Sarah Johnson Brings New Musical Perspectives to Carnegie Hall
Only eight months into her new job as Director of The Weill Music Institute at Carnegie Hall (WMI), Sarah Johnson, full of energy and excitement about implementing plans for the 2008-9 season—“I wish I could say more right now but…” nonetheless, waiting for final decisions to be made, is eager at least to identify now some areas of interest. “Teaser” information includes advancing education initiatives, moving on strengthening community connections in all five boroughs, as well as NJ and Westchester County, and developing creative, skills-based and integrated sequential curricula for grades K-12. Future seasons will also see programs that will bring together more educators for discussions at Carnegie Hall and ensure that their efforts are recognized.
On the very mid-December day Education Update caught up with Ms. Johnson, The New York Times announced that from September 24 to December 13, Carnegie Hall and The New York Philharmonic will present a series of 30 concerts, film screenings, panel discussions and other events to observe the 90th birthday of Leonard Bernstein and the 50th anniversary of his appointment as the orchestra’s music director. Central in these festivities will be Marin Alsop’s direction of student choruses performing alongside the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, in October, in a presentation of Bernstein’s “Mass” at The United Palace Theater in Washington Heights. An educational project connected with this spectacular event, Ms. Johnson notes, will include middle school and high school students performing pieces they have created in response to themes about the “Mass” and excerpts of the “mass” at Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall.
Of course, plans for WMI also extend to renovation of the physical layout. The studio towers, Ms. Johnson says, will undergo renovation that will allow WMI to bring all of its programs under one roof, as well as provide greater opportunity for artists to interact with students and audiences. There will also be more rehearsal space and practice rooms that will give greater presence to young, emerging musicians involved in the year-old Academy Program, a collaboration between Carnegie Hall, The Juilliard School and WMI, in partnership with the New York City Department of Education. What an extraordinary association! Dedicated to serving recent postgraduate musicians interested in arts education and community outreach, this two-year fellowship initiative provides recent graduates with performance opportunities, advanced musical training, and intensive teaching instruction and experience. The graduates, who give performances at Carnegie Hall and Juilliard, and at other concert halls in NYC and NYS, hail from some of the most prestigious musical institutions in the country, including The Curtis Institute of Music, Eastman School of Music, New England Conservatory, San Francisco Conservatory, Stony Brook University, and Yale School of Music.
While the Academy Program is a great opportunity for these new artists-in-residence at Carnegie Hall, it is also a boon for NYC public school students who are able to meet Academy Fellows coming to their school for one and a half days a week, for 24 weeks, to work alongside school music teachers. Here, Ms. Johnson hopes, they will work with music and classroom teachers to contribute to the making of a new generation of music lovers and concert attendees, not to mention the making of a new generation of professional musicians who are equipped with a broad range of skills and dedicated to creating cultural change by inspiring a sense of the importance of supporting classical music. Such hopes come naturally to Ms. Johnson, who has a bachelor’s and master’s degree in oboe from Juilliard, and is a founding member of Ariel Winds, a quintet dedicated to educational outreach. Before coming to WMI, she served as Director of Education and Community Partnerships at The Philadelphia Orchestra and as Program Associate for educational outreach at the 92nd Street Y, not to mention many other related positions where she was and continues to be a key player in education awareness programs locally, nationally and abroad.#