Kovner Fellowship Provides $60 Million in Aid to Juilliard Classical Music Students

The Juilliard School is known as one of the most competitive — if not the most — music schools in the world. Course work is rigorous, tuition isn't cheap, and musicians must navigate a stressful world of auditions (often for low-paying jobs) upon graduation. So if a select group of students can sleep a little easier knowing that the total cost of their education is covered, well, that's a great thing.

The Juilliard School recently announcedthe creation of its Kovner Fellowship Program, a scholarship endowment for classical music students made possible by a $60 million gift from American businessman Bruce Kovner and his wife, Suzie. Bruce Kovner has been chairman of the Juilliard School's board since 2001, while Suzie Kovner is a member of the Juilliard Drama Council. In addition to the fellowship for classical musicians, the funding — the largest in the school's history — also will be directed toward general scholarship assistance for dance and drama students.

The Kovner Fellowship creates 25 scholarships beginning in September 2014, with an increase to 52 in 2018. The scholarships cover the total cost of attendance, including tuition and room and board (totaling $55,690) and include a stipend to cover travel expenses, books, and equipment.

Nominees are selected by faculty from a pool that includes current undergraduates and master's-level students as well as applicants to the school. Once nominated, students must pass a formal audition and maintain "appropriate academic and artistic levels" to retain the financial assistance year to year. Although this selection process does not take into account the students' financial needs, representatives from Juilliard noted that 91% of existing students are already classified as requiring financial assistance.

This story was quickly picked up by outlets across the country, including the New York Times, which framedthe scholarships as a means to help manage student debt. The paper that the $60 million in funding would "solve" a few dozen students' inability to pay off massive loans upon graduation. Readers, therefore, may have been under the impression that the award would go directly toward reducing postgraduation debt. And while that is not the case — as noted, the award will go to current tuition and expenses — the funding will nonetheless ease graduates' financial burden by providing immediate relief.