Tianjin Juilliard School: A new dawn

08_Juilliard and Tianjin Juilliard students rehearsing_PC Wei He

The first school to offer US-accredited music degrees in mainland China, Juilliard’s Tianjin campus is the next step in the long history of East-West partnerships. Tom Stewart discovers how the institution is attracting students from all over the globe

The port of Tianjin, half an hour from Beijing by high-speed train, is the Chinese capital’s gateway to global shipping and a booming megacity of 16 million people. In 2015, the railway line was extended to Binhai, an outer district of Tianjin where two decades of turbo-charged investment have transformed a vast tract of wilderness into a burgeoning financial hub.

The same year, New York’s Juilliard School announced that Binhai would become home to the Tianjin Juilliard School (TJS), the first – and so far only – Chinese institution to award a US- or European-accredited music degree. Plans for a campus in the global big-money style were drawn up by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, the architects behind the expansion of Juilliard’s Lincoln Center home, and TJS admitted its first students in 2019. Today, young musicians fly in from across China for its Saturday pre-college division, while TJS master’s courses (the school does not have an undergraduate class) attract players from the US and Europe as well as China and other countries in Asia.

Violinist Wei He was chair of the strings department at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music before he joined the nascent TJS as its dean and artistic director. After a skeleton staff arrived in Tianjin in 2018, his first task was to recruit a faculty with a mixture of international teaching expertise and local knowledge. ‘When we asked people why they wanted to join us, there were two answers that stood out over and over,’ he says. ‘First, these teachers respected the Juilliard brand and ethos, which is what we were bringing to Tianjin. Secondly, they felt China was a place where they would be able to make a greater impact.’…

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