Colburn School Appoints Maeesha Merchant as Chief Financial Officer and Vice President of Business Development

The Colburn School recently announced that Maeesha Merchant will join the Senior Leadership Team as Chief Financial Officer and Vice President of Business Development. In this position she will play a critical role in ensuring the financial health of the institution, developing and implementing fiscal management and reporting strategies across the School. Merchant will also lead the effort to identify and develop new business and revenue opportunities for the School, working cross-departmentally and in close coordination with the President and CEO and board of directors. She will join the Colburn leadership team in the Fall.

“Maeesha Merchant brings tremendous experience in both the nonprofit and for profit sectors, including expertise in strategic planning and the development of new business models,” said Colburn President and CEO Sel Kardan. “This background, along with her passion for innovation and education, will be invaluable as the Colburn School continues its commitment to accessible excellence in performing arts education and pursues strategic investments that will create additional resilience for the institution in the years ahead.”

Merchant comes to the Colburn School from California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) where she served as SVP of Finance and Operations, Chief Financial Officer, Chief Innovation Officer. In this role, she oversaw global initiatives, finance and accounting, analytics and IT, operations and facilities, and human resources. In addition, she was responsible for strategic planning and innovating new business models. She was instrumental in steering CalArts’ Strategic Visioning project, laying the framework to guide CalArts through the next 50 years; and strengthening CalArts’ financial position through the creation of new revenue streams.

An active member of the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO), Merchant was recently honored with the 2020 Service to NACUBO Award for her outstanding contributions to the association’s professional development programs. Merchant has served on NACUBO’s New Business Officers Alumni Panel, mentoring program, Advisory Group on Leadership Diversity, and several program committees.

Prior to CalArts, Merchant spent twelve years as a management consultant working for Deloitte Consulting and (Mercer) Oliver Wyman and as an education technology entrepreneur. Merchant has experience across multiple states, countries, and industries (public sector, higher education, financial services, automotive). Her experience includes large-scale business transformations, strategic and financial planning, business process optimization, and analytics. In her consulting career, Merchant worked with several CXO clients to identify strategic imperatives and implement recommendations. She led successful operational transformation efforts for the Human Services department in the State of Michigan and in New Mexico by leveraging both process and technology while emphasizing the importance of change management.

Merchant is passionate about innovation and entrepreneurship and founded her own education technology startup that served K-12 schools in Asia. She has worked with the XPRIZE Foundation to solve the world’s grandest challenges using exponential technologies and enablers. She has developed offerings around the future of various industries and their respective evolving innovator ecosystem. Moreover, she is greatly involved with the local community and has designed and implemented a high school curriculum for LAUSD to equip students with the knowledge and skills to leverage disruptive technologies.

Merchant graduated Magna Cum Laude from the prestigious Jerome Fisher Management and Technology Program at the University of Pennsylvania with three degrees in Finance, Biomedical Science, and International Relations.

“When reflecting upon the future of education, I imagine a future that breaks barriers: socioeconomic and racial barriers to a world-class education, as well as, structural barriers between K-12, higher education, and adult learning,” said Merchant. “The Colburn School portrays this future by embracing both access and lifelong learning. I am honored to join the Colburn community and am extremely grateful to be a part of an organization that has pivoted during these extraordinary times while focusing on its purpose and the way forward.”

Colburn Responds to COVID-19 with Online Instruction and Student Support

This past month, the Colburn community transitioned from attending lessons, eagerly rehearsing for upcoming performances, and anticipating the rest of the spring semester to sheltering in place and navigating arts education online. Our faculty and staff have been working tirelessly so that students across all areas of the School can stay connected to the performing arts and continue training through virtual instruction, coaching, and . We are striving to make sure we can all turn to the performing arts as a source of comfort in this time of uncertainty.

Our goal is for Colburn’s vibrant community to remain safe, connected, and engaged, so we have taken a number of actions to establish remote learning. Faculty in the Community School, Conservatory, Music Academy, and Trudl Zipper Dance Institute have developed online curriculums to ensure that students will be provided with an uninterrupted learning experience. Students are able to attend private lessons, group lessons, and lectures virtually and stay in touch with their peers and faculty. All students in degree-granting programs will stay on track and graduating seniors will be able to earn their degrees.

Learn more about our transition to online learning.

In particular, faculty in the Trudl Zipper Dance Institute have developed an extensive real-time interactive curriculum, with technology that allows them to teach and provide feedback to students as if they were physically in class. Our Jumpstart programs in the Community School, taught primarily by our Gluck Teaching Fellows in the Conservatory, will also be able to resume later in April by connecting the Conservatory teaching fellows virtually with Jumpstart students in their homes.

