May 4, 2022
Juilliard to Hold 117th Commencement Ceremony on Friday, May 20, 2022, and Will Present Honorary Doctoral Degree to Composer and Conductor Michael Tilson Thomas

Juilliard to Hold 117th Commencement Ceremony on Friday, May 20, 2022, in New York and First Commencement Ceremony in Tianjin, China

The School Is Proud to Present Honorary Doctoral Degrees to:
Dancer, Teacher, and Stager Masazumi Chaya, Bass-Baritone Dr. Simon Estes, Playwright Suzan-Lori Parks, Afghanistan Music School Founder Dr. Ahmad Naser Sarmast, and Composer and Conductor Michael Tilson Thomas

Tilson Thomas to Deliver Commencement Address and Conduct Brass Ensemble

The New York Ceremony Will Be Livestreamed at

The Tianjin Juilliard School to Hold Its First Commencement Ceremony on Friday, May 20 at the School’s Campus in Tianjin, China

Juilliard Preparatory Division to Hold Its First-Ever Joint Commencement for Pre-College and Music Advancement Program (MAP) Students on Saturday, May 21


NEW YORK––The Juilliard School will hold its 117th commencement ceremony on May 20, 2022, at 10:30am. The ceremony will be held outdoors on the Lincoln Center campus in Damrosch Park, presided over by Juilliard President Damian Woetzel. It will also be livestreamed at for those unable to attend in person.

As part of the commencement ceremony, Juilliard will give the following leaders honorary degrees in recognition of their outstanding contributions to the field of arts and culture: dancer, teacher, and stager Masazumi Chaya; operatic bass-baritone and Juilliard alumnus Dr. Simon Estes; playwright Suzan-Lori Parks; ethnomusicologist Dr. Ahmad Sarmast—founder and director of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music; and conductor and composer Michael Tilson Thomas, who will deliver the commencement address.

“The class of 2022 has been challenged by circumstances unimaginable when they first applied to Juilliard, and yet they have succeeded with unique distinction as they have risen above those challenges,” said Juilliard President Damian Woetzel. “We can look to them to be exceptionally innovative in the years to come. And as we also celebrate our five distinguished honorary doctorate recipients, our graduating students can draw inspiration from these powerful examples of artistic brilliance and societal impact.”

Tilson Thomas will also conduct a brass ensemble during the commencement ceremony, performing Dahl’s Music for Brass Instruments.

Juilliard’s new branch campus in Tianjin, China will host its first-ever commencement exercises on May 20 at 10am local time (10pm New York time on May 19) for its inaugural class of 34 Masters of Music students. The commencement address will be given by Joseph W. Polisi, chief China officer and president emeritus of the Juilliard School. The ceremony will be livestreamed on the branch school’s Chinese social media platforms, and available for on-demand viewing on at a later date.

Juilliard’s Preparatory Division will hold its first joint commencement to include both Pre-College and the Music Advancement Program (MAP) on Saturday, May 21, at noon in Juilliard’s Peter Jay Sharp Theater. Weston Sprott, dean and director of the Preparatory Division, and Anthony McGill, MAP artistic director, will present certificates of completion to the graduates. Wynton Marsalis (’81, trumpet), the director of Juilliard Jazz, will give the Preparatory Division commencement address.

Commencement speaker and honorary doctorate recipient Michael Tilson Thomas is co-founder and artistic director of the New World Symphony, music director laureate of the San Francisco Symphony, and conductor laureate of the London Symphony Orchestra. In addition to conducting the world’s leading orchestras and winning 12 Grammy Awards for his recordings, Tilson Thomas is noted for his work as a composer and for producing projects dedicated to music education and the expansion of the concert experience. Tilson Thomas is an Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres of France, member of the American Academies of Arts & Sciences and Arts & Letters, National Medal of Arts recipient, Peabody Award winner, and 2019 Kennedy Center Honoree.

Biographies of the Honorary Degree Recipients


Michael Tilson Thomas is co-founder and artistic director of the New World Symphony, music director laureate of the San Francisco Symphony and conductor laureate of the London Symphony Orchestra. He is a 12-time Grammy Award winner and has conducted the major orchestras of Europe and the U.S. Born in Los Angeles, he studied conducting and composition with Ingolf Dahl at the University of Southern California and, as a young musician, worked with artists including Igor Stravinsky and Aaron Copland. In his mid 20s, he became assistant conductor—and later principal guest conductor—of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. He subsequently served as music director of the Buffalo Philharmonic, principal guest conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra. In 1987, he co-founded the New World Symphony (NWS), a postgraduate orchestral academy in Miami Beach dedicated to preparing young musicians of diverse backgrounds for leadership roles in classical music. He has worked with more than 1,200 NWS Fellows. In June, he becomes artistic director laureate.

Tilson Thomas became music director of the San Francisco Symphony (SFS) in 1995, ushering in a period of significant growth and heightened international recognition for the orchestra. He led SFS in championing contemporary and American composers alongside classical masters, and as music director laureate, he returns to conduct the orchestra each season. His discography includes more than 120 recordings and his television work includes series for the BBC and PBS, the New York Philharmonic’s Young People’s Concerts and numerous televised performances. His profile Michael Tilson Thomas: Where Now Is aired on PBS’ American Masters series in 2020. Throughout his career, Tilson Thomas has been an active composer, with major works including From the Diary of Anne Frank, premiered with narrator Audrey Hepburn, and Meditations on Rilke. Both appear on SFS Media’s recent Grammy- winning recording of his music. He is an Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres of France, member of the American Academies of Arts & Sciences and Arts & Letters, National Medal of Arts recipient, and 2019 Kennedy Center honoree.

About The Juilliard School Founded in 1905, The Juilliard School is a world leader in performing arts education. The school’s mission is to provide the highest caliber of artistic education for gifted musicians, dancers, and actors, composers, choreographers, and playwrights from around the world so that they may achieve their fullest potential as artists, leaders, and global citizens. Under the leadership of President Damian Woetzel since 2018, Juilliard is guided in all its work by the core values of excellence; creativity; and equity, diversity, inclusion and belonging (EDIB). Juilliard is committed to enrolling the most talented students regardless of their financial background.
Located at Lincoln Center in New York City, Juilliard offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in dance, drama (acting and playwriting), and music (classical, jazz, historical performance, and vocal arts). Currently more than 800 artists from 43 states and 44 countries and regions are enrolled in Juilliard’s College Division, where they appear in more than 700 annual performances in the school’s five theaters; at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully and David Geffen halls and at Carnegie Hall; as well as at other venues around New York City, the country, and the world. The continuum of learning at Juilliard also includes nearly 400 students from elementary through high school enrolled in the Preparatory Division, including its Music Advancement Program (MAP), which serves students from diverse backgrounds often underrepresented in the classical music field. More than 800 students are enrolled in Juilliard Extension, the flagship continuing education program taught both in person and remotely by a dedicated faculty of performers, creators, and scholars. Beyond its New York campus, Juilliard is defining new directions in performing arts education for a range of learners and enthusiasts through a global K-12 educational curricula and graduate studies at The Tianjin Juilliard School in China.


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