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!

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.

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….