Practicing *Other* Things

by Jenna Pollack, 4th-year dancer

Do you remember being told, “Oh dear, if you keep crossing your eyes like that they are going to stay that way”?  Though I must defend funny face-making and the great GIFs they become, I do try to keep my own to a minimum.  Why?  Because the underlying, hard truth behind your Grandmother’s scare tactic is that habits stick.  I believe that the same rule applies in the studio: if you glue your eyes to the ballet mirror- or the script, or the score- they will stay that way.  Well, not your eyes per se, but the intention behind them.   And, contrary to popular belief, in order to reach your artistic potential you must stop practicing once in a while . . . and practice other things.

I have found teaching to be one of many excellent outlets for this. While everyone at Juilliard works hard to get better, The Office of Educational Outreach provides opportunities for students to work hard at bettering the lives of others.  I’ve found this to be one of the school’s secrets to making some of the world’s most talented performing artists. And not only does the teaching fellowship give me crucial skills to better market myself upon graduation, but the stipend lets me take out much smaller student loans.

On Saturday mornings I join one of my dancer classmates to The Children’s Storefront in East Harlem.  We arrive to a handful of the most adorable fourth and fifth graders, and for two hours we lead them through ‘dance class’.  But they aren’t like Juilliard classes. While certainly used, we keep codified French terms to minimum.  We explore new physical coordinations, play games, improvise, and create movement together.  We go across the floor improvising what it feels like to be different animals and different seasons.  We speak complete conversations to each other with our own created movement vocabulary, like the South African gumboot dancers.  We talk about the idea of ‘theme and variations’ and, after watching George Balanchine’s version, ask them to create their own contemporary remix. We watch Beyoncé’s ‘Countdown’ music video and learn the real Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker choreography. We ask the students to work together to generate movement phrases that are put together for a performance for their friends and family.  And week after week, I learn what it means to be a successful dancer from these students.

At the end of last semester one of our students asked about the upcoming winter break:

“So when do we come back to dance class?”

“After the holidays, in January!” I replied.

“What about when school ends in the spring?” her voice a near shrill.

“Well, dance class will go on a summer vacation with school.”

“Ugh, NO!  I want dance class to go on forever!”

I share this not to toot our horn, but to illustrate just how much a weekend activity- whether it be dance or basketball or a music lesson- is a vital outlet for young minds, and especially those targeted by Juilliard’s outreach programs.  They are so important in developing one’s identity, and with different standards from the regular classroom. Extracurriculars refresh what it means to learn and, more importantly, to be successful.

Dance class, as with most extracurricular activities, is a way for our students to express themselves, to push their own boundaries in a safe space, to try out new skins and voices.  Our students make important discoveries about themselves as their confidence grows with exercises big and small.

One of my favorite moments these past two years as a Children’s Storefront teacher was at a student performance last semester.  The father of a girl named Chyna had just returned from prison. He had been locked up for almost the entirety of his daughter’s life.  Chyna was still on cloud nine from his arrival the week before, and performed the best I’ve ever seen her dance knowing he was in the audience.  She has always had a phenomenal work ethic and attitude, and I am so happy that her father could be there to witness her success.  I am deeply moved to think how important of a moment that was for their relationship, and I love seeing him pick Chyna up from class every week now.

For me, teaching these students also solidifies what I (think I) know about dance.  I am re-inspired when they make their “different music can change the same dance!” epiphanies.  I am reminded of the importance of patience when a girl builds coordination to turn in the matter of a few weeks.  I am grateful for our diverse individuality when I give the boys their own steps.  And so I’ve begun to build better habits, habits of character, that I can bring back to the practice room.

Before coming to Juilliard I already knew that the arts were wildly underestimated as a crucial part of a child’s development.  But what I’ve learned since is that teaching them is also wildly underestimated as a crucial part of an artist’s development.