In addition to the shift to online instruction, another focus was ensuring that all residential students who had to move out of Colburn’s dormitories were housed and supported. Staff helped to relocate each student to a friend or relative’s house. Conservatory, Music Academy, and Dance Academy students were provided with over $45,000 of meal, travel, and housing stipends. Conservatory pianists, percussionists, and harpists who are away from their instruments were also matched with private instruments in homes in Los Angeles, rental studios, and other creative practice options so they can continue their training uninterrupted.

Read more on student hosting.

We remain committed to supporting our students, faculty, and staff throughout this period. Now more than ever, we rely on the arts to stay connected as a community. We are grateful to have the support of you, our community members, as we traverse these unprecedented times, and look forward to having you back on campus.

Coming Soon: Colburn’s 2019–20 Performance Season

The wait is almost over! In just a few weeks, we’ll be announcing Colburn’s jam-packed 2019–20 season, filled with intimate concerts, thrilling dance performances, and unbridled talent.

This year, Colburn’s young artists will be joined on stage by a long list of renowned guests, and we’ll hear works by the heavy hitters of classical music—Wagner, Dvorak, Mahler, and more—and enjoy a weeklong celebration of Beethoven’s 250th birthday.

Our distinguished faculty artists will shine in specially curated recitals, and Zipper Hall will be home to performances by royal wedding cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason and New York City Ballet stars.

From the Baroque to the contemporary, from modern dance to ballet, the 2019–20 season has something for everyone.

Keep an eye on your inboxes and mailboxes for a full listing of performances happening on campus and across Southern California this year.

We look forward to seeing you at Colburn, your intersection for the arts.

Frank Gehry to Design Campus Expansion

I’m thrilled that this expansion will help the Colburn School bring music and dance more deeply into the lives of thousands of students of all ages and will welcome all members of the public. Carol Colburn Grigor

An exciting new stage in the growth of the Colburn School and the entire Downtown Los Angeles cultural community has begun, with the announcement that Frank Gehry will design a major campus expansion adjacent to the School’s current site. This ambitious project, together with Walt Disney Concert Hall and The Music Center, the Museum of Contemporary Art and The Broad, will make this area of Downtown one of the largest concentrations of performing- and visual-arts organizations in the world, a true cultural hub for all of Los Angeles.

Located along Second Street on a parcel of land acquired in 2016, Colburn’s campus expansion will include state-of-the-art performance venues—a 1,100-seat concert hall, a 700-seat studio theater, and a 100-seat cabaret-style space—that will give Colburn its first hall for full-size orchestra performances, a venue for its burgeoning dance program and for opera, and a range of options to meet the demand of partner institutions and community stakeholders. The expansion will also include much-needed classroom, rehearsal, and housing spaces for the growing Colburn community.

The Colburn School selected Gehry for his deep connection to the city of Los Angeles, particularly downtown, and his record of accomplishment of creating remarkable performance spaces and educational institutions. President and CEO Sel Kardan says, “In selecting Frank Gehry for this ambitious project, we have chosen an architect with an extraordinary track record of designing educational and performance spaces, an unshakeable sense of public purpose, deep roots in Los Angeles, and a commitment to the young people of this region and young artists around the world.”

Joining Gehry will be an all-star, all-LA team that includes Yasuhisa Toyota of Nagata Acoustics, the acoustician for Walt Disney Concert Hall, and Michael Ferguson of TheatreDNA, who, as a member of Theatre Projects, consulted on Gehry’s New World Center in Miami.

Colburn School Campus Expansion Map

In a statement, Carol Colburn Grigor emphasized that this is a historical moment for the school, saying “Music runs in our family, passed down to us from our father. I’m thrilled that this expansion will help the Colburn School bring music and dance more deeply into the lives of thousands of students of all ages and will welcome all members of the public. Walt Disney Concert Hall is one of the most breathtaking buildings ever created for music performance, so I know that Frank Gehry is the perfect architect to design our expansion.”

The Colburn School moved to its home at 200 South Grand Avenue in 1998, when Grand Avenue between the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion at First Street and the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) at Third Street was parking lots and undeveloped land. In 2007, Colburn expanded, opening the adjoining Olive Street building, with new rehearsal, performing, and living spaces.

Colburn’s investment in downtown paid off, and it now sits in the middle of a vibrant cultural corridor. Today, students play alongside members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, dance in The Music Center’s Nutcracker, ponder art with educators at MOCA, and visit The Broad between classes.

The expansion of the Colburn School will foment Gehry’s impact on the area, living aside his other high-profile projects: the celebrated Walt Disney Concert Hall and his mixed-use Grand Avenue Project that he is designing for the Related Companies. His team will now begin the concept design phase of Colburn’s expansion, the next cultural jewel for Los Angeles.

If you are a member of the media and wish to download the press release and high-resolution images visit the press section of our website.

The Colburn School is Expanding