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Walnut Hill School for the Arts

In October 2021, Walnut Hill School for the Arts Board of Trustees approved the appointment of Eric Barber as Walnut Hill's next Head of School. Barber will join Walnut Hill in the summer of 2022, taking over from Antonio Viva, who has led the School since 2010. 

A Message from the Board of Trustees

October 25, 2021

Dear Members of the Walnut Hill Community,

We are thrilled to announce that the Board of Trustees has unanimously approved the selection of Eric Barber as the 13th Head of Walnut Hill School for the Arts. Eric will join our community on July 1, 2022, succeeding Antonio Viva, who has served our school tirelessly and passionately for over a decade. 

Currently the Director of Enrollment Management at Crossroads School for Arts and Sciences, Eric brings to Walnut Hill more than two decades of leadership experience at independent schools that have incubated new ideas and programs; championed holistic, student-centered learning; supported the health and wellbeing of all community members; and actively reached outside their community to improve access and equity.

When we set out on our search last spring, we sought to find in our next Head of School someone with not only the experience and character needed to strengthen Walnut Hill’s position as a leading arts educator, but also the commitment and vision necessary to carry us into a future that is increasingly diverse and global. After careful consideration of the feedback from the community, it became overwhelmingly clear that Eric Barber possessed the values, skill set, foresight, creativity, and passion to be Walnut Hill’s next leader.

The selection of Eric as our next Head of School was the result of an exhaustive process that involved not only the search committee, but members of the entire Walnut Hill Community. To all the students, faculty and staff, alumni, parents, community partners, and Board members who helped welcome the candidates on campus, who attended in person and virtual meetings, and who offered thoughtful feedback, thank you!. Your voices mattered.

An Artist Educator

At his core, Eric is an artist who understands firsthand the development needs of young artists. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in Music at the University of Oregon and his Master’s in Fine Arts in Jazz and African-American Music at California Institute of the Arts. A renowned saxophonist and composer, Eric has practiced and performed throughout his career, continuing to grow and expand his art form. His work in music is original and forward thinking.

Eric began his educational career in the Admission Department of his alma mater, CalArts. He then went on to work at Lakeside School, The Evergreen School and Crossroads School. At these four, Eric championed student growth and learning through teaching, expanding curricular offerings, diversifying the student body, and prioritizing social/emotional wellbeing. 

Having lived by our motto Non Nobis Solum, “Not for Ourselves Alone,” Eric embodies the Walnut Hill mission on an intrinsic level. After his visit he noted, “Walnut Hill’s approach to education allows students to develop into their true selves and changes the trajectory of their lives. Its culture of high expectations, the potent combination of arts and academics, and the belief that diversity strengthens a Walnut Hill education is so exciting to me.”

A Collaborative, Visionary Leader

Eric prides himself on building high-performing, collaborative teams, breaking down silos between departments and bringing people together for the collective success of the school. He offers optimism and realism in addressing the concerns of community members, and looks to seize key opportunities that ensure his school’s strength and financial sustainability. His references describe him as a relationship builder who takes the time to understand how all parts of the school community work as a whole. “He has played a key role in gathering constituents, implementing strategy, and delegating and trusting his team,” says a colleague. He promotes honesty and creative problem solving, embraces complexity, thinks innovatively and unconventionally, and works collaboratively with all members of the school community towards a unified vision.

Balancing his attention between the internal needs of the school and external, environmental pressures, Eric has elevated his schools’ reputations and helped them grow in the face of economic challenges and heightened competition. His experience with strategic projects and fundraising has supported meaningful and profound change. “He is an outstanding public speaker and conveys the mission and values of the school in a warm, clear and powerful manner,” notes a colleague. 

A Champion of Equity and Belonging

Eric is unwavering in his commitment to equity, justice, diversity and inclusion. Throughout his career, he has deliberately pursued opportunities where he could make an impact, developing programs and partnerships that improve access to “transformative education.” Eric has been responsible for dramatically increasing racial, socio-economic, and gender diversity at each institution at which he has worked. Furthermore, he has championed accompanying programming to support the on-going needs of a diverse student body.

At Crossroads, Eric helped launch the Equity & Justice Institute, co-leading a year-long effort to create a vision and fully endow this groundbreaking program, now in its third year. Components of the program include a comprehensive K-12 equity and justice curriculum, an innovation lab, nonprofit partnerships, and other activities that empower students and community members to take meaningful action on local, national and global issues.

When at Lakeside, Eric established strategic partnerships with six community organizations to share resources and improve access to Lakeside for underrepresented students. Eric also strengthened the school’s Global Service Learning program, helping hundreds of students to be agents of change at home and abroad, fueling their compassion, sense of social justice, moral character, and importantly, their discovery that even small, positive contributions can contribute to the greater good.

Eric brings a depth of experience as an artist and educator, living the values we hold dear at Walnut Hill: community, excellence, growth, creativity, and respect. We believe Eric will lead with a quiet confidence, a commitment to innovation, a devotion to advancing our mission, and a passion for developing our students and the gifts they will share with our world. As we continue to evolve as a school and a leader in the greater arts ecosystem, we are excited by the prospect of Eric Barber ushering in our next chapter.

Over the next year, the school will offer more opportunities to get to know Eric through on-campus and virtual events. As we move forward with clarity, we thank you for extending a warm welcome to Eric Barber, Joy, his wife, and their children, Simone and Ezra, to our community.

