the new school's college of performing arts names philanthropist, entrepreneur, and educator sheila johnson as new chair of board of governors

Ms. Johnson, a Trustee of The New School and former Chair of the Parsons Board of Governors, has long been an advocate for the arts, and will be integral in advancing the vision of the university's performing arts college

Sheila Johnson

September 21, 2020, New York - The New School’s College of Performing Arts announced today that Sheila Johnson, a leading philanthropist and entrepreneur, Trustee of The New School, and former Chair of the Parsons Board of Governors, has been named Chair of the Board of Governors for the university’s College of Performing Arts (CoPA), effective immediately. The College of Performing Arts was formed in 2015 and brings together the Mannes School of Music, the School of Jazz and Contemporary Music, and the School of Drama.

Ms. Johnson is a forward-thinking business leader who brings significant experience in non-profit governance and philanthropy. She succeeds Linda E. Rappaport, who served as the Chair of the Mannes and CoPA Board of Governors for 11 years until she was elected Chair of The New School Board of Trustees in April 2020.

Richard Kessler, Executive Dean of the College of Performing Arts noted: “I have long admired the vast achievements of Sheila Johnson. For the Mannes School of Music, the School of Jazz and Contemporary Music, and the School of Drama, Sheila represents the best of many worlds, not the least of which is her love and deep understanding of music and the arts, her achievements as a business leader, and her skills and knowledge in non-profit governance.”

"Sheila and I have served together on The New School’s Board of Trustees for the past 10 years, and I can think of no one better suited to lead CoPA forward at this critical moment in time,” said Ms. Rappaport, Chair of the university’s Board of Trustees. “Sheila’s commitment to the ideals of academic excellence, innovation, and engaged citizenship, together with her vision for the future, are backed up by a career full of action, especially as an unflinching advocate for a more diverse and inclusive workplace. I look forward to working with Sheila as she takes on this new role.”

Among the many important initiatives Ms. Johnson has championed at The New School is the creation of the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center, an award-winning exhibition and public programming center that enables Parsons to connect its students and the general public to broader issues in the world of art and design.

A gifted violinist, Ms. Johnson received a music degree from the University of Illinois. She formed the internationally recognized “Youth Strings in Action” ensemble. The orchestra performed at the Jerash Festival at the request of Queen Noor of Jordan. There she received the Al Nada award for her work in creating the first National Music Conservatory. She details her teaching methods in her textbook, Young Strings in Action.

Ms. Johnson is the Founder and CEO of Salamander Hotels & Resorts and oversees a portfolio of luxury properties along the east coast and the Caribbean, including the Forbes Five Star-rated Salamander Resort & Spa in Middleburg, Virginia. 

Ms. Johnson’s arena of expertise encompasses sports, the arts, and education. She is a partner and Vice Chairman of Monumental Sports & Entertainment, which owns the WNBA’s Washington Mystics, NHL’s Washington Capitals, and the NBA’s Washington Wizards.

Her career in entertainment began as co-founder of Black Entertainment Television (BET).  She served as executive producer of documentary and feature films. She is founder and chair of the Middleburg Film Festival, an annual celebration of films.

“The New School, Parsons School of Design, and now the College of Performing Arts have been important to me since 2002,” said Ms. Johnson. “My years as a Trustee of The New School have been deeply rewarding to me, as was serving as Board Chair of the Parsons School of Design’s Board of Governors.” 

Ms. Johnson continued: “My love of music and the performing arts has been life-long, and I am now looking forward to leading the Board of Governors of The College of Performing Arts during this unprecedented time we live in. The College of Performing Arts is empowering the next generation of musicians, actors, playwrights, and directors to become leaders and change agents in the arts. I look forward to working with all of the wonderful students, faculty, staff, and board at the Mannes School of Music, School of Jazz and Contemporary Music, and School of Drama.”

Ms. Johnson steps into her role as Chair of the College of Performing Arts’ Board of Governors as the university looks ahead to a new performing arts landscape in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic. With a wide range of innovative, multidisciplinary undergraduate and graduate degree programs for classical, jazz, and drama students, CoPA is a leader in bold, entrepreneurial collaboration and experimentation for a new generation of highly skilled and creative artists.

The College of Performing Arts at The New School (CoPA) was formed in 2015 and brings together three iconic schools: the Mannes School of Music, the School of Jazz and Contemporary Music, and the School of Drama. With each school contributing its unique culture of creative excellence, the College of Performing Arts is a hub for cross-disciplinary collaboration, bold experimentation, innovative education, and world-class performances. 

As a part of The New School, students across CoPA experience a supportive and rigorous environment that provides abundant opportunities for collaboration with students and faculty in a wide array of disciplines including the visual arts, fashion, design and technology, architecture, philosophy, psychology, public policy, advocacy, and more. CoPA has over 1000 students seeking degrees and diplomas in performance, composition, acting, writing, as well as arts management and entrepreneurship. New York City’s Greenwich Village provides the backdrop for the College of Performing Arts, which is housed at Arnhold Hall on West 13th Street and the historic Westbeth Artists Community on Bank Street.

Founded in 1919, The New School was established to advance academic freedom, tolerance, and experimentation. A century later, The New School remains at the forefront of innovation in higher education, inspiring more than 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students to challenge the status quo in design and the social sciences, liberal arts, management, the arts, and media. The university welcomes thousands of adult learners annually for continuing education courses and public programs that encourage open discourse and social engagement. Through our online learning portals, research institutes, and international partnerships, The New School maintains a global presence.


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Media Contacts:

Will Wilbur,
The New School

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