Hedge-fund billionaire Bruce Kovner is sometimes refered to as “George Soros’s right-wing twin” due to his support of think tanks and public policy research on the conservative side of the spectrum. But he is also a devoted music lover. In the late 1960s, he left a Ph.D. program at Harvard, felled by writer’s block, and took up driving taxis, writing, working on political campaigns, and studying the harpsichord at the Juilliard School of Music. Though he is famously reticent about his motivations for any philanthropic work, his experience with Juilliard apparently made a mark on him, as he later became long-time chairman of the school’s board. He also became a board member and generous backer of others of the most significant arts organizations in the country, including Lincoln Center and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
At Juilliard, Kovner became one of the most generous donors in the history of the school. In 2006, he donated a priceless collection of manuscripts to the school (original sheet music by Beethoven, Bach, Mozart, and many others). In 2009, he began supporting the school’s Historical Performance Program, a graduate-level effort to study and encourage authentic presentations of music created from 1600 to the early 1800s. In 2012, Kovner donated $20 million to fully fund the program—providing full scholarships for all students.
- “Juilliard School Announces $20 Million Gift for Early Music,” New York Times, January 16, 2012, artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com
- “Juilliard Receives Music Manuscript Collection,” New York Times, March 1, 2006, nytimes.com
- Forbes profile of Bruce Kovner, forbes.com