Take alumnus Adam Driver from HBO’s hit series Girls who, in addition to being a total rock star, co-founded Arts in the Armed Forces while at Juilliard.  In an interview last month with the Juilliard Journal Adam talked about the compatibility of his school work with his nonprofit organization: “In a way, it’s [entrepreneurship] the most gratifying thing to work on because not only is it beneficial to have a project where the focus isn’t about you, but it’s also about using the craft as a service. As an actor, there’s nothing that sucks more than feeling that what you’re doing is irrelevant, and I feel like I’ve been fortunate enough to work on a lot of projects that seem very relevant and active and have a point of view and that reminded me that it’s a service.”

So though you don’t have to believe me, you should definitely believe Adam Driver.  I mean, just look at his goofy face.

Juilliard Educational Outreach

by Teresa McKinney, Director of Educational Outreach

Educational Outreach at Juilliard provides many opportunities to gain experience teaching in schools and community organizations throughout New York City.  The true benefits of this type of work are not fully realized until students explore and get involved in the teaching and interactive performance experience offered through the Educational Outreach department.

We often ask our Educational Outreach Fellows the question, “how does teaching impact your artistry?”  Some tell us that teaching in the community helps them become a stronger artist and gives them a better understanding of how to communicate their artistry to the public.  Others say they become more aware of how people receive what the fellows are communicating through their performance. Even when performing for children, they find the honesty of the young audience “refreshing” and keeps them on their toes.

Providing interactive performances in schools, healthcare facilities and other partnering organizations have enabled the Juilliard student fellows to hone their skills in deconstructing artistic concepts for a wide range of audiences. These various settings provide the Juilliard student with an opportunity to develop in the areas of public speaking, improvisation, and adapting to diverse performance and teaching environments.

Juilliard’s Educational Outreach Fellows are ambassadors of arts education and represent what is so great about The Juilliard school.  These students have a spirited desire to develop and share their gifts to a global audience.  Whether it be a school, hospital, nursing home or community arts organization, it is our goal in Educational Outreach to provide opportunities for our fellows to refine their skills as a performer and advocate for the arts.

Our teaching and interactive performance opportunities are best described in the voice of some of our Educational Outreach Fellows….

Loosen Up and BE YOU

by Patrick McGuire, M.M. Cello

It’s been five years since I auditioned for the undergraduate program at Juilliard but I still remember the intense excitement and nervousness that I felt that day as if it were yesterday. It was the last of five college auditions I took that year and, having been practicing the repertoire for almost nine months, a climactic moment at the end of many hours of hard work. It was exciting to think that I’d be able to show the fruits of my labor in that audition, but also nerve-wracking to think about everything that might go wrong in my playing. My audition was back-to-back with a good friend of mine from the same high school. What if he got in and I didn’t? And, after preparing for so long, what if I had a memory slip or made a careless mistake?

Looking back now, I realize that I was too concerned with the outcome of the audition in the moment and not concerned enough with having fun and making music. Fortunately, a bizarre and unexpected experience in the audition room helped me to get outside of my head and into a normal mental state to play music.

Three days before I’d played an audition at a different school, and it was BAD. Even though I felt totally fine in the moments leading up to the audition, as soon as I walked into the audition room–a computer lab, strangely enough–I panicked. It felt like my arms were playing the cello and my mind was in a completely different place. One of the panelists starting dozing off, and another got up and sat down at one of the computers. After it was over, I nearly ran out of the room and hoped I wouldn’t see any of the panelists again for awhile. Then I realized that one of them also taught at Juilliard, and that he might be on the Juilliard audition panel.

Three days later I walked into the audition room at Juilliard and, sure enough, he was there. I chose to ignore the situation and hoped that he wouldn’t recognize me. I sat down, adjusted my endpin, and took a deep breath. I was about to start with a Bach allemande when I heard from across the room, “Are you Patrick McGuire?”

Yes. It was really happening. I said yes and hoped for the best. But then he went on to ask, “Are you Irish?” Well, yes, I am, so I said so.  “You don’t look Irish.” I’m also Italian, and I said so. Everyone else seemed content with that answer, but then he said, “You don’t look Italian, either.” I didn’t really know what to make of the situation, but it was pretty funny. I would have never expected to have had that conversation in my Juilliard audition and, for whatever reason, it helped me loosen up and to stop thinking about everything that could have gone wrong. My advice for anyone auditioning at Juilliard and other schools is to get out of your head and just let yourself be you.

