One of a Kind

by Naomi Causby, 2nd-year Pianist

The title gives it all away of what I’m going to talk about, but I can basically say that my experience at Juilliard has been nothing less than an absolutely amazing, one-of-a-kind experience. Juilliard has opened my eyes to so many possibilities that lay ahead for me. It’s hard to really pinpoint one experience that has really formed my life here, but if I really had to choose one it would have to be the amount of performance opportunities that Juilliard offers.

Growing up, I always knew The Juilliard School as “the performance school of the entire world.” I had a vision of students performing basically 24/7, and now that I’m here in real life, it is nothing short of that. Not only are there required orchestra concerts, but also everyone is a part of other small ensembles such as New Juilliard Ensemble and Axiom. New music was something that I was never really familiar with growing up in South Carolina, and it was kind of like uncharted territory that I didn’t want to go into. However, since my first year, I’ve been in almost every New Juilliard concert given and it has been absolutely phenomenal. Not only are you pushed to learn intricate rhythms and notes, but you are also pushed out of your own comfort zone to not follow the “norm” that we’ve all learned to perfection. My teacher back home always told me that it was best to be a “rounded musician…dabbling in everything that you can get your hands on.”

Ever since then, other opportunities have come forward. Axiom ensemble, playing at MoMA (Museum of Modern Art), and even playing in Juilliard dance workshops. One thing leads to the next. Who knows where my career is going to lead me? But the opportunities that keep rising here are endless, and that’s what makes Juilliard so amazing.

And to think…it’s only my second year. With two whole years ahead of me, who knows what else will happen. Overall, the Juilliard experience is a once in a lifetime experience and I plan on taking advantage of everything that is offered to me.

A+ Performance Opportunities

by Taylor Peterson, 3rd-year Horn player

There is no greater place to gain exposure to the current orchestral scene than at Juilliard. The performance experiences here are like none other, and though you will be busy, you will be doing what you love most.  Whatever that is, may it be acting, dancing, playing the horn, or the bass, you can only benefit from such an environment with so many diverse opportunities.  I mean, where else can you walk across the street to the performing arts capital of the world after rehearsing at school with a world-renowned conductor?  I have learned so much about performing and the orchestral scene by attending and performing in so many performances.

One Friday evening last fall, I finished a Juilliard+Met opera rehearsal with James Levine and walked across the street to see Esa-Pekka Salonen conduct the New York Philharmonic in a performance of Sibelius Symphony No. 5.  Last year, I saw the Chicago Symphony play Respighi’s Fountains of Rome at Carnegie Hall.  Just yesterday, I saw the Metropolitan Opera’s production of Britten’s Midsummer Night’s Dream.  These are just a few of the performances that are readily available to Juilliard students.

My freshman year, I saw an impeccable performance by Gill Shaham, who played the Brahms Violin Concerto with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra.  It was so bizarre to witness a full orchestra pull off a performance without a conductor.  It wasn’t until I started in the Juilliard Chamber Orchestra cycle that I really understood how these performers could play together.  JCO is an experience in which we are not given a conductor, but instead a coach, usually from Orpheus, to lead rehearsals in a chamber group setting.  Playing without a conductor forces every individual sitting on stage to listen even more intensely than ever before.  I remember, after my group performed Bizet’s Symphony No. 1 in C, how proud we all were that we took on the task and developed our own musical ideas rather than ideas from a conductor.  This isn’t to say that no one needs a conductor, but the process within itself was quite rewarding.

The other day I listened to a recording of the time I performed Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique with the Juilliard Orchestra at Avery Fischer Hall, home of the New York Philharmonic, under the direction of Itzhak Perlman.  This past October I played Bruckner 7 with Alan Gilbert conducting. The same day, I observed the London Symphony rehearse Shostakovich 15 at Avery Fischer with Bernard Haitink conducting, whom, might I add, I had just worked with in Juilliard’s Lab Orchestra. Speaking of observing rehearsals, I also saw Berlin Phil’s dress rehearsal of Mahler 2 in Carnegie Hall, and yes, it was one of the greatest experiences I’ve had yet.

These experiences are all very regular opportunities at Juilliard. As an undergraduate, I have been in contact with more famous conductors and players than I ever would have imagined. And get this: I still have 3 semesters to see and do even more!

Conservatory vs. Liberal Arts University: Oh, how I was wrong

by Miles Mykkanen, Voice

As a sophomore in high school, my friend’s mother asked me if I wanted to go to Juilliard.  I responded with something like, “Nah, I could never see myself at a conservatory!”  I always envisioned college as my chance to step outside of my comfort zone and experience new things: take a social anthropology course, get involved with student clubs and organizations, study abroad, befriend a science major…  In my mind, an arts conservatory wasn’t going to give me the kind of background that a liberal arts university would offer.  Oh, how I was wrong!  (Except for befriending a science major…I’m still working on that.)

