She added, “What I love about this community is that there’s a density of arts that’s very exciting to me. There’s an energy that comes when many different art forms work alongside each other . . . I love that this is a community of people from all over the world, which is exciting for me as a programmer, a thinker, a community member. It really informs a broader approach to programming and to engaging audiences.”
Her 12-year-old daughter is excited, too, but mostly because she’s looking forward to “the tall buildings and busy streets,” not to mention the Washington weather, which might get her a few snow days.
Bilfield’s appointment is a big step for WPAS, which is known for presenting blue-chip performers in the region’s leading concert halls. Its programs include jazz, gospel, world music and dance, but it predominantly concentrates on classical music. Its biggest advances in recent years have been in education: It tripled its education budget and started a number of new student initiatives under its outgoing president, Neale Perl, who has been in the post since 2002. But in terms of innovations, the organization has mainly limited itself to finding venues beyond the Kennedy Center; what’s on stage tends not to push the envelope.
Bilfield, by contrast, has spent most of her career championing contemporary music and artists. Before taking over at Stanford in 2006, she was president of the music publisher Boosey and Hawkes, expanding the company’s operations and spearheading composer initiatives including the notable feat of getting Carnegie Hall, the New York Philharmonic and the Brooklyn Academy of Music to collaborate on a festival honoring the 70th birthday of the composer Steve Reich.
At Stanford, her programming was mentioned in the San Francisco Chronicle as one of the 10 notable classical music developments of the decade. “There’s no mistaking the organization’s dynamic new role as a central player in the Bay Area’s cultural life,” wrote the Chronicle’s classical music critic, Joshua Kosman, in 2009.