Tips For Your Best Audition

by Arianna Körting, B.M. Piano

Hello fellow Juilliard applicants! It is less than a week until  auditions begin!  It is such an accomplishment to have made it this far into the audition process, and you only have one last big step left to go. It seems only yesterday when I felt the exact same way as all of you do right now: stressed, nervous, excited, etc. Although acceptance to Juilliard is mostly dependent on the audition, I would like to take some time to give you a bit of audition advice so that you might find your audition experience at Juilliard much less scary and death-defying than you thought.

The moment I walked into the audition room, the Piano faculty members were sitting at a long table. We graciously greeted each other with smiles and I immediately made my way to the piano and sat down. At that moment, one of the jury members told me to begin with any piece I preferred. The best part of the audition process (for Piano) at Juilliard is that applicants are given the opportunity to choose the first piece to play. When I heard of this, I felt relieved because I knew I would be able to put my best foot forward with a piece that I was fully comfortable with. For me, the first couple minutes of any audition are very crucial because I am still in the process of adapting to the feel of the piano. I advise audition pianists to take some time to choose a piece out of their audition repertoire that is the most comforting to play; I decided to play my Bach Prelude and Fugue. Some of you may be thinking that the showiest and most difficult piece in your repertoire is best to begin your audition. If you feel it is your strongest piece, go for it! If not, then I would suggest starting with the piece you feel you will play the best.

After playing through a bit of my first piece, they stopped me and requested for me to play another piece from my audition repertoire list. The rest of my audition was solely based on what the faculty decided to listen to, as will be the same for your audition. The jury may stop you and have you play whichever pieces they deem necessary to get the full glimpse of your artistry. To my surprise, the jury asked me to play the beginnings of each piece in my proposed repertoire except one. What they choose for you all to play is based on the combination of the pieces you have prepared for them along with what they feel like hearing from you. Be prepared for anything!

Here are some additional tips about preparing for your audition that you might find useful:

Make sure to get enough rest two nights before your audition date. For me, it is nearly impossible to get a good night’s rest the night before auditioning. That is why it is best to catch up on sleep two nights before so that you feel fresh and ready to go.

I always make sure to eat a banana at least an hour before my audition because it contains Vitamin B and potassium to help calm my nerves – just a thought!

Lastly, play with much confidence and from the heart. Whenever I perform in front of a jury, I keep in mind that I am there to produce beautiful music and the jury members are there to soak it in and enjoy. Take the faculty on a fantastic journey through the various contrasting pieces you have in store for them. Showing your passion for this great art is definitely a crucial part in winning the interests of the audition jury.

Carpe diem and best of luck to you all!

Not A Perfect Audition

by Elliott Hines, M.M. Voice

Greetings and congratulations on your invitation to a live audition!  Your hard work has already begun to pay off and you should be excited about the opportunity to get up and perform the music that you love.

That being said, sometimes you get up to perform the music you love and you bring dishonor and shame to the composer who wrote it, and possibly your family, friends, and neighbors. ;D

My name is Elliott Hines and I am a first year M.M. Voice student studying with Ms. Edith Wiens and a native of Houston, TX.  The majority of my undergrad experience was very extensive in choral and early music.  Coming to Juilliard was, and has been, an exciting opportunity to be pushed out of my comfort zone which, in effect, has pushed me to be even better than I thought I could be.

My Juilliard audition was my very last audition.  This was right during tech week of the opera at Oberlin and I had just sung another audition two days before.  I was…exhausted.  There would be no tears shed for the end of traipsing across the country and figuring out creative ways to keep my suit unwrinkled in my carry-on bag.  Nevertheless, I was very excited about this audition and had prepared the LARGE repertoire list to the best of my ability.

