In fulfilling its mission and living by its core values, NEC’s course direction is articulated in the following bold vision statement of its future.
The time is the future as we contemplate the celebrations of our 150th Anniversary in 2017…
New England Conservatory has become the very heart of a rich musical life in Boston and beyond. Always esteemed within the musical community, the school is now renowned as one of the preeminent music schools in the world, preparing gifted, versatile young musical artists capable of creating career opportunities for themselves and embracing our diverse communities in the experience of music. Through the Conservatory’s work, its College, Preparatory School, School of Continuing Education, Summer School, its powerful community engagement activities, and its partnerships with many organizations, the city has been transformed into a place where the world’s greatest music is a source of personal joy for our citizens. Music schools and cities from around the world look to us as a model.
The Student Experience
At NEC, the student experience is of paramount importance. At its core is the student/teacher relationship, in which gifted faculty pass on the knowledge and technique acquired over a lifetime. This is the necessary foundation for all musical training. To preserve the warmth and closeness of the studio relationship on the College level, we have continued to cap enrollment at 720 full-time tuition equivalent students (FTTE).
We are able to attract the most gifted young musicians, both in the College and Preparatory School, not only because of our stellar faculty, but because we have the capacity to better support their education with financial aid thanks to our enhanced endowment. We are also able to recruit more young musicians not only from the United States, but also from mainland China, Venezuela, and other nations where there is outstanding talent but also great financial need. Through this increased financial aid, we can help gifted young people from a variety of ethnic, national, and socioeconomic groups receive the musical training they need.
As a student-centric conservatory, developing our students’ artistry — whether as instrumentalists, singers, or composers — is, of course, our first priority. It is the warmth, intimacy, and support of the studio faculty that allows this joyful responsibility to come to fruition. What’s more, this nurturing by mature artists gives our students the confidence to experiment, to explore the most contemporary edge of their creativity, should they so desire. Indeed, the same collaborative support also defines our faculty relationships and the resulting collegiality and respect for individual teaching styles help us attract and retain one of the most distinguished faculties in the world.
Along with their work in the studio, our College students feed their artistry with a carefully balanced selection of liberal arts, theory, and music history courses that nourish their intellects and offer context for their musical work. And we are particularly proud of our new Professional Development Training program, which gives musicians the tools to go out into the world and make gratifying musical lives for themselves. Whether it’s the performing, teaching, coaching, and mentoring they do with the Community Performances and Partnerships department, their work with NEC’s El Sistema/Boston after-school music education initiative, or the Create-a-Company practicums in which they collaborate with fellow students to launch cutting-edge artistic initiatives, our students possess a broad range of skills that will serve them well as professionals. We have also enlisted our alumni around the country and the world, who serve as models and mentors. They come to NEC to talk about the challenges facing newly fledged professional musicians and they facilitate introductions and auditions and sometimes offer jobs to our new graduates.
On the Road
Now, in 2017, with such spectacular students and with our extraordinary orchestral program, we are able to take our flagship Philharmonia and Chamber Orchestra on tour, complementing existing touring programs by such Preparatory School ensembles as the Youth Philharmonic Orchestra and Youth Symphony. Indeed, there is now a creative synergy between the College’s orchestral program and the Preparatory School’s orchestral training. We perform frequently at Carnegie Hall, have made a West Coast tour, and will shortly take the Philharmonia to Asia. Wherever we go, our alumni groups turn out to spread the word, “cheer on the troops,” throw generous receptions, and contribute to their alma mater. Potential applicants also attend these concerts, thereby having the opportunity to see and hear first-hand what their experience at NEC could be and giving them encouragement to pursue their studies at the Conservatory.
Just as our orchestras have been touring, several of our smaller ensembles and soloists are going on the road. Groups from our Professional String Quartet Training Program and Professional Piano Trio Training Program, for example, have toured throughout New England and the West Coast as well as internationally in Asia. Our Artist Diploma students are regularly featured on Celebrity Series of Boston concerts and they, along with our Honors Ensembles, perform frequently in New York at high-profile venues like Zankel Hall at Carnegie. Our Honors jazz and Contemporary Improvisation ensembles, as well as the Preparatory School’s Youth Jazz Orchestra, have also traveled to Europe, Latin America, and Israel, where we continue to attract many gifted students and where our alumni base is growing. With luck, the latest Grammy-nominated recording by our jazz students — a disc recorded and edited in our new recording studio — will win an Award this year, and our young musicians will enter the Grammy-winning pantheon already occupied by numerous NEC faculty and alumni. NEC recordings continue to generate additional revenue streams by selling well throughout the world, via the Web and satellite radio licensing.