My first year at Juilliard was all about finding my groundings within the school, developing my circle of friends, and experiencing everything New York City has to offer.  Not long into my second year, I was asked to join the Juilliard Student Council.  The council had only been in existence for nine months at that point and there was a team of about five dedicated students.  Together we cultivated the group, built our presence on campus, and became an organization that the student body now uses to voice their concerns and ideas.  I have been on the council for four years now and currently serve as the Chair; it’s the perfect opportunity for me to mingle with friends from other divisions and focus some energy away from the practice room.

Language, travel, and culture have always interested me.  One of the reasons I love opera is that I get to study different societies from around the world.  Classical singers have to refine their linguistic toolbox to the extreme of sounding like a native speaker.  One of the most thrilling opportunities I had during my undergraduate studies was receiving Juilliard’s Lucrezia Bori Grant.  The Bori Grant allows singers and collaborative pianists the opportunity to travel to any country and study its language.  After my third year at Juilliard, I received the grant and traveled to Rome for three weeks.  I had the time of my life––taking language classes all morning into the early afternoon and sightseeing Rome’s museums and landmarks into the evening.

Attending a conservatory ended up being the best decision I ever made.  Of course I received the top-notch music instruction Juilliard is known for, but I never would have guessed I would have the extracurricular activities that one normally thinks exclusive to four-year universities.  When prospective students ask me what is the most surprising thing about Juilliard, my response is two-fold, “First, everyone is extremely nice and helpful!  Secondly, each student has the chance to mold their own educational experience into what they need.”  Juilliard wants its students to be well-rounded artists who are capable of living as educated citizens.  I have the artistic education I always hoped for, while also being able to develop my other passions.

Tension and Dancing

by Maggie Segale, 4th- year dancer

As a fourth-year dancer, I am constantly auditioning. Whether flying to Europe to be seen by company directors, or simply taking ballet class here at school, some potential employer is generally watching. With so much focus on getting a job, one might expect that I would be a nervous wreck during this time. Thankfully, the opposite is true. I have found a refreshing sense of groundedness.

While nervously doing pliés at one audition in January, I finally realized what teachers have been telling me all along. I would be happier and dance better if I just relaxed! I took a breath and decided just to dance as myself, and not try to dance like anyone else. As a result, I was able to pick-up combinations faster and to be more expressive.  This has come to be one of the most important discoveries I’ve had while at Juilliard.

Below is an illustrated narrative based on this beautiful realization. 

Maggie 1

Raymonda is a high school senior auditioning for a college dance program.

Application: sent!

Essay: completed!

Solo: prepared!

“Okay, cool! I got this! Now all I have to do is dance!”

Maggie 2


I forgot to burn a CD of my solo music!

I spilled hot chocolate all over my favorite leotard!

I’m going to have to introduce myself to the faculty????? Suddenly, I cannot remember my own name. Rebecca? Rachel? Ronald? RAYMONDA! That’s it! Raymonda is my name.”

Maggie 3

“PHEW! Alright, got it sorted out.

I burned 25 CDs of my solo music.

I poured hot chocolate all over my leotard, so you can’t even see the stain! Genius.

I wrote my first, middle and last names on my arm in case I forget. “

Maggie 4

“Here I am at the ballet barre! I can’t believe I made it to this point!

Okay, ‘plie, stretch, releve,’ got it!

Eek! I can’t move my legs! I mean it! I can’t even bend my knees! This is it for me, this is the end. They’ll have to send in a rescue team to remove me from the ballet studio!

I can see it now: ‘Girl freezes in dance audition, never moves again.’”

Maggie 5

Auditions can be DAUNTING. It’s no secret.

There are so many details to remember,

Bobby pins to consider,

Warm-up techniques…

It’s easy to get TENSE

Maggie 6


Maggie 7

Remember that dance is art. Sure, it requires technique, but the truth is that dancing is joyful, emotional, and beautiful. Tension gets in the way of artistic expression, and makes you feel like you’ll have to be wheeled out of the studio on a stretcher.


Sure, prepare your necessary materials, plan your outfit, and practice your introduction…


DON’T lose sight of your unique voice!

DON’T compare yourself to others or worry that you’re not worthy!

DO take a moment to exhale, listen to the music, and remember why you love dancing.


BREATHE and try to enjoy this special time of your life. You will become a better artist because of it, regardless of whether you make the callback.

