Dance Audition Experience

By: Zack Winokur, First Year Dance Major

The Juilliard Dance audition is an important opportunity to look at yourself in the context of other very good dancers your own age. I think it’s true of almost all high school seniors that we’ve only seen dancers from our relatively immediate communities. I’m from Boston, and before auditioning for college last year I’d met few committed 18-year-old dancers from outside of Massachusetts. So, as I headed to the hallowed halls of the Juilliard building, clad in my most comfortable loafers, I tried to quell my nervousness by getting excited at the prospect of seeing some great dance and great dancers my own age. It was a memorable first glimpse at my generation – the next generation – of dancers and dance-makers.

As soon as I entered the building, I was escorted to the third floor by extremely exuberant and friendly Juilliard dancers. I set my stuff down in a corner in the warm-up studio (there are two studios used: one for waiting and warming and the other for the audition class, solo showing, etc.) and looked around. Everyone, including myself, was eager, anxious and bouncing with nerves. It was pretty early in the morning and I was intimidated by how high people could get their legs up, considering the hour. It’s important not to get too swept up in this sort of intimidation and instead do what is necessary for yourself, whatever this means: sitting quietly for a little, rolling around on the floor, taking a jog around the building, or stretching your leg very high above your head.

The audition is undeniably a pressured situation. This school is rigorous and like any other audition, this one acts as a microcosm of the school environment. Therefore, it is an informative experience for you, and those watching, to see how you’re able to cope with this pressure. Again, it’s important that you simply do what you have to do for yourself. Once I got into the audition studio for the ballet class I felt more comfortable because I could put faces to the previously veiled people who were to be judging me. They looked normal, some were very short, some were very tall, and almost all of them were smiling. I felt supported rather than judged by their watching me. They were my audience and I would perform my best for them.

An audition (particularly in dance) is really different from most other college applications. It can be scary since it’s so public; it’s only about you, not what you put on paper. But remember that it’s public for everybody! Enjoy the fact that you can look at other people as much as they will look at you. Perhaps, the most fun I had at my audition was before we showed our solos. One person at a time was called in to perform their solo as the rest of us waited in the other studio. I should rephrase this however, since no one in the other studio was sitting and waiting. Each person was ripping through the most difficult moments of their solos, the things they looked best in, over and over: multiple pirouettes, high jumps, high legs, high energy. It was admittedly a very weird and kind of silly carnival which was so much fun to watch and be a part of. It felt playful rather than competitive.

I think the key to the audition is exactly that: finding a fragile balance between friendly competition and serious playfulness.

Drama Audition Experience #2

By: Evan Todd, First Year Drama Student

Looking back at the auditions in Chicago I realize how surreal the whole experience was: a thousand anxious teenagers frantically running around a hotel trying to make their 43 auditions in time, stage moms quizzing their sons on their monologues, and girls secretly competing with one another as they belted out the highest note they could reach in the bathroom (as if they didn’t realize their voices ricocheted beyond the bathroom stalls into the hallway connected to the Carnegie Mellon audition room).

But nothing could come close to the atmosphere that surrounded the waiting room at the Juilliard audition. It was as if you passed through a barrier of sound; no one really spoke. Parents, teachers, and students not auditioning hovered around the area only long enough to give a supportive thumbs-up or to remind the person auditioning to breathe. I know I had stopped by the room once the day before, once the morning of, and once just before my audition – you know, because obviously the probability of Juilliard playing “musical rooms” with the other colleges last minute just to shake things up a bit was really high, and I was going to be prepared for everything.

The first thing I remember when I approached “the room” was an attractive redheaded woman signing people in. She was extremely kind and explained everything. Her warm smile and soothing voice put everyone at ease. Obviously she was a decoy, and I was onto their game: she was there to soften you up before they tore you apart in the real audition. My interaction with this “Kathy” woman was short, and suddenly I was in the waiting room re-evaluating everything I had said to make sure I had made a good impression.

Two things happen in the waiting room, other then waiting: you see how you respond to nerves and you see how you respond to other people responding to nerves. Finally Kathy told me that I would be next. She continued calm my nerves with conversation – even though I knew she was the decoy for what would soon by the most intense audition of my life. I was up. Suddenly I remembered some words of wisdom a teacher gave me. “You’re going to spend your entire life auditioning. You can either get nervous about it, or you can look at it as an opportunity to share something you love with someone else in the room. Most of the time, it will be your only chance to perform.” That became my mission. I was not going to “audition” for the school; I was going to share something I was passionate about with whoever was behind those doors.

I entered the room with confidence and did my best to share my work with the bald man with the deep voice and the silent man with the white hair. I sang “Almost Like Being in Love” and then they asked me to do it again – this time as though it had been choreographed by the world’s worst choreographer. I was not a dancer by any means but I whipped out as many leaps and sashays that I could as I belted out my love song. It was fun and I felt good. If I didn’t get to the callbacks than at least I knew I had done the best work I was capable of.

We waited a few minutes for the last person to exit the room and then Kathy came out with “the list”: a piece of paper with two or three (or sometimes just one) names on it of those who had made it to the callback. There were a lot of heavy sighs, but no real commotion. Nobody wants to be the pompous ass that gloats at the Juilliard audition so when I saw my name on the list I turned to my teacher, gave a tiny nod, tried not to smile, and quickly walked down the hall out of sight before the rest of the students could figure out who the people were that had moved forward in the process.

