British-born Tony Woodcock became president of New England Conservatory in June 2007. In April 2012, the NEC Board of Trustees extended his contract for another five years, praising his accomplishments including advancing plans set in motion by his predecessor Daniel Steiner and initiating a wide-ranging, progressive program that includes a transformative campus redevelopment. “The Board’s decision to renew his contract speaks volumes about what we think his worth is and how much we value his vision and operational expertise,” said Board Chair Frank Wisneski. "We are very fortunate to have Tony in charge for at least five more years."
Trained as a violinist, Woodcock came to NEC after a career as an orchestra manager widely respected for revitalizing the financial performance and artistic leadership of symphony orchestras in England and the United States. Most recently president of the Minnesota Orchestra, Woodcock switched gears to take his first higher education position with the NEC presidency.
From the earliest days of his tenure, he, in concert with the Board of Trustees, set in motion an ambitious program. NEC has moved forward with the following initiatives:
- A new Strategic Plan that involved every constituency of the school in its creation.
- Successful completion of the seven-year $100 million capital campaign in June 2008 with a final total of $115 million. Also successful fundraising for several important new programs, including a $5 million gift from the Calderwood Charitable Foundation that endows the Stanford and Norma Jean Calderwood Director of Orchestras chair occupied by Hugh Wolff.
- A $20 million deferred maintenance construction project, funded by tax exempt bonds, that served to secure and protect the Conservatory's most important assets—its buildings.
- Development of a formal campus master plan to address the facility needs of a 21st century music school. That plan was submitted to the Boston Redevelopment Authority's Article 80 zoning permit process in January 2012.
- A new more transparent governing style, with a more inclusive management team that meets regularly and distributes its minutes among the NEC community.
- Meetings with education heads, government leaders, music school directors, arts presenters, media and business leaders, seeking out opportunities for partnerships and collaboration. These meetings have resulted in new or enhanced relationships with Opera Boston, Boston Children's Chorus, the City of Boston, the Massachusetts Cultural Council and other organizations.
- A revamped orchestral program intended to make it one of the signature assets of the Conservatory, with internationally renowned conductor Hugh Wolff, the Standford and Norma Jean Calderwood Director of Orchestras, appointed to lead it. In conjunction with this, a new orchestral conducting program debuted in fall 2009 with two outstanding young graduate-level conductors and a lab orchestra. One of the graduates from that first class, Joshua Weilerstein, is currently serving as Assistant Conductor of the New York Philharmonic. Also, David Loebel, who previously served as music director of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra, joined the faculty as Associate Director of Orchestras.
- An enhanced opera and voice program to significantly raise the profile of NEC in this important musical area. Following the conclusions of a thorough study on how to take the programs to the next level of eminence, an Artist Diploma in Opera was created in fall 2009 in conjunction with Opera Boston. Conductor Stephen Lord, former music director of Boston Lyric Opera and "one of the 25 most powerful names in opera," according to Opera News Magazine, came on board as Artistic Advisor of Opera Studies. Mezzo-soprano Luretta Bybee was named Chair of Vocal Arts and stage director Joshua Major was appointed chair of Opera Studies.
- Several high profile projects including the fall 2011 Mahler Unleashed festival that brought together all NEC constituencies to take part in more than 20 events celebrating the centennial of the great composer's death. Also, an April 2010 Symphony Hall concert by the NEC Philharmonia and Hugh Wolff; the two weeklong celebrations Hot and Cool: 40 Years of Jazz Studies at NEC in Boston in October 2009 and in New York City in March 2010; the three-week residency of the Youth Orchestra of the Americas in July 2009; the 2007 visit to Boston by the Símon Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela with its sold-out concert at Symphony Hall and day-long residency at NEC.
- Design and creation of a new Entrepreneurial Musicianship program, which debuted in 2010, to help NEC students acquire the professional skills they will need in their careers.
- A 2008 study tour by prominent arts, education, government, and community leaders to Venezuela to observe the El Sistema music education program in the hope of finding a way to replicate it in the U.S. With Woodcock's encouragement, the Conservatory has expanded its relationship to El Sistema. The Conservatory now serves as the home of The Sistema Fellows Program at NEC, which trains young leaders to direct El Sistema centers or "nucleos." Graduates of the first two classes are now doing important work in the field from Atlanta to Juneau, from Durham, NC to Philadelphia and New York City, from Los Angeles to the Massachusetts Berkshires. President Woodcock also joined Eduardo Méndez, Executive Director of Venezuela's Fundacíon Musical Símon Bolívar (the institutional home of El Sistema) in signing a new Friendship Agreement in spring 2012 to affirm the share ideals and aspirations of the two institutions.
- Creation of a new Strategic Plan for the Preparatory School and School of Continuing Education with the intention of better serving all the various constituencies eager to study music.
President Woodcock grew up in the Middle East, England, and Wales, where he studied music at University College, Cardiff. After leaving the university, Woodcock took positions with regional music promoters, and later ran the newly opened St. David's Hall, the National Concert Hall and Conference Centre of Wales.
Before coming to the United States, Woodcock held top positions with the City of London Sinfonia/Richard Hickox Singers, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. In Liverpool, he played a significant role in planning the 150th anniversary and commissioned Paul McCartney to write his first-ever classical piece, The Liverpool Oratorio.
Woodcock came to the US in 1998, when he was invited to take over the Oregon Symphony. He remained in that position until 2003, when he became President of the Minnesota Orchestra.
Deeply committed to education, Woodcock led the Minnesota Orchestra to win back-to-back ASCAP Leonard Bernstein Awards for Excellence in Educational Programming and secured underwriting to make the orchestra’s popular family series admission-free.
A self-styled "recovering Brit," Woodcock took steps to permanently cure his condition. In summer 2009, he and his wife Virginia were sworn in as American citizens.