Maggie 8

These are a few of the countless things I have discovered during my tenure at The Juilliard School.

My Juilliard Dialogue

by Victoria Grempel, 2nd-year dancer


“Hello, President’s Office, this is Victoria.”

“Is the leg croisé or écarté on count 5?”

“What’s the status of the new Juilliard in Tianjin?” 

“Is that in the sagittal or horizontal plane?”


The above sentences have one thing in common; they’re all spoken by me throughout the course of a single day! Here at the Juilliard School, you’ll rarely find a student who engages only in her field of study. As a second year dancer, I try to make the the most of my Juilliard experience. With great perseverance and a knack for scheduling, I have been able to expand my education beyond the boundaries of the dance studio.

Not only am I currently studying ballet, multiple modern techniques, taking a liberal arts class, a music class, and learning repertory, but this year I hold several work-study positions throughout the school. I am a Special Assistant in the Office of the President, a Senior Assistant in the Evening Division Office, and I was recently elected as a Student Ambassador. Seeing the school from an administrative standpoint not only allows me to understand how the school functions, but has opened my eyes to the business and management sides of the performing arts; it’s like I’m double majoring in dance and business! In order to be a well-rounded artist, I believe that training in the arts, along side entrepreneurial skills and the understanding of how the arts are managed, are all of equal importance.

At Juilliard, I have made the most of my opportunities. Within the intense dance schedule, I have made time to maintain these positions. I think that the Juilliard experience is what you make of it. The possibilities are endless; it’s up to you!

Learning From the People Who Surround You

by Austin Smith, 4th-year actor

Anytime someone asks me to capture the breadth of my Juilliard experience in a few words, my brain (daunted by the task) almost comes to a halt. For the rest of my life I will be embroiled in an attempt to understand what has happened to me over the course of these four years.  At this particular moment, however, I do have a few experiences resonating with me, such as the opportunity to meet the incredible Frances McDormand earlier this week and my very first experience acting in a Juilliard play.

One of my teachers was the vocal coach on an HBO Miniseries that Frances (yeah that’s right, first name basis) recently finished shooting, and asked if she would be willing to come speak to the Drama Division.  From her discussions about reconstructive surgery and paganism, to a story about hysterically hiding under a table while shooting her first film, she had us all in stitches.  Yet, she made sure to  leave us with some kernels of wisdom that only someone with her level of experience, passion and zaniness could come by.

As I near the end of my time at Juilliard, I’ve thought a lot about the work that my classmates and I have done together.  The first play we ever did as a group was Romeo & Juliet.  I think about where we were then, and the growth I’ve witnessed in each of the seventeen people I’ve had the pleasure of working with EVERY SINGLE DAY for four years.  I remember how hard we worked to figure out a dance for the party scene, how my partner for the fight at the beginning of the play and I could not get through it without chuckling for some reason, and how relieved all of us were to make it through our first play at Juilliard.

Oh, how things have changed since then.  Though you don’t notice the change in yourself at first, you see it in your colleagues: how they are growing, going to deeper places in their work, making bolder choices; and you pray to God that, gradually, those changes are manifesting in your own work.  In the meantime , you continue to learn from the incredible people who surround you, which I think is at the heart of anyone’s Juilliard experience.  You have so many opportunities to work with exceptional classmates and guest artists. As Jim Houghton, the artistic director of the Drama Division, says, “Juilliard is not a building, it’s the people”.  And as I prepare to leave this building, those words could not ring any more true.

Giving Juilliard a Try

by Ryan Spahn, 4th-year actor

To be frank, the thought of going to school for four years scared the &$@! out of me. I was in my late 20s, had a job, an apartment, a partner, a dog/cat, and a career. All that being said, I was frustrated that I wasn’t getting the kind of acting work I felt I deserved, and I was considering walking away from it all. This broke my heart, cause it’s what I loved most. But I couldn’t put my finger on what was in my way. Someone close to me encouraged me to give Juilliard a try. I figured… “Hey, it’s Juilliard, the greatest drama school on Earth, and if I am privileged enough to be accepted, then I should take that as my path toward figuring out why I’m not happy and grateful.”

In the Drama Division, there is a final callback weekend when 40 or so applicants come to NYC and take classes in front of the faculty. It’s a chance for the teachers to see us in action, and for us to determine if the rigor of the program is what’s best. In one of the classes, Richard Feldman moderates the students through a series of naturalistic improvisations. I was paired with Sam Lilja, who later became my classmate, and I remember the moment when I realized Juilliard was what I needed to be doing for the next four years. The improv: Sam and I had to pretend we were in a small row boat. That was all the information we were given, and we developed a scene that would support this location. Sam and I had an immediate connection as actors and people. Within a few moments of us starting the improv, which was simply Sam (a boy from Iowa) teaching me (a big city boy) how to properly prep a fishing rod, Mr. Feldman ended our improv and moved onto the next couple. It was then that I realized a few valuable lessons: a) I wanted to attend this school; b) I knew naturalistic acting was what I was drawn to; c) I had a long way to go before I was able to do the kind of work I yearned to do with the ease of this simple improv.

