Special Reports

Movers & Shakers: Jenny Bilfield

December 3, 2013 | By Donald Rosenberg

Jenny Bilfield
President and CEO
Washington Performing Arts Society

Ideas about how to freshen up the 48-year-old Washington Performing Arts Society have swirled in Jenny Bilfield’s brain since she took over as president and CEO last April. She’s already successfully raising money for a new Innovation Fund, by which artists on the Society’s concert series can develop projects of their choice. She plans to increase collaborations with the Smithsonian Institution and Library of Congress, tying their exhibits to the Society’s concerts, such as the January WPAS performance by singer-songwriter  Rosanne Cash during her residency at the Library.

She also hopes to connect WPAS programming to its educational activities. The 2013-14 opening concert, for instance, features Wynton Marsalis as both composer and conductor of Abyssinian: A Gospel Celebration, along with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Chorale Le Chateau, and members of the WPAS Children of the Gospel Choir. “This was a chance to say to our audience that this amazing musician thinks the children are good enough to perform with these professionals,” says Bilfield.

In the same vein, Bilfield plans to hire an urban arts curator to seek out amateur grass-roots ensembles and team them up with WPAS performers.

Before moving to the nation’s capital to run WPAS, Bilfield, 48, was artistic and executive director of Stanford Live, the presenting organization at Stanford University. During her seven seasons there, she transformed what had been a university concert series known as “Lively Arts at Stanford” to “Stanford Live,” a fullblown arts presenter serving both the campus and the region. She also presided over the planning, construction, and opening of the new Bing Concert Hall.

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