New England Conservatory names next president, first woman to lead in its history

 Andrea Kalyn takes up her post in January 2019.
Andrea Kalyn takes up her post in January 2019.Tanya Rosen-Jones

Andrea Kalyn, currently the dean of Oberlin Conservatory of Music, will be the next president of New England Conservatory.

Her appointment marks the end of a protracted three-year search following the stepping down of former president Tony Woodcock in 2015. When Kalyn takes up her post in January 2019, she will be NEC’s 17th president and the first woman to lead the school in its 151-year history.

“We spent a lot of time looking forward, to find a president who is capable of helping us sort out what the educational needs of the future music student will be, said Kennett F. Burnes, chairman of NEC’s board of trustees and chairman of the search committee. “We wanted someone with experience in education who had thought deeply about the problems facing musicians in today’s world. At the end of the day, the experience Andrea brings was overwhelming for us.”


Kalyn has served as dean of Oberlin since 2014, before which she served for nine years as Oberlin’s associate dean for academic affairs. During her time at the school, she oversaw the opening of a new underground performance club; broadened the school’s curricular offerings to include, among other areas, a new major in jazz voice; and directed Oberlin’s entrepreneurship program for seven years. In that capacity she collaborated on an initiative called LaunchU, described as a start-up accelerator and pitch competition.

Her arrival comes at an uncertain time for music in the world of higher education, as schools grapple with how to best prepare their students for careers in a field that is itself very much in flux, given changing audience demographics, evolutions in the performance landscape, and the art form’s own shifting position in the broader culture.

“It’s a matter of finding ways to ensure that students have opportunities to imagine their professional lives beyond their schooling,” said Kalyn, speaking by phone from Oberlin, Ohio, prior to NEC’s planned announcement. “And it’s about finding ways for students to practice their professional life as well as their craft, so that they are developing a perspective and a confidence to put their artistry out into the world perhaps in ways we can’t even yet imagine.”


Born in England, Kalyn grew up primarily in London, Ontario. She holds a PhD in musicology from the Eastman School of Music, where her research interests centered on 20th-century American music. She is also trained as a pianist.

The oldest independent music school in the country, NEC has an endowment of approximately $120 million, with over 2,700 students enrolled across its undergraduate and graduate programs, its preparatory school, and its school of continuing education. Its areas of focus include classical music, jazz, and contemporary improvisation.

Reflecting on the extended course of the search, Burnes noted that “music education at the conservatory level is at a very important point in its history, and it was very important that we found the right president to lead NEC into the future. It’s been a long process, but we’re very pleased with where we ended up.”

Jeremy Eichler can be reached at jeichler@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Jeremy_Eichler.