Prior to that moment, I had always been pushing and “muscling” my way through acting moments, and I needed to stop…as it was preventing me from getting work. Through my years at school, I was stretched and pushed beyond my comfort zone, and played bold, brassy characters (Herod in “Salome” and Toby Belch in “Twelfth Night”). Yet…lurking in the back of my mind… was a desire to step back into the “naturalistic.” But it wasn’t happening. I was frustrated. This is where the brilliance of the school comes in. Because they didn’t give me what I wanted and challenged me with what I needed, I was able to actually grow. And now, in my fourth year, Sam and I were paired up in a very naturalistic play called “The Great God Pan” by Amy Herzog. While in rehearsals, I couldn’t help but remember my first moments with Sam in the audition weekend and now here we were — sharing the stage, with ease and grace. I was doing the kind of work I always loved and admired — but with the backbone and confidence of a man who had the instrument to handle the most intense of circumstances, as this play required. Juilliard single-handedly gave me this depth of understanding, and for that I am eternally grateful.

The Juilliard Community

by Corey Dorris, 3rd-year actor

Before I came to Juilliard I heard so many things about the school. Many of them were myths and rumors, but many of them were true and made up what contributes to the school’s reputation. I heard that it’s really tough with a really busy schedule. I heard that it’s really hard to get into. I heard that the students are all great and talented and competitive. All of this is true. But what I didn’t hear about (and was genuinely surprised by) was the amazing student life. There are departments, programs, and staff here solely for the purpose of the student life outside of classes. And they help create a community and an actual college experience that are often overlooked when people talk Juilliard’s great reputation.

One department that probably over half the student body participates in is Educational Outreach. They have a ton of programs, from teaching to performing, that encourage students to participate and engage with New York City. Some students teach to middle schoolers on Saturday mornings. Some students take summer trips to Detroit and Utah to teach master classes or do community service. One thing I’ve done over the last two years is participate in the Gluck Community Service Fellowship. It’s a program for students to form performance groups and perform all over the city in places such as nursing homes, hospitals, and teen shelters. Sometimes after the performance, we stay to talk with the audience members and they tell us about a favorite song, or a grandchild who sings and dances, or things they do in the arts. One time a lady came up to us crying because we had performed a song from her favorite musical.

Another program I’ve participated in is The New Orleans Project, which is led by the Office of Student Affairs. Every year, a group of 20-30 students raise money to go to New Orleans over Spring Break and teach master classes, help build houses with Habitat for Humanity, and teach creative arts classes to students at the local YMCA. The program started 7 years ago because a Juilliard dancer wanted to help her hometown, New Orleans, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Since then, Juilliard has been back to New Orleans every year! I went two years in a row and was surprised at how many of the students from the YMCA remembered my name! Even though we were only there for one week, it proved that we really do make a difference, and that every bit helps. Evey year we hear from the person who runs our Habitat for Humanity site that we put them ahead of schedule on the house we help to build!

Not only are Gluck and The New Orleans Project outreach opportunities that help Juilliard give back to the community, but they help make a community at Juilliard. I’ve met some of my best friends through them! My performance group for Gluck hangs out before and after our performances; and through all the meetings and preparations for the trip, I met some of my best friends during The New Orleans Project that I otherwise wouldn’t have had the chance to meet. Juilliard has a reputation because of all the things you hear about it: the classes, the rehearsal schedule, the competitiveness. But what I never heard about was its amazing community and student life. Those are qualities that should definitely make students want to come and study here!

Remembering How to Entertain

by Raquel Gonzalez, M.M. – Voice

My third year at Juilliard I joined the Gluck Community Service Fellowship.  I had sung at nursing homes while in high school but didn’t really have much true outreach experience.  I got involved with GCSF after hearing about it from my upperclassmen colleagues. I thought it would be a great opportunity for extra performing opportunities and to be able to perform for people within the city who might not otherwise have access to any type of performing art.

My first group consisted of myself (a soprano), a cellist, and two dancers. A motley crew to be sure.  Because of the size of our group and the space we required, most of our performances our first year took place in the outer boroughs–Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx.  Furthermore complicated by our conflicting and ever-changing rehearsal schedules within Juilliard, most of our performances took place on our one mutual day off: Sunday afternoons.