As we anticipate NEC’s 150th Anniversary, our opera program is now the envy of our peers. We present three productions a year and choose more works from the standard repertory. This is the result of several developments: our tremendously talented singers, scholarship support, and the opportunities students have to perform, including with professional companies in Boston. Our dedicated opera center with black box performance space allows us more time for rehearsals and productions. We also have been sending our singers on run-out concerts throughout the New England region, where they perform scenes for audiences that might not come in to Boston. To our delight, we’ve found that these previews have whetted the appetite of listeners for more; attendance at our staged productions has soared.
Whether instrumental or vocal majors, our students have also benefited from the many partnerships the Conservatory has established with the great teaching and performing institutions. Our long-term joint degree programs with Tufts University and Harvard University have produced a select group of gifted musicians who are also serious scholars. Our young artists’ programs created with Opera Boston and Boston Lyric Opera offer our voice majors opportunities to sing small roles and cover large ones in a professional setting. Our relationship with the Boston Symphony Orchestra — a constant since the Conservatory’s earliest days — is closer than ever, as evidenced by the Music Director’s annual residencies at NEC to rehearse, coach, and conduct our orchestras. We have even developed collaborations with our rental organizations, operating on the assumption that any outside performing group using Jordan Hall is a partner.
As it has been for several decades, the Preparatory School in 2017 continues to be the elite training program for elementary and high school student musicians in the New England region. Combined with the NEC at Walnut Hill music program (which attracts many international students), it is a giant engine for developing and nurturing talent at all levels. It makes a significant impact on the musical life of Boston, the region, and the world.
Not only do thousands of students take lessons and classes and participate in ensembles at NEC’s main campus, but they have also had the option to study at the several satellite campuses established in the last decade. The Preparatory School ’s many partnerships ranging from Project STEP to the Conservatory Lab Charter School, from El Sistema in Venezuela to the Youth Orchestra of the Americas, demonstrate a vitality and relevance for music as an art form and as a vehicle for social change. The rich symbiosis between the Preparatory School and the College has generated new energy and creativity that has nourished NEC as a whole.
Similarly, the School of Continuing Education has enlarged its scope, following the model of the most successful lifelong learning organizations, and is now attracting a wide range of students, from music professionals to amateurs to adult learners eager to know about music. As a result, the school is generating significant surpluses to the bottom line and NEC’s reputation as a musical education destination for learners of all ages throughout the region is clearly on the rise.
Our beautiful redeveloped campus is an attraction in its own right. The handsome new performance venues — which augment historic Jordan Hall, Williams, and Brown Halls — allow us much more space and versatility for concerts ranging from student recitals to chamber music to orchestra programs. They also alleviate scheduling pressures on the Preparatory School. Our jazz club, at 295 Huntington Avenue, with its custom-tailored acoustics, has become an oasis for jazz performance and Contemporary Improvisation in the city, and it attracts jazz buffs from all over New England.
Increased numbers of practice rooms, many equipped with new pianos, some augmented with computerized concerto accompaniment capabilities, and all of them climate-controlled to protect the instruments, make it easier for students to spend the time they need mastering their art. Similarly, faculty members have improved studio facilities, allowing everyone a more personal connection to NEC, and enhancing the student-faculty relationship. The new residence hall is spacious and comfortable and offers practice space, student lounges, a first-rate dining hall, community center, air conditioning, and state-of-the-art Internet connectivity, thus enhancing student life. The new Library has reunited the listening and reference sections and it, too, features state-of-the-art electronic, computer, and Internet capabilities. We’ve also been able to multiply the studio, office, and practice space many times over, so our expanded Preparatory School and School of Continuing Education are enrolling increased numbers of students and generating additional income. The use of technology has been embraced within and throughout the Institution, exceeding student expectations, and providing faculty with innovative ways to foster an increasingly productive learning environment.
Strong, Secure, and Vital
The spectacular growth of NEC over the last decade has been fueled by an institution-wide planning/accounting rigor that has allowed the Conservatory to become financially self-sufficient. This has complemented extraordinary development efforts that have enlarged our endowment and Annual Fund so we are better able to compete with our fellow conservatories and music schools across the US. As always, our staff — many of whom are musicians, all of whom are music lovers — provides extraordinary talent, leadership, and commitment to the training of young musicians.
Surveying this strong, secure, and vital institution in 2017, the Conservatory family can feel enormously proud that NEC is producing musical leaders at all levels who are helping change the world through the power of music.