The morning of my audition, I met with the wonderful collaborative pianist who would be playing my audition (ADVICE: If Juilliard says, “You can meet with your pianist beforehand”, DO IT. PAY THE 30 DOLLARS AND DO IT. YOU WILL NOT REGRET IT).  I brought him a separate binder with all my music, double sided, no bass notes chopped off, and clean.  We spent about 30 minutes just setting tempi for the 9 pieces and, more specifically, working out the fancy fireworks I was going to do on my Handel aria, should they pick it.   Now I was just ready to go and sing my face off and get into Juilliard!

Most of the other guys around were super friendly and supportive of one another, which was great.  I got out on stage an opened with Duparc “Le Manoir de Rosemonde” which went splendidly.  They then asked for Grieg “Zur Rosenzeit” which went ever better!  I had done my 2 pieces and if I didn’t get it, then at least I know I had sung well!

The panel began to speak amongst each other and was debating a 3rd piece for me to sing: a Stravinsky aria or an obscure Handel aria.  They decided on the Handel after me describing the aria to them.  This is where I started to sound TERRIBLE.

I got way too excited about this aria and was pushing it way too fast for me to sing.  There was a point where my voice was singing but I was not present in my body and I just knew that the sounds coming out were BAD.  I was singing super pushed, not singing HALF of the coloratura notes, and couldn’t breath. I stopped, nervously laughed out loud and asked, “Can I try that again?!”


Thinking that the restart would help me get back in it, I only sounded worse and worse. I missed ALL of the cadenzas that I had so carefully planned with the pianist out of sheer nervousness, I cracked a couple of times, and acting…not even in existence.  There was NO WAY I was getting in.

The thing to remember though is that the audition panel UNDERSTANDS.  They have all been there. They are all human and have had bad days and performances, too.  It doesn’t make you a bad artist or a bad person or mean that you didn’t work hard enough.  As important as those 15 minutes are, and as important as it is to do your very best and present yourself in the best way possible, mistakes happen and IT’S OKAY.  You’re auditioning to come to SCHOOL and LEARN, and they want to help you.  If your audition isn’t perfect, PLEASE trust that they see your POTENTIAL and not your hiccups.

My advice:

  1. Do music you love.
  2. Be completely prepared
  3. Rehearse with your pianist beforehand and bring nice copies of your music.  You will not regret it.
  4. Be nice to the people around you!  You’re all in the same boat just trying to do your best.  Support each other.

It Was About the Music

by Daniel Chmielinski, B.M. Jazz Studies

The drive from Chicago to New York City is about thirteen hours. Since flying was out of the question due to the large double bass coming along for the trip, we decided to take on the thirteen-hour trek. With the car loaded up and my dad in the driver’s seat, we set off; only 900 miles between me and the audition that my entire musical career had been leading up to. It was Juilliard, the big one.

It was the last stop on the college audition tour, and by far the most challenging. With only about 40 students in the entire program, I felt my chances of getting in were slim at best. Lots of thoughts run through your head on a drive of that nature. You really hope that you perform at the top of your ability and leave absolutely everything you have on the table. You hope that all of your hard work pays off and that you don’t let nerves hinder you. Mostly though, you just hope that it goes as smoothly as possible.

When I arrived, I immediately recognized most of the other bassists auditioning. In an age focused so heavily on social media, you are incredibly in tune with the “who’s who” of your age bracket. You know who has won what audition, who has been featured in what bands and who has won what competitions. You may never have met them in person before, but you know who they are. Being that they only called back 9 of us, this was quite intimidating.

I threw myself in the practice room and waited to be called in. I didn’t have much time though, as I was called in not long after I finished warming up, cursing the fact that my last name starts with a C as I headed towards the room. (Why couldn’t it have been Zhmielinski?) Immediately, my heart began to race as I was greeted by 15 faculty members sitting behind a table only a few feet from where I was supposed to stand, in a rhythm section with Helen Sung on piano and Luca Santaniello on drums. As they began to introduce themselves one by one, I wanted to yell “Yes! I know who you all are!  I have your records; I’ve seen you in concert. This is really unnecessary.” But with each name, the tension grew.

