As Daniel Wakin reported today in the NY Times, Alan Gilbert has been announced as the incoming Director of Conducting and Orchestral Studies at the Juilliard School. He replaces James DePriest, who will remain on the faculty as Principal Conductor and Director Emeritus. Gilbert will also get some help from James Ross (currently at the University of Maryland), who will serve as his assistant, providing a “more permanent presence” than that of a frequently touring maestro.
Gilbert plans to integrate his work at the New York Philharmonic, where he assumed the post of Music Director in 2009, with his teaching duties at Juilliard. According to the Times article, he will require conducting students to attend rehearsals and will allow them opportunities to meet with members of the orchestra and undertake internships at the Philharmonic.
I’m of two minds about this. I think it will be a tremendous opportunity for Juilliard students, both conducting and performance majors. Gilbert has already shaken things up at the Phil, frequently in ways that have benefited contemporary music. Juilliard may grow in as yet unforeseeable ways as a result of Gilbert’s energetic presence and vision.
On the other hand, as we’ve seen recently with James Levine’s experiences at the Boston Symphony and the Metropolitan Opera, spreading oneself too thin can create problems at both of one’s organizations. While conductors routinely juggle multiple appointments, both of these are high profile and demanding positions. I’m not saying Gilbert can’t manage them, but it’s at least cause for concern. Also, I’d imagine that aspiring orchestra musicians attending graduate school at NEC, Eastman, and other major conservatories are gnashing their teeth at what they may perceive to be too cozy a relationship going on at Lincoln Center.