Berkeley, January 15, 2019 — UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol T. Christ today announced the appointment of Jeremy N. Geffen as the next executive and artistic director of Cal Performances, effective April 1. Geffen comes to Berkeley from Carnegie Hall, where he holds the position of Senior Director and Artistic Adviser. During his 12 years there, Geffen was instrumental in designing and directing visionary artistic projects, built deep and meaningful connections with artists and collaborators, cultivated community partnerships, and aided in the expansion of the organization’s rich educational offerings. As part of Carnegie Hall’s artistic planning team he led program planning and thematic development for the approximately 160 performances each season at Carnegie Hall, as well as the creation of a wide range of audience engagement programs. Geffen played a pivotal role in the expansion of Carnegie Hall festivals including this season’s concerts dedicated to the impact of large-scale migrations on American culture. Geffen succeeds Matías Tarnopolsky, who departed Cal Performances in summer 2018 after a distinguished nine-year tenure as the head of the organization.
“We are thrilled to welcome Jeremy, an accomplished and world-class performing arts executive, to Berkeley and to Cal Performances,” said UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ. “He is an adventurous and imaginative artistic director whose sense of taste and vision has been refined over many years at major arts organizations. He is a thoughtful connector with close ties to a new and diverse set of artists and partners, and a community-minded leader who will strengthen Cal Performances’ connections to the campus and the broader Bay Area. I am delighted to have Jeremy join us and I look forward to seeing where he leads Cal Performances, already one of the nation’s foremost presenters of the performing arts.”
Reporting to the chancellor of UC Berkeley, Geffen will provide the overall artistic vision and executive leadership for Cal Performances, with direct decision-making authority and responsibility for planning all programs, functions, and activities of Cal Performances and Student Musical Activities (SMA). This includes initiating and commissioning new artistic and educational ventures, including those in association with national and international performing arts centers and festivals, and supporting the educational and research mission of the university through the performing arts program. Geffen will also work closely with the board of trustees.
“To have been chosen to lead Cal Performances is an extraordinary honor, and I thank Chancellor Christ for granting me this remarkable opportunity,” said Geffen. “The closer I have come to this organization, the more I see how the dynamism of UC Berkeley—one of the world’s most distinguished and progressive university communities—has fueled its groundbreaking creativity. I am looking forward to leading Cal Performances to new levels of artistic success and campus and community engagement, and to strengthening its already exceptional relationships with the world’s greatest talents, while also introducing audiences to artists they perhaps do not yet know they cannot live without. Equally, I look forward to establishing new collaborations—both on- and off-campus—that harness the power and imagination of the arts to create intellectually engaging explorations of the most fascinating—and pressing—issues of our time, and to exploring the ways the performing arts lead us to greater understanding of ourselves. After 12 extremely rewarding and happy years working with Carnegie Hall’s incredible team, this is truly a unique opportunity. And on a personal note, having grown up in California, it is of great personal significance to me to return to the state that nurtured me and my love for music and the performing arts, and gave me my first experiences in arts administration.”
“We are delighted that Jeremy Geffen will lead Cal Performances,” said Susan Graham and Helen Meyer, co-chairs of the board of trustees, in a joint statement. “His artistic values, the high quality of his work, his deep knowledge of the performing arts, his interest in education, and his engagement with the issues of our times, will sustain and strengthen the outstanding organization that is Cal Performances, building on the contributions of his immediate predecessors, Robert Cole and Matías Tarnopolsky. We eagerly await his arrival to take the helm in Berkeley.”
S. Shariq Yosufzai, the organization’s interim executive director and vice chair of its board of trustees, reinforced the sentiment: “Jeremy brings with him a wealth of experience, talent, intellect, and enthusiasm. And he has an impressive track record of aligning programming with the missions of our peer institutions. But most important is his unwavering support of, and belief in, the highest artistic standards. He is the perfect leader for Cal Performances as it moves into the future.”
Geffen, 44, has been active in the senior leadership of world-class performing arts institutions since joining the New York Philharmonic in 2000. He became Director of Artistic Planning at Carnegie Hall in March 2007, and was named Senior Director and Artistic Adviser in October 2017. During his tenure he has been an integral force in the expansion of Carnegie Hall festivals, multi-disciplinary citywide explorations devoted to specific themes ranging from the geographic (China, Japan, Latin America, and Vienna), to the retrospective (Leonard Bernstein 90 years after his birth), to the historical (South African culture 20 years after the election of Nelson Mandela, the Venetian Republic, the United States in the 1960s, and this spring’s festival of migrations). Through these festivals Carnegie Hall partnered with cultural, academic, and media organizations around New York City—and, increasingly, across the country—attracting many new audience members.
Prior to his appointment at Carnegie Hall, Geffen was Vice President of Artistic Administration for the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra (2005–07) and Artistic Administrator of the New York Philharmonic (2000–05). Early in his career, he was Associate Artistic Administrator for the Aspen Music Festival and School, where he also taught courses in music at Colorado Mountain College, hosted a weekly classical music radio show on KAJX, and, at age 26, was the prestigious Aspen Institute’s youngest-ever seminar moderator.
Geffen also serves on numerous advisory boards and frequently adjudicates international competitions. Geffen chaired the nominating jury for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in Music, awarding the honor to Caroline Shaw, then the youngest recipient in the prize’s history. In June 2015 he received Bang on a Can’s Visionary Award at the organization’s annual gala, and in April 2019 he will be honored at Sō Percussion’s annual benefit.
A native of Cape Town, South Africa, Jeremy Geffen was raised in Newport Beach, California. While pursuing a bachelor of music degree in viola performance at the University of Southern California, Geffen developed problems with his right hand that led him away from performance and into arts administration, a career in which he combines his curiosity for and love of the breadth of artistic expression, the artists who bring that work to life, and the transformative ways in which the arts enrich all of our lives.
Read Jeremy Geffen’s full biography