And then, somehow, my attitude completely flipped. My incredible state of nervousness had transformed into incredible excitement. I was excited at the thought that I could have the opportunity to work with all these incredible musicians on a daily basis. I was about to play the music I loved with a world-class rhythm section for a group of people whom I had admired for years. It was then that I realized that they were on my team. It became solely about the music at that point. My ego shut off, I heard “start whenever you’re ready,” and I began to play.

It would be a lie to say that the audition was not tense. It most certainly was, but somehow the previously stated rationale got me through it. I knew that I was giving it my all, and whatever happened afterward was not a reflection of how I performed, but rather how they perceived it. I knew 110% was coming out of my instrument, firing on all cylinders, and that was that. You don’t think, “Gosh I really hope they’re enjoying this” in the moment, you just go for it. It is a surreal experience.

I was fortunate enough to get my acceptance letter a month later, and am currently living out the dream playing the music I love and learning from people who are some of the finest jazz musicians and educators in the world. Whether the letter said yes or no, I knew that what I left in that room was me. I gave them who I was as a musician, as a person, and as a student. And as chance would have it, they liked me.

Hey, Music Auditioners: Are You Ready to ROCK???

by Monia C. Estima, Associate Director for Music Admissions

Admissions is! (Well…almost.) While you’ve been practicing, we’ve been preparing all of the materials necessary to audition about 1300 music applicants over 7 days. So I suppose we’ve all been kind of busy, gearing up for that first week of March, eh?

Next week, you’ll read audition stories from some of our current music students, but there’s one audition story to which the average individual may not give any thought—the faculty’s. “What’s there to think about?” you may ask. “They’ll ask me to play a bit and then they’ll send me on my merry way, right?” Well, that’s just part of the story.

Sure, you step into your audition room, smile big at everyone, and do your best to knock their socks off. What you don’t know is how big they’re smiling back at you. (It may not be immediately apparent, but trust me: they’re smiling in their hearts.)  (I promise.) What you don’t know is how excited they are to meet you. What you don’t know is that they want to love you. Juilliard’s music faculty, who are among the most dedicated and caring teachers I’ve known in all my years in higher education, share your passion for music, and they are ready, willing, and eager to be WOWED by you.

So just before you cross the threshold of your audition room, remember that you’re about to do the thing you absolutely LOVE, and when you do what you love, there’s nothing at all to fear. The faculty at your audition want you to do well, as do all of us here at Juilliard, including our current students, who hope they’ll have the opportunity to work with you next year.

We’re all rooting for you.

(PLUS, we’ll have bananas and chocolates waiting for you at the check-in table in Larkin Lobby, and if that ain’t love, I don’t know what is.)

PS: For those about to ROCK—I salute you.

Things I Didn’t Know About Juilliard: The Juilliard Family

by Sam Lilja, 3rd-year Actor

Because of the audition experiences I had with other schools, when I auditioned for the Drama Division in 2010, I fully expected to encounter a faculty that was stand-offish and egocentric. Much to my surprise and delight, however, I discovered something wildly different. From the minute I walked through the door in Chicago and was greeted with a warm smile by Kathy Hood, to my time in the room with Richard Feldman and Ralph Zito, to my final callback in New York with the entire faculty, I was treated like a member of the Juilliard family. The faculty and the students seemed to want me there, to have me spend the next several years of my life with them, and they all made me feel comfortable enough to relax and to do my best work. Being treated in that way was incredibly encouraging and made me realize that, should I be lucky enough to be accepted, Juilliard would be the perfect place for me to hone my craft and grow as an artist and, most importantly, as a person.

Every step of my journey at Juilliard has exhibited to me how seriously the sense of community is taken here. I have spent the past three years of my life with the same seventeen people, growing and struggling with them in a variety of ways. They are always there to support me, to celebrate my successes, and to lift me up when I’m down. I recently lost someone who was instrumental in my decision to be an actor, and the entire Drama Division reached out to me in my time of grief. The love they shared and the support they gave me revealed to me how much each and every person means to the program. My family is now eighty-odd people strong, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

As students, we are privileged to have the opportunity to help facilitate the audition process at the school. I remember how nervous I was on the day of my audition and how Kathy and Richard and Ralph helped me do the best I could do that day. When the option to work auditions is presented, I jump at the chance to be able to do what they and the rest of the Juilliard community did for me: provide an environment for the courageous ones who audition to do their best work. It is important to me to pass that love and support on, to welcome each and every possible new member of my family, and to help them do their best work. I wouldn’t be where I am today if that hadn’t been done for me.