Our strange group offered certain limitations as far as repertoire was concerned, but for each performance we strove to find a new way to make cello and the human voice serve as an inspiring and exciting scene partner for the magic our dancers created. We performed a lot of Bach, Handel, and Mozart, but found ways to work in some golden age standards and even holiday tunes for our December performances. Our two dancers would improvise to Bach preludes, Mozart arias, and anything else we would decide to throw at them.  Assembling the program for each performance really tested our creativity and ingenuity, but the end of a successful performance was always incredibly rewarding. We worked this way for two years together, and then my former group mates graduated and moved on. I graduated and stayed at Juilliard for my M.M., continuing in the fellowship program with a different ensemble – for which repertoire was much easier to assemble.  Myself, a collaborative pianist, and two more singers make up my current group.  We perform at nursing homes, homeless shelters, psychiatric treatment facilities, and hospitals in the five boroughs.  Our mission? To entertain.

Now, this concept may seem strange to anybody who is training at a conservatory, learning to be always critical of your own work. Though audiences at Juilliard are always seeking entertainment, it is our keen ability as performing artists to imagine the highly critical (nonexistent) dialogue taking place in the minds of our audiences. This is a finely-tuned method we artists use to cause ourselves maximum grief. As soon as we convince ourselves that our audience does, in fact, want to be entertained, we are freed.

Now, Juilliard is not an inherently critical or scary place. On the contrary. But this is the place where we are trying to become our best selves, and–as I said–we like to freak ourselves out. But that is not a requirement (or recommendation) for being a successful performer! And the minute we get away from school, we remember that people WANT to enjoy what we do! Especially people for whom our performances are novelty, are exciting, are NEW.

Selfishly, GCSF serves as a place to remind ourselves why we do what we do when we have worked ourselves to exhaustion and talked ourselves in circles. And the people in the audiences at these various facilities? They feel that, too. These performances serve as an outlet, an escape, a remedy, or as sheer entertainment for the audiences we meet. I have had long discussions with residents at nursing homes about the history of the Metropolitan Opera, or the lineage of bassists in the New York Philharmonic. I have been serenaded by a man at an HIV/AIDS treatment center singing his own composition. I have seen an unresponsive child in a pediatric facility open her eyes and lock them on me as I sang.  And I have had a man in a psychiatric treatment center come up to me after a performance and say, simply, “That made me feel so much better.” And the same was true for me.

Sharing My Love for Music through Teaching in Schools

by Martin Bakari, M.M. – Voice

Some of the most enriching experiences I have had at Juilliard have been through Educational Outreach’s Morse Fellowship. I was particularly drawn to this fellowship because it not only allows Juilliard students to teach in elementary, middle, and high schools in the city, but it also gives them the freedom to regularly plan and present their own lessons and units as lead teachers. As a Morse Fellow, I am currently teaching general music to 4th and 5th grade boys at the George Jackson Academy in the East Village, and the experience has provided me with great joy and fulfillment.

What I love most about being a singer is having the opportunity to share with others the art that has had such an incredible impact on my life. As a teacher, I am able to do the same thing in a different but equally impactful way. Each week, I get to share with my students musical artists and genres that have had a significant influence on me and the music world as a whole. As my students are still at a relatively young and impressionable age, I often have the pleasure of exposing them to important artists and pieces for the very first time and they receive them with refreshingly open minds.

In our opening unit, we discussed the phenomenon of sound and pondered the age-old question of “What constitutes music?” In our exploration of some of the non-traditional sounds that can be found in new music, I was able to introduce my students to works by some of my favorite modern composers in John Harbison, Leonard Bernstein, and John Cage, and the kids got to compose a piece of their own using random objects found in the classroom. In our blues unit we discussed the origin, form, major artists, and influence of the genre, and each student wrote and performed his own blues song about what was presently getting him down. A unit on the male singing voice allowed us to explore the bass, baritone, tenor, and countertenor voices in various genres including jazz, country, rock, opera, R&B, and musical theater, and gave us the opportunity to examine and enjoy performances by such greats as Luciano Pavarotti, Nat King Cole, Paul Robeson, Johnny Cash, Stevie Wonder, and Paul McCartney.

In preparing and teaching these lessons, I have been able to learn even more about the musicians and genres that I love while introducing my students to some of the greatest artists and pieces in recorded history. I still remember the first time I watched a production of West Side Story, heard John Coltrane improvise, watched Michael Jackson perform, and listened to a Mahler symphony. These experiences left me forever changed. To have the opportunity to give these and similar experiences to young people is truly a gift and a privilege.