Juilliard Students to Admin: We’re Not Gonna Take It

Getting a music degree from a name brand conservatory or school of music is mind-numbingly expensive. Investing in this type of career carries more risk now than I can remember and given the amount of debt students absorb chasing those degrees, it wasn’t unusual to see them do the comparative math and opt to take a year off over the pandemic.

Now that things are starting to get back up and running, students are feeling the pinch more than ever and some of them are starting to organize against tuition hikes.

One such effort at The Juilliard School in New York is gaining momentum thanks to a combination of looks very much like 70’s era labor tenacity bolstered by a growing amount of alumni and faculty support (h/t Slippedisc).

They maintain a presence at a few social media outlets, the primary of which appears to be Instagram. Calling themselves Socialist Penguins (tuxedoes, get it?), the students are doing a fine job at getting their message out. Compared to the way most orchestra musicians approach labor disputes, they certainly demonstrate a refined ability to crafting a tight PR message.

The tuition increase in question is a four percent jump from the previous year that puts the institution over the $50k/year threshold and the students do an excellent job at showing exactly what they can accomplish with that money.

I’m particularly fond of what they turned up after doing a deep dive into the school’s IRS 990 filing.

While they have scheduled a series of protest actions that include students doing the thing they are going to school for, I don’t believe they have broken into a cover of Twisted Sister’s We’re Not Gonna Take It…yet. 🤞

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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