Things I Didn’t Know About Juilliard: Services for Professional Development

by Caeli Smith, 3rd-year Violinist

It’s comforting and empowering to know that there are people and programs at Juilliard standing by to help us become successful and well-rounded artists. Whether you’re a musician, actor, or dancer, once you arrive at Juilliard, you will discover that there are many different offices and programs outside of your department designed to support you, your education, and career.

One of my favorites is the Office of Career Services, where they help you out with everything from cover letters and resumes, to editing videos and recordings for auditions. Not only that, they’ll also hook you up with gigs for a that much-needed extra cash. Of course, Career Services is also a great place to find practical, real-world career advice. At Career Services, they make you feel supported as a student in a different way than your department teachers do. It’s comforting to know that there are people who are concerned with the business-end of your career – you know, the complicated bureaucratic stuff that we sensitive artists don’t always like to deal with! Career Services helps guide us through practical situations and prepares us for life after Juilliard.

Another office I love to visit is Educational Outreach. Let me just say it: this department is incredible. Educational Outreach offers numerous fellowships to students, to help us share our art through performances and teaching, all over the entire NYC metropolitan area. I am currently thrilled to be a recipient three of the fellowships, and to have the opportunity to teach and perform for New Yorkers of all ages. Aside from being an antidote to those soul-crushing hours toiling alone in the practice room, these fellowship opportunities provide us with teaching experience, resume boosters, and the extra cash needed fund our fabulous NYC lifestyle (AKA, that tiny little apartment in Astoria).

Also – take your blinders off! When students first arrive at Juilliard, they’re totally and understandably focused on and excited about all the great work ahead of them. It’s tempting to be narrow-minded and sink all your energy into classwork and practicing. Be sure to open your eyes. Be mindful all of the incredible artists around you, in so many disciplines. Take advantage of all the other divisions’ performances. Collaborate with them in performance and teaching. When you are at Juilliard you’re at the epicenter of the performing arts world. Music, dance, theater: it’s all here. Take advantage of the art being made by your peers outside your discipline. Their art will inform yours, and you will be stronger and better for it.


Things I Didn’t Know About Juilliard: Advice for Newcomers

by Yuga Cohler, 2nd-year M.M. – Orchestral Conducting

1. Many of the restaurants and shops in the Lincoln Center area offer discounts for Juilliard students, so be sure to ask about it before you order anything. This advice is especially important for older-looking graduate students eating in the Juilliard/SAB Cafe. They might mistake you for faculty and charge you the full price.

2. This having been said, there is a tragic dearth of affordable yet savory places to eat near Juilliard. If you came to Juilliard thinking that you would be in the epicenter of culinary delight, you were dead wrong. Assuming you are on a budget, your best bets are the following: Empire Szechuan Kyoto on 69th and Columbus (as the name suggests, an amalgam of affordable Asian food), Chipotle on 72nd and Broadway (an all-time favorite), and the food cart on 66th between Broadway and Columbus (not the one directly outside of Juilliard). For the last of these, I recommend that you order the combo platter with plenty of hot sauce and the ever-mysterious “white sauce.”

3. Juilliard students can attend most, if not all, Juilliard events for free if they get their tickets early enough. Take advantage of this privilege, not only in your discipline but also in the other two.

4. But it’s also okay not to go to every single event going on around the school.

5. Famous people come to Juilliard all the time; in fact, if you go here, in all likelihood you study with one. I once saw Newman from “Seinfeld” in the cafeteria and almost freaked out. Make sure you are aware of this surreal reality before coming here so that your reactions are not inappropriately jejune when you encounter a celebrity.

6. Perhaps the only expensive place to eat near Juilliard worth checking out is Magnolia Bakery. Their banana pudding is unbelievable.