L.E. Howell grew up in Harlem and moved to Brooklyn as a young adult, where she has lived ever since. She graduated from Boston University, starting as a classical voice major but switching to broadcast communications in her junior year, and was the first vocalist to earn a master’s degree in jazz from Manhattan School of Music. Before coming to Juilliard, L.E. worked briefly as the artistic administrator at Jazz at Lincoln Center, and also spent several years freelancing as an associate producer and in other capacities.
How long have you worked at Juilliard, and what do you remember about your first day?
I’ve worked at Juilliard for five years and nine months. I recall the “walk around,” where your supervisor would take you to all the different offices and introduce you. I also remember it was Eddie Buggie’s birthday [the former assistant director of residence life], and they had a fun party for him in student affairs.
What job at Juilliard would you like to try out for a day and why?
I’d like to be the artistic director of the jazz program (sorry, Carl, but I’m sure you understand). Having had a long history of working with jazz musicians, both as a performer and an administrator, I’d love to wield power over them again for a day. I guess it’s a bit of the nostalgia factor. But it would also be fun to work with both the musicians and the jazz students.
What is the strangest or most memorable job you’ve ever had and what made it so?
I’ve had plenty of strange jobs and most of them have been memorable, but I guess the strangest was working for Eastern Onion, a singing telegram company. I had to deliver singing telegrams and balloons wearing a tuxedo and gorilla head, hands, and feet.
If out of the blue your boss said to take the day off, what would you do with your free time?
If it was a hot summer day I would go straight to the beach, which is my favorite place in the world. I’ve spent every summer since I was 2 on Martha’s Vineyard, so I always want to be on or in the water. If I couldn’t do that, I’d probably go to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden or one of New York’s fabulous museums.
Do you continue to perform, and if so, how do you balance your job with your artistic endeavors?
I spent a number of years performing as a jazz and R&B singer, and as an actor doing television and theater work. I rarely perform now, so I don’t have difficulty with that balancing act.
What other pursuits are you passionate about?
In the last few years I have developed a passion for interior design and am considering studying it seriously. I am a voracious reader, and I love to spend time with friends and family. I always try to watch something funny before going to bed (usually the Daily Show with Jon Stewart), so that I’ll wake up the next day in a good mood.
What was the best vacation you’ve had and what made that trip so special?
If I had to pick just one, I’d say a Club Med vacation I took to Guaymas, Mexico. It was my first solo vacation and it was great because I could swim and do water sports at almost any hour of the day or night. And I also rode horses almost every day, which I hadn’t done in years. Club Med was wonderful because there were lots of other single people there, and I made friends so easily.
What might people be surprised to know about you?
There are probably so many things! But I guess one of the most surprising is that I do a volunteer weekly radio show at the Jewish Guild for the Blind. The Guild has a closed-circuit radio station for the hearing impaired. My show (which I do with a partner) is called High Style. We read articles from magazines, sharing a little style, gossip, tips, and attitude.
What is your favorite thing about New York City?
Brooklyn—without question! I love it because you really feel like part of a community. It has wonderful, fun places to go (like the Botanic Garden and the Brooklyn Museum) and things to do, but not nearly as many people as in Manhattan and they tend to be very open and friendly.