In the fall of 2007, New England Conservatory could proudly acknowledge a new level of eminence among music schools in the United States and abroad. Under the leadership of the late President Daniel Steiner, NEC had fulfilled virtually all the goals of its 2002–2006 Strategic Plan. Major achievements included enhancing the Conservatory’s reputation; attracting a larger and more talented applicant pool through the appointment of high-profile studio faculty in classical, jazz, and Contemporary Improvisation; and boosting the College and Preparatory School’s financial aid levels. In addition, a cutting edge Community Performances and Partnerships program was introduced, along with new training programs and performance opportunities. The undergraduate curriculum was studied and improved to allow for the optimal balance of studio work with liberal arts, history, and theory classes.
The Preparatory School with its enrollment of 1400 students a year continued to be the elite center in the region for pre-college musical training. Its flagship orchestra, the Youth Philharmonic, made regular tours abroad to great acclaim. And the Prep was instrumental in spearheading NEC’s relationship with Venezuela’s El Sistema music program — a partnership that would become increasingly important to the Conservatory.
The final objective — raising $100 million — would be completed in June 2008 when the Gift of Music capital campaign concluded, exceeding its target and bringing in $115 million.
In fall 2007, NEC also had a new, ambitious president, Tony Woodcock, who took over after a year under the interim leadership of President Emeritus Laurence Lesser. An orchestra executive with 30 years experience, Woodcock had previously served as president of the Minnesota Orchestra.
Shortly upon his arrival, Woodcock was presented with a report from the Conservatory’s Strategic Planning Steering Committee. Convened in January 2007 by then-Chair Jack Vernon, the committee was composed of Trustees, faculty, and staff. While stopping short of creating a new Plan, the group offered recommendations for the future.
President Woodcock, believing that a Strategic Plan should emanate from and belong to the entire institution, rather than be the vision of a single person or small group of Trustees, initiated a Conservatory-wide planning process. This procedure would ensure to the greatest extent possible affirmation and commitment across the many constituencies in the school. The resulting Plan would become everyone’s roadmap for the future.
To guide the process, NEC engaged Management Consultants for the Arts. Throughout the year 2008, more than 200 people took part in the planning project — including eight Task Forces (College Faculty, Preparatory/School of Continuing Education Faculty, Facilities, Management Team, Alumni, Students, Community Engagement, Technology Working Group), the several Boards, and numerous individual interview subjects. President Woodcock; Hilary Field Respass, Head of Operations and Institutional Planning; and CFO Edward Lesser provided staff leadership. A committee composed of these three plus Board Chair Stephen Friedlaender and Trustee Frank Wisneski supplied further oversight in later stages of the process.
The groups’ findings, ideas, and recommendations were shared on a regular basis with the Conservatory family. Over the summer and fall, the eight task forces and oversight committee discussed and agreed on the most important priorities from the long list of proposals. Then, finance and development officers built a financial Plan that will cover the cost of implementation.
The Plan for New England Conservatory is the work of many people who passionately love music and NEC, and who gave much time and careful consideration to mapping the future. Thanks to their contributions, the Conservatory can ascend to the next level, always working towards the greater glory of music.