
“When one viewed the dancing of Suzanne Farrell, it was easy to see why she was adored by George Balanchine and why she became one of his most important muses,” said Lawrence Rhodes, the artistic director of the Dance Division. “Her physical proportions were ideal, and she always had energy that appeared to be inexhaustible. I wasn’t alone in wondering if Ms. Farrell ever sweat! Above all, she was incredibly musical and the music seemed to emanate from her personal being. This of course coincided with the musical genius of Balanchine.”
When theater, film, and opera director Nicholas Hytner visited Juilliard in 2011, he gave a two-hour workshop in which “he brought his love and expertise for Shakespeare to our students, but more than that, he brought his vision for what theater can be and who it can reach,” recalled James Houghton, the Richard Rodgers Director of the Drama Division.
Hytner, who has recently stepped down after a storied 12 years as the artistic director of London’s Royal National Theatre, will receive an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree. His work is inspired by his belief in an expanded idea of theater—going beyond traditional plays, it encompasses dance, music, and physical theater. He also took the time when he was here in 2011 to lead one of the Drama Division’s weekly community meetings and “he distinguished himself as a true advocate for diversity and accessibility in theater,” Houghton said. “We were honored to have him here in 2011 and we are delighted to celebrate his achievements at this year’s commencement.”
Multiple Grammy and Gramophone Award winner Murray Perahia will receive an honorary Doctor of Music degree. He has performed as a pianist in all the major international music centers and with every leading orchestra, and since 2000, he’s been principal guest conductor of the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, with which he has toured the world as conductor and pianist. Perahia’s extensive discography includes albums of Bach’s English Suites and “Goldberg” Variations, concertos by Mozart and Beethoven, and Chopin’s complete Etudes.
“Murray Perahia has been an iconic figure in the music world for decades, embodying musical values and traditions that are sacred to all musicians,” said Yoheved Kaplinsky (Pre-College ’64; B.M. ’68, M.S. ’69, D.M.A. ’73, piano), the piano department chair and the artistic director of Pre-College. Perahia has appeared at Juilliard a number of times to share his musical knowledge and ideas with the students, occasions that Kaplinsky described as “memorable and inspiring. He has been spending more and more time educating young pianists and passing on his legacy, so it’s more than appropriate that he is given this honor by the school. We are all looking forward to his continuing presence here in future years.”
Dianne Reeves’s unique jazz and R&B stylings have made her one of the world’s pre-eminent jazz vocalists. In 2000, 2001, and 2003, she won Grammys for best jazz vocal performance for three consecutive recordings—a first in any vocal category—and this year won her fifth Grammy for her latest album, Beautiful Life. Other firsts for Reeves include first Creative Chair for Jazz for the Los Angeles Philharmonic and first singer ever to perform at the Walt Disney Concert Hall.
Juilliard Jazz director Wynton Marsalis (’81, trumpet)—who, with his Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, has performed and recorded with Reeves—called her “the standard bearer of a rich and honored tradition of great vocalists in jazz that includes Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, and Betty Carter.” Marsalis continued, “Her artistry and humanity are a sterling example to our students and are certainly worthy of this recognition. In fact, we honor ourselves by honoring Dianne Reeves.”
When opera, theater, and festival director Peter Sellars received his MacArthur Fellowship in 1983, he was only 26, but in granting the so-called “genius” award, the committee cited the influence of European avant-garde drama, Symbolism, Futurism, Constructivism, Cubism, Expressionism, Dadaism, and Surrealism in his work. In the ensuing decades, he has continued to produce groundbreaking interpretations of classic works and pioneered the creation of new work, particularly with longtime collaborator John Adams (honorary degree ’11). Most recently, his new production of Purcell’s Indian Queen at the English National Opera won accolades. It starred Artist Diploma candidate Julia Bullock in the title role as well as tenor Noah Stewart (B.M. ’01, voice). Sellars, who will receive an honorary Doctor of Music from Juilliard, is a professor in the department of world arts and cultures at U.C.L.A. and resident curator of the Telluride Film Festival.
“I’ve known Peter Sellars’s work since the beginning of his career, when we both studied at Phillips Academy, Andover, and Harvard,” said Brian Zeger (M.M. ’83, piano), the artistic director of the Marcus Institute for Vocal Arts. “Even from those early years his work was adventurous, challenging, and original. His artistry is informed by a deep sense of social responsibility and deep spiritual reflection. In recent years he has cast a number of Juilliard singers in his productions. How lucky they are.”