In 1996, Pulitzer Prize-winning authors Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith bequeathed Joye Cottage, their home in Aiken, S.C., to The Juilliard School with the intention of providing a retreat for future generations of Juilliard students, faculty, and alumni. The historic, 60-room mansion, which was formerly owned by New York’s Whitney family, was partly designed by Carrere & Hastings, the architects of the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue, and meticulously restored by Mr. Naifeh and Mr. Smith. It serves as the crown jewel of this famous polo and horse-racing city, where the first Juilliard in Aiken Festival, which took place from March 9 to 13, exemplified the spirit of Southern hospitality, inspiring creativity, magical educational outreach concerts, and artistic renewal.
Musicians from Juilliard first began visiting Aiken in 2003, presenting concerts in the community and the schools. In 2008, Juilliard Jazz spent five days there giving concerts and clinics, and doing outreach. This year’s festival expanded Juilliard’s presence even further by including more student, alumni, and faculty musicians.
The aim of the Juilliard-Aiken partnership is to inspire new generations of audiences and musicians through concerts, classes, and workshops; to give young musicians an opportunity to serve society by reaching economically and ethnically diverse communities; and to provide established professional musicians a chance to recommit themselves to musical education and pursue new directions in their own art. Although Juilliard has an 18-year history of offering educational outreach programs in New York City, the Aiken partnership represents a new direction for the School in outreach and performance.
For the inaugural festival, Christopher Mossey, Juilliard’s associate vice president for artistic and strategic initiatives, and Sandra Field, president of the Juilliard in Aiken Festival, crafted a series of educational outreach concerts, salon concerts, master classes, workshops, and family concerts in multiple venues. Several artists from Juilliard performed throughout the week, which culminated in a featured performance at Aiken’s Washington Center for the Performing Arts.
The week began with a jazz concert and string residency at the Schofield Middle School, where the students prepared daily with Juilliard teaching artists for a side-by-side concert on March 12 with the Biava String Quartet. Claire Bryant (M.M. ’05, cello), one of the teaching artists and a South Carolina native, said: “The final side-by-side concert was a great success, and it proved to be an important moment for these students and their peers who came to the concert.” The feeling on stage was one of great pride and emotion, she said, since the performance was dedicated to one of their classmates—a violist—who had died tragically in an accident some months before. “The concerts were all fantastic, but the experience might have felt incomplete without the work we did in the schools.”
By the end of the five days, more than 400 children and students from underserved areas in Aiken County experienced workshops and concerts in jazz, opera, strings, and brass quintet. There were multiple examples of Juilliard artists and local community members volunteering for the greater good of the arts: Miles Okazaki, a current Juilliard jazz guitar student, helped a young songwriter and violinist from Schofield Middle School write down the melody and lyrics that she had been singing for months. There were tours of the area led by the Aiken Department of Tourism, special lunches and dinners by host families, impromptu performances, and many spirited audience receptions. In addition, special arrangements were made for students from the Governors School for the Arts and Humanities to have a piano master class with Elizabeth Joy Roe (B.M. ’04, M.M. ’06, piano) and a writing workshop with Mr. Naifeh and Mr. Smith.
From the magic of small children dancing in the aisles at the Kid’s Bop jazz family concert on March 10 to the “ladies in fancy hats” at the Joye Cottage lawn concert masterfully presented the next day by the American Brass Quintet, the Juilliard in Aiken Festival united communities that may not have otherwise come together. Jazz student Adam Niewood summed it up cogently: “The week spent in Aiken was exactly what the doctor ordered. Aiken is a beautiful place to retreat and get reinspired. While it was 32 degrees and gray in New York City, to spend a week in balmy 83-degree Aiken was a treat. Running every morning on dirt roads with scenic views of polo fields and champion horses, performing for enthusiastic children at local public schools in the afternoon, practicing in my host family’s home, and dining in mansions with original pieces by Jackson Pollock and Renoir in the evening—the community made sure we all enjoyed ourselves, and got to experience what life in Aiken is all about.”
In the spirit of Southern hospitality, members of the Juilliard in Aiken board presented each artist with a photo journal of the entire festival, including a DVD of concert highlights. Ms. Bryant expressed the sentiment of many of the Juilliard musicians who participated in the festival, saying, “It was a gift to be a part of this new endeavor!”