New Staff Members Join the Juilliard Team

Some of the new staff members were able to get together for a photo. Back row: Dani Clifford, Josh Hackett, Doug Bierend, James Varkala, and Joshua Wanger. Front row: Becca Terpenning, Jessica Balk, Felicia Chen, and Jason Howard.

 (Photo by Jeffrey Cuyubamba)

More than a dozen people have joined the staff since last spring. Here’s a chance to get to know some of them better.


Jessica Balk, the assistant to the vice president for development and public affairs, is a recent graduate of Marymount Manhattan College. During her undergraduate career, she studied sociology and art history, and interned at Free Arts NYC, the Jewish Museum, the Museum of Biblical Art and the Rubin Museum. Jessica is originally from Silverdale, Wash.

Doug Bierend joins Publications as The Juilliard Journal’s editorial assistant. Originally from Los Angeles, he spent several years as a music teacher and guitarist before graduating with a degree in journalism and philosophy from California State University Northridge. He has since been splitting his time between playing and teaching guitar, producing freelance videography projects, and writing for outlets like Wired and Singularity Hub with an emphasis on science, culture, and the arts. Otherwise, he enjoys cooking elaborate vegan meals, riding his bike, and taking advantage of New York’s incredible potential for new experiences and meeting new people.

Felicia Chen, the new contributions coordinator for Development and Public Affairs, is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley (go Bears!). She and her husband were raised in the San Francisco Bay Area and resided in Berkeley until October 2012, when they embarked on a cross-country road trip. After drinking copious amounts of coffee and craft beer in the Pacific Northwest, stalking bison and elk in Yellowstone, and stomping around in the East Coast fall foliage, they settled on the Upper West Side. A soprano who has an affinity for historical performance, German lieder, and new music, Felicia performs at early-music festivals and was recently awarded the Alfred Hertz Memorial Traveling scholarship to further her studies in 20th- to 21st-century repertoire. In 2014, she will be premiering a new work for soprano and 12 cellos.

Dani Clifford has joined the electrics department as master electrician of the Willson Theater. She has worked as a production electrician at various venues including the Roundabout and Atlantic theaters, the Williamstown Theater Festival, and New York Stage and Film, where she was also the electrics supervisor for two seasons. She has also served as lighting designer for the Humana Festival of New American plays at Actors Theater of Louisville and worked on several shows for both the Universes and American Record theater companies. She graduated with a degree in marine science from Wittenberg University and enjoys getting out of the theater to scuba dive and kayak. 

Josh Hackett has joined the Props Department as the new assistant properties master. His prior experience has included freelancing on and off Broadway, including doing work for Propstar, Paper Mâché Monkey, the Public Theater, and the Williamstown Theater Festival. He received a B.F.A. from Penn State University in technical theater.

Paula Holmwood, the new costume shop manager, earned her bachelor’s in financial services from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, while performing in Cirque du Soleil’s O, after which she became the assistant to the aquatic choreographer and team captain for Le Rêve—The Dream. In 2010, she transitioned from the performing to the business world, becoming the coordinator for the client service analytics department at Bridgewater Associates. Since 2012, she and her husband have been traveling and working on various projects including creating business systems for a start-up tech company, choreographing aboard Royal Caribbean Cruise Line’s Oasis of the Seas, and teaching AntiGravity Yoga. She is excited to join the team at Juilliard and to blend her interests in business and the arts.

Merrin Lazyan has joined the Drama Division as assistant to the director. A New York City native, she earned an undergraduate degree in psychology from Harvard University and a graduate degree in vocal performance from the Royal College of Music in London. She spent five years living in the United Kingdom working as a classical singer and a freelance writer and editor. Upon returning to New York, she worked at Random House before finding her way back to the arts world. In her spare time, she enjoys being outdoors, in theaters, onstage, in bakeries, or dwarfed by brimming shelves of books.

Becca Terpenning is happy to join the Juilliard production staff as a carpenter. Originally from Boulder, Colo., she is a recent graduate of the B.F.A. technical theater program at Ithaca College. She spent the past year freelancing at Off Broadway theaters, mainly the Public as a carpenter and the Signature as an assistant technical director.

Lead carpenter James Varkala is thrilled to be back in New York City. In 2009, he left to work at the Utah Shakespeare Festival year-round, and he became its scenery director, serving in that capacity until 2011. After returning to the East Coast to work as a carpenter at Goodspeed Musicals in Connecticut, James joined the Juilliard team in August. With more than 13 years of professional experience in technical theater and work on countless performances and events, he is looking forward to the passion and excitement that the students and his new colleagues bring to the Juilliard stages.

Joshua Wanger, the new library technical services assistant, is a graduate of Westminster Choir College with a degree in vocal performance. Growing up as a Navy brat, he lived in seven states and moved to New York City this summer. His main interests are performance, theater, and gourmet cooking.

Also new to the staff are Jason Howard, who is the Information Technology coordinator, and Monica Thakkar, a new graduate of Juilliard’s professional intern program, who is the Vocal Arts projects administrator for curriculum and outreach.

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