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.

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.

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?!”

Awkward….

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.