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Press Releases

Washington Performing Arts Society Appoints Jenny Bilfield as President and CEO

January 29, 2013 | By Brenda Kean Tabor
Bilfield, currently Artistic Director at Stanford Live, Stanford University, will become only the fourth president in the history of the organization, which was founded by impresario Patrick Hayes nearly 48 years ago.

“Jenny is a visionary with a proven track record of success who is passionate about the arts and their role in the community,” said Reginald Van Lee, Executive Vice President of Booz Allen Hamilton and Chairman of WPAS’s Board of Directors. “She is the right person to lead WPAS’s new strategic plan and build upon our core strengths: rich educational and community engagement programs; the nurturing of young talent; and presenting the finest artists for our classical, jazz, dance, and world music performances. She was the unanimous choice of the search committee from an impressive list of candidates, and I look forward to working closely with her in support of this great organization.”

“Artists and educators all over the country know how important and truly excellent WPAS is,” said Pulitzer Prize-winning composer and trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, a member of the WPAS search committee. “You can't go anywhere in the world and find a better presenter, or one with a greater reputation. They set the standard for integrating the fine arts with community activism. This is an important moment in the performing arts in America, and under this new leadership, WPAS is in a great position to take advantage of it."

An innovative and dynamic leader in the presenting field, Jenny Bilfield comes to WPAS from Stanford Live, where since 2006 she served as Artistic & Executive Director of Stanford Lively Arts, and Artistic Director of Stanford Live. During her tenure, she stewarded the organization’s transformation from university presenter to a campus-based arts producer and developed new pathways for immersive, high-impact arts experiences for students and arts-goers in Silicon Valley and the San Francisco area. She was also a member of the core planning team for Stanford’s Bing Concert Hall, which opened earlier this month. With a refreshed mission, to “engage artists’ and audiences’ imagination, creativity and sense of adventure,” Bilfield received early accolades for programming, including special mention on the San Francisco Chronicle’s list of top 10 notable Classical music developments of the decade. Most recently, the Cantabile Youth Singers of Silicon Valley honored Bilfield with their 2012 “Champion of the Arts” Award.

“I am deeply honored and beyond excited to join the WPAS community,” said Bilfield. “WPAS is an essential, deeply valued anchor of the Capital region's cultural scene and has earned a sterling reputation as a premier American arts presenter, and engine of high-impact arts education programs and alliances. I feel the same rush of energy and optimism that I experienced when I joined Stanford University in 2006 and throughout the process of planning and recently launching Bing Concert Hall. I thank the Board and staff for inviting me to be part of WPAS's continued legacy and look forward to charting the future, together.”

Prior to joining Stanford, Bilfield held numerous leadership roles in the arts throughout her 21 years in New York City. Best known for her specialized work in the strategic management, promotion, and presentation of contemporary music and cutting edge artists, Bilfield spent 12 years at music publisher Boosey & Hawkes where, as President, she was part of the international management team that led the company’s public-to-private transition. While there, Bilfield had a key role in business development that was both content-oriented (catalog acquisitions, new publishing lines in band and choral music, Boosey’s first foray into jazz) and operational (a new strategy for printed music production and distribution, integrated management of composers). Bilfield also stewarded several high-impact composer focused initiatives for the company, notably The Stravinsky Project, Steve Reich @ 70, and the international multi-year Copland 2000 celebration. As Executive Director of the National Orchestral Association and founder of the New Music Orchestral Project, Bilfield launched new American orchestral works through readings and premieres at Carnegie Hall and Manhattan School of Music. For this work Bilfield received an Adventuresome Programming award from ASCAP, and an orchestra leadership award from the League of American Orchestras. Bilfield is an active participant in industry convenings, foundation and presenter panels, and has held seats on boards of organizations including the American Music Center and League of American Orchestras. She holds a BA in Music from the University of Pennsylvania and is married to composer Joel Phillip Friedman with whom she has a 12-year-old daughter, Hallie.

Bilfield will succeed Neale Perl, who has led WPAS since 2002 and will become President Emeritus. During Perl's tenure, WPAS presented some 600 performances (including 100 artist debuts), grew its endowment, tripled its education programs budget, created the Capital Arts Initiative in collaboration with DC Public Schools and Jazz at Lincoln Center, launched a series of free summer camps for underserved students, and expanded WPAS's programming to new venues including: The Music Center at Strathmore, the Atlas, Sidney Harman Hall, and Sixth & I Historic Synagogue.

About Washington Performing Arts Society Considered one of the country’s leading presenters of the performing arts, Washington Performing Arts Society (WPAS) was established in the Nation’s Capital by the legendary impresario Patrick Hayes. Throughout its 47-year history, WPAS has created profound opportunities for connecting the community to artists, both in education and performance, for more than four decades. The mission of the Washington Performing Arts Society is threefold: 1) to provide the Washington community with performing arts presentations of the highest quality and of varied content and tradition; 2) to support and nurture performing artists and their art forms; and 3) to provide lifelong learning opportunities through arts education, youth involvement, and community partnerships.

For high-resolution images contact Brenda Kean Tabor at or (202) 533-1886.

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