Jenny Bilfield was appointed Washington Performing Arts’ fourth president and CEO in April 2013. Based in Washington D.C., with performances and programs spanning the Capital region, Washington Performing Arts was founded in 1965. It thrives today as one of the nation’s preeminent multi-disciplinary arts presenters, especially notable for launching and nurturing innumerable performing artists, and sustaining high-impact arts education partnerships with the D.C. public schools and diplomatic community. In 2013 Washington Performing Arts was the first organization of its kind to receive the coveted National Medal of Arts (conferred by President Obama at the White House), as well as a Mayor’s Arts Award for Excellence in Service to the Arts, and most recently the Mayor’s Arts Award for Outstanding Contribution to Arts Education. In her first year, Bilfield broadened Washington Performing Arts’ profile and organizational capacity through an institutional re-branding by launching the Mars Urban Arts Initiative (funded by Mars Inc. and Jacqueline Badger Mars) to fuel connections between mainstage and amateur D.C. artists while initiating new commissioning projects with composers and performers, and in conceiving and producing the landmark, multi-partner concert, Of Thee We Sing, at Constitution Hall celebrating the 75th anniversary of Marian Anderson’s historic performance on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
Bilfield has also initiated robust partnerships, including one with The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts to create SHIFT, a Festival of American Orchestras, and with Building Bridges Across the River for the 11th Street Bridge Park-which received early support from the Mellon Foundation and ArtPlace respectively. Early in her tenure, Bilfield was recognized among the 30 Key Influencers in the Arts: Movers and Shakers by Musical America, honored by the Washington Chorus at its 2015 gala, and has twice been recognized (2013 and 2015) by Washingtonian Magazine as one of the Most Powerful Women in Washington.
From 2006-2013 Bilfield was artistic & executive director of Stanford Lively Arts and artistic director of Stanford Live (its successor organization) at Stanford University. During this time, Bilfield stewarded the organization’s transformation from university presenter to a campus-based arts producer. Hired during the early days of Stanford’s arts initiative, Bilfield collaborated extensively with faculty and program partners to develop new pathways for immersive arts experiences for students and arts-goers in Silicon Valley and the wider Bay area. Programs garnered support from major multi-year and project support from national foundations including The William and Flora Hewlett and The Koret Foundation, and first time support from Doris Duke Charitable Trust, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, among others. She was a member of the core planning team for Stanford’s 842-seat Bing Concert Hall (named for Helen and Peter Bing, designed by Ennead Architects, Nagata Acoustics, and Fisher Dachs Associates), which opened to critical acclaim in January 2013. With a refreshed mission, to “engage artists’ and audiences’ imagination, creativity and sense of adventure,” Lively Arts and Bilfield received early accolades for her programming (inclusive of 25+ commissions) including special mention on the San Francisco Chronicle’s list of top 10 Notable Classical Music Developments of the Decade. Her active role in the Silicon Valley community was additionally recognized with the 2012 Champion of the Arts Award, presented by Cantabile Youth Singers with a Proclamation from the Mayor and City Council of Palo Alto, CA.
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 also 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 high visibility 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 (Jorge Mester, music director), 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 the Helen M. Thompson 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 is a member of the Federal City Council in Washington, and on the Steering Committee for ArtsActionDC.
Bilfield began playing the piano at age three and later received training with principal teachers including Walter Ponce and Harris Goldsmith, as well as Sylvan Levin (associate conductor to Leopold Stokowski). She began composing at age 10, and pursued studies with Edward Bilous, Jay Reise, and Samuel Adler. Bilfield attended Manhattan School of Music Preparatory Division and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a BA in Music at age twenty. She is married to composer Joel Phillip Friedman, who teaches at Georgetown University, and they live in Washington D.C. with their teenage daughter Hallie, two teenage parrots, and an adopted dog.