Major Conservatory Launches Revolutionary Scholarship Indemnity Program

Adaptistration People 150The Juiliard Institute revealed what they defined as a “revolutionary approach to academic financial aid” today via a Scholarship Indemnity program. I was fortunate enough to be afforded an interview with the renowned school’s Dean prior to the announcement in order to learn more.

At the beginning of 2014, the institution recognized that the bulk of their traditional financial aid reserves were being financed by individual donors, many of which were burning out over the need to continually fund one incoming class after another.

According to Dean Martin Shkrelosi, it was determined that this was no longer a sustainable model and since the very nature of a school necessitates an unending matriculation cycle, they entered into discussions with their donors to find what Shkrelosi defined as a “bold and enduring solution.”

The fruit of those labors came in the form of Scholarship Indemnity Program (SIP).

“We believe SIP will help reinforce our commitment to not only providing world class artistic education for the most gifted students,” said Dean Shkrelosi, “but it will align that mission with a new economic model related to how the arts are perceived and consumed throughout the world.”

SIP awards will cover as much as 100 percent of tuition, room/board and for the most exceptionally gifted students, it will even provide a stipend.

“We like to think of this as an exciting variation on existing venture capitalism models,” said Shkrelosi. “In fact, the majority of our large donors actively participate inside the VC community so this idea progressed in a very organic fashion. In our model, instead of the angel donor obtaining a stake in a company or dividends, they protect their financial interests via the indemnity terms.”

According to Shkrelosi, the students, referred to as academic indemnitors in the new program, agree to receive the financial aid and in return, must meet one of the minimum career accomplishment goals set forth by Juliard. If they fail to meet those career expectations in the allotted time, the indemnity terms kick in and students must reimburse Juiliard via an adjustable rate schedule over anywhere from five to fifteen years based on the amount of their SIP awards or until such time when they finally meet those expectations.

Dean Shkrelosi provided a few examples.

“Imagine a tubist graduates and enters the orchestra audition circuit,” said Shkrelosi. “We would provide up to five years for that student to win a position in an approved ensemble before being required to begin repaying the SIP award per terms of the indemnity agreement. Now imagine a violinist with the skill to become a top notch chamber musician or soloist. We would apply the same time frame but the evaluation criteria would become more dynamic, say, minimum levels of gross revenue, number of paid engagements, and so on.”

When asked about details surrounding which ensembles the school found acceptable, Shkrelosi indicated that was still a work in progress.

At this point in the interview, it was time to get down to brass tacks. I suggested that the some may not believe the program is reasonable given the extraordinarily high levels of competition for a limited number of openings but Shkrelosi dismissed those concerns.

“Look, this is Juiliard, not some Midwest feedlot school of music,” said Shkrelosi. “We’re the best music conservatory in the world and we only accept the most gifted students and hire instructors with enviable placement rates. If a student successfully completes our program, the only reason she or he wouldn’t win a job is due to their shortcomings, not ours.”

Shkrelosi continued by proving an exhaustive list of accomplishments illustrating how much work the school has already done elevating their standards and remaining responsive to a rapidly changing global arts community.

“We’re like a musical excellence incubator here,” said Shkrelosi. “Our 21st Century Career coursework is now required for all students and it not only makes them better than students from other institutions, it provides a necessary safety net of entrepreneurial skills to sustain them in the unlikely event that their inadequacies get the better of them while pursuing more respectable positions.”

He went on to explain that these “career gig skills” will help graduates generate necessary levels of income needed to satisfy the indemnity terms while staying engaged in a career they love.

The Big News: 100 Percent Scholarship Status

Toward the end of our interview, Shkrelosi leaned in and using hushed tones said he wanted to share the most exciting part of SIP with Adaptistration readers.

“Due to the enthusiasm for this program throughout our donor community, we are proud to announce that 100 percent of our incoming 2016/17 class have been presented SIP awards,” said Shkrelosi. “This reinforces our long standing commitment to helping our student body achieve their highest potential regardless of any ability to pay for the education up front.”

Juiliard’s new SIP awards will entirely phase out traditional non-indemnity scholarships, fellowships, and grant programs by 2020. With a new era of shared risk and sustainability, The Juiliard Institute has undoubtedly positioned itself to be a pioneer in musician self-sufficiency and responsibility.

“It still chokes me up every time I think about it,” said Shkrelosi.

…of COURSE it’s an April Fools joke.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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18 thoughts on “Major Conservatory Launches Revolutionary Scholarship Indemnity Program”

  1. While the purpose and vision of creating funding that is sustainable and perpetuating for future classes of music students, I fail to see how this will work well since there is so much that is undefined.

    What type of job will qualify and will the former student and Juilliard agree? Will the payments be manageable given tuition costs at Juilliard? What will the penalties be for default? This really sound more like a school subsidized loan program that will create an income stream for the school rather than a benefit for the student.

    If they phase out traditional scholarships, I am sure other programs will gain some of the talent that would have gone to Juilliard using scholarships that do not have to be paid back.

    All in all, this sounds like another encroachment of corporate for-profit management creeping into the arts (not always bad mind you) but not really a solution to any systemic problem in classical music collegiate training.

    (a graduate of the Feedlot system)

  2. “Look, this is Juiliard, not some Midwest feedlot school of music … We’re the best music conservatory in the world and we only accept the most gifted students and hire instructors with enviable placement rates. If a student successfully completes our program, the only reason she or he wouldn’t win a job is due to their shortcomings, not ours.”

    I’ve never seen a statement more arrogant and more disconnected from the reality of the current symphonic job market.

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Major Conservatory Launches Revolutionary Scholarship Indemnity Program