Warmly,

Jenny Toolin McAuliffe
Parent ’15
Chair, Board of Trustees
Derrick Harkins
Parent ’18, Trustee
Search Committee Chair
Betsy Paine McClendon ’65
Past Chair, Board of Trustees
Search Committee Vice Chair

A Message from Eric Barber, Walnut Hill's 13th Head of School

Dear Walnut Hill School Community,

It is with boundless joy and utmost humility that I accept the appointment to serve as the next Head of School at Walnut Hill. From the first time I read the position statement through my culminating campus visit in September, I felt an unshakeable excitement about the mission of Walnut Hill and the qualities the community desires in its next Head of School. I have never seen a community so willing to harness the synergy of pre-professional arts training, deep and joyful academics, and a culture of belonging and inclusion in service to improving our world. The Walnut Hill opportunity authentically and completely unites my artistic and educational experience in service to one organization. And as a professional saxophonist and composer, the ability to make my next home within a community of talented artists is a dream come true. I can safely say that right now is the highpoint of my career!

During my family’s two and a half day visit in September, everyone we met expressed their deep love and admiration for what the School does best: nurturing the hearts, minds, and artistry of the next generation of creative leaders. The students I met were incredibly focused and reflective, yet unafraid to take risks and ask tough questions. The faculty and staff were fiercely proud of the School and wanted a Head of School who would be a thought partner in elevating their teaching practice. Both current students and alumni, with the support of their parents and guardians, were so invested in the power of forging one’s own path in the arts that they travelled from both as near as Natick and far away as China. And the Trustees were so dedicated to the health and vitality of Walnut Hill, as well as ensuring that the School occupies an international position of leadership in arts education. I felt welcomed and embraced by all of you during our visit and I thank you deeply for that. As I left Stowe at the conclusion of my interview and walked across Highland Street, I’ll be honest that I became a bit emotional. Walnut Hill feels like home. These are my people. So it is immensely gratifying to be chosen as the leader who will guide an exceptional community into a vibrant next chapter.

Please know that I will take the time to learn your stories, to listen and understand your hopes and dreams for Walnut Hill. We are all in this together, and I promise to work tirelessly to advance the school and support the holistic academic, artistic, and emotional growth of Walnut Hill students. I pledge to weave everything I learn from you into a strong vision and direction for the school. The past 18 months have been extremely challenging, and yet I remain optimistic that the reflection and reckoning we’ve all engaged in will produce meaningful and sustained change for years to come.

In particular, please know I am deeply committed to continuing and building on the strong efforts the school has already made in diversity, equity, and inclusion work. As Head of School, I will leverage my DEI experience and practice to support and challenge faculty and staff, students, parents, and guardians to create an inclusive and equitable learning community. I will celebrate the progress we make and will take responsibility for all failures and shortcomings. The arts have always been a potent force in social change, and we will focus deeply with artistic practice, professional development, and courageous conversations to improve systems of equity and inclusion.

Thank you to the Search Committee, whose professionalism and passion for Walnut Hill’s mission and purpose in society has been palpable at each stage of the search process. And to everyone who I met or who attended an in-person or ZOOM forum, thank you. You asked probing, challenging questions; questions that came from a deep love for the traditions and future of Walnut Hill. I am so energized to join the School and forge a path forward with you; one where each graduate combines their keen and ethical intellect with bold artistic expression to drive change and advocate for justice. Our world is in desperate need of students like ours, and Walnut Hill will continue to define how the arts transform the lives of young people and the fabric of our world.

Warmest Wishes,

Eric Barber

Eric Barber

Career Highlights

Throughout his career, Eric has been able to combine his artistry as a professional saxophonist and his ground-breaking work in educational administration at some of the country's highly regarded colleges and independent schools.

Eric started building his administrative skills after he earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in Jazz and African-American Music at California Institute of the Arts, known widely for its innovative curriculum. He joined the Institute’s Admissions Office, working as a Music Admissions Counselor, Assistant Director of Admissions, and Associate Director of Admissions over his five year tenure.

In 2004, Eric moved to Seattle, Washington, where he served as the Associate Director of Admissions and Outreach Coordinator at Lakeside School.  While there he was the lead in developing mutually beneficial community partnership and doubling the number of enrolled students of color in four years. In 2011, Eric was appointed as Director of Admission and Enrollment Management at The Evergreen School, also in Seattle.  A strong advocate for the health of all independent schools, Eric was a co-founder of Puget Sound Independent Schools, a non-profit regional admissions consortium of 40 independent schools  In Seattle. Throughout his decade in the Northwest, Eric continued to perform. Earshot Jazz wrote a cover story on him in their April 2006 magazine and awarded him the prestigious Northwest Instrumentalist of the Year award in 2009.   

Today, Eric serves as Director of Enrollment Management at Crossroads School for Arts and Sciences, a nationally recognized, K-12 day school of 1,200 students in Los Angeles. He was drawn to Crossroads for its high-quality programs in the arts, offering pre-professional majors in visual arts, music, and theater with many students going on to pursue undergraduate majors in the arts. As Director of Enrollment Management, Eric secured record application volume and representation of students of color for Crossroads in the highly competitive market of West Los Angeles. He has been deeply involved in strategic and financial planning for the future of the school, launching new ideas and programs such as Crossroads' Affordability Program and the Crossroads School Equity & Justice Institute, the first of its kind in the country.

An active member of the Enrollment Management Association (EMA), Eric serves as a co-chair of the Admissions Leadership Council, as a faculty member at the Admissions Training Institute, and as a member of the Character Task Force. We are especially proud that Eric recently was awarded the prestigious Everett E. Gourley Award by EMA in September 2021. He was selected by his peers in the Enrollment Management Association for his tireless work in advancing professional development opportunities for his peers and his strong track record of developing DEI initiatives that benefit students.