The group that had been called back for that day was fairly small – 8 at the most. As before, we went back into the room one by one. The bald man with the deep voice and the quiet man with the fluffy white hair were now accompanied by Kathy. At this point I realized that my inability to remember names while under pressure was something I desperately needed to overcome. The man with white hair (whose name I learned was Richard) asked me to do my Prince Hal monologue again and had a few suggestions. The bald man with the deep voice (whose name ended up being Ralph) invited me to pull up a chair for an interview. I had no way of gauging how I was doing, so I just relaxed and took this as a chance for them to get to know me better. We ended up spending most of the time talking about the “Film and Literature” class I was taking and why I liked Pedro Almadovar’s directorial style. Before I knew it the interview was over, they thanked me, I thanked them, and I was back into the all-too-familiar waiting room.

The next portion of our callback consisted of a warm-up and a series of group exercises. At one point we were exploring an imaginary pin in as many ways imaginable. Ralph then had each of us recite a tongue twister, take corrections on pronunciation, and repeat it back – everyone desperately hoped they would only have to repeat it once. I had no idea what I was doing in the callback; all I could do was go with the experience as fully as possible.

When we left the room, Kathy congratulated us again for progressing this far in the audition, and explained that in a few weeks we would be receiving an email informing us if we would be continuing on to the final round of callbacks in New York City. It all sounded so thrilling and my heart was pounding with excitement. That email would be the closest experience I would have to getting a letter from Hogwarts. Now all I had to do was wait – which is a lot harder than it sounds.

The audition was finally over and I was actually able to absorb what I had just been through. I realized that I had allowed myself to be so swept away by the myth of what “The Juilliard Audition” would be like, that it had manifested itself in my mind as a monumental impossibility. Any anxiety I had was self-generated and had absolutely nothing to do with my actual experience with the school. Kathy had not been a decoy designed to allay the students before they were ripped apart by the cold-hearted Juilliard faculty. When you find your way to the end of the long maze of audition rooms, squeeze through the crowd of anxious young actors, survive the endless waiting room, and those heavy wooden doors finally open for your audition, you will find something you never expected: people who want nothing more than to help you do as well as you can.

The Drama Audition Experience

By: Jo Mei, First Year Drama Student

Hi! My name is Jo Mei, I’m a first year drama diploma student, which means I attended college before coming to Juilliard.

I have to say, I remember this time last year like it was yesterday. I remember getting lost on 65th Street and thinking I was going to miss my 9 a.m. call time. I remember how stunned and excited I was at seeing my name on the callback list…but I’m getting ahead of myself.

I should tell you that this wasn’t my first Juilliard audition. I had auditioned once before, during my senior year in high school. It was a complete mess, and it’s kind of a blur to me now because I’ve tried to block it out of my memory. I’d come to the city by myself on the Greyhound Bus. I was overwhelmed by New York City, and as soon as I got into the audition waiting room, I froze because I could not believe that all these people wanted to be actors. By the time my name was called I had forgotten why I was there, because I’d gotten so caught up watching others do their warm-ups and listening to other people’s conversations.

This time around, things could not have been more different.

First of all I came in with no expectations, except to do my best and to prove that I wasn’t scared of this Juilliard place. I was surprised by how nice and friendly everyone from the school was. There were name-tag-wearing students everywhere. They answered questions, introduced themselves, and talked about the school. I chose not to talk to anyone, however, knowing that I’d lose focus.

So when I found out my appointment was second to last, I pulled out my book and read. As my call time got closer, I used the provided practice rooms twice. I’m not saying don’t talk to people and you’ll do well–no, not at all. You should do what makes you comfortable. Keeping to myself for that time before my call time was what I needed to focus. But really, if chatting gets your mind off your nerves, by all means chat away! We’re all different.

What I wish I’d known my first time around was that the Juilliard faculty wants everyone to do great. They wanted me to walk in and wow them and make them say, “OK! She’s in. One down, 17 more to go.” Those might not be the exact words you imagine in your scenario, but you get the idea: you doing well only makes their job easier

So what was my experience in the room? Oh! - Before I even got inside, the guy before me came out with a huge smile on his face. I chose to interpret this positively and think they must tell really good jokes in there. When I walked in, I got so nervous. My voice wouldn’t come out when I tried to say my own name at one point. But the four faculty members in the room took the time to let me settle in. I took in the space of the room, decided where to focus my eyes and had one of the best auditions of my life.

The rest of the day only got easier. I was asked to do a third monologue in my morning session. I was in a dream state for the five hours between seeing my name on the callback list and returning to the school for evening callbacks. There was something like 13 people called back that day (including that guy who went right before me), and we all had a really good time chatting and snacking on food the school provided. Each of us presented our monologues again for the entire faculty. We also went in together to play games involving movement and speech. A lot more students stopped by to say hello and congratulations.

That day, I really felt that if my association with Juilliard ended then and there I would still be very happy. Because I got further than I did the first time, and I knew I did the best I could and had a wonderful time.

So that’s my abbreviated story. If I can get in, anybody can. Just be yourself. Have a good audition, everyone! And please say hello if you see me during at the auditions. I’m the tall Asian one.

“I’m Lost And I’m Found”*

By: Monia C. Estima, Senior Assistant Director for Music Admissions

Hey y’all, this is Senior Assistant Director for Music Admissions Monia C. Estima again, blogging at you from the blustery Upper West Side. I schedule all the March Music Entrance Auditions, and that’s what today’s blog is about.

When I begin scheduling, I basically become a hermit and hide away from my colleagues, my loved ones, and all that I hold dear. (Except for music – I crank the alt rock and new wave until I’m mostly deaf. Last year’s play list included The Bravery, Franz Ferdinand, Kaiser Chiefs, Depeche Mode, The Smithereens, and Duran Duran. This year I’ll be grooving to Arctic Monkeys, B.R.M.C., and Hard-Fi as well.)

In past years, I’ve posted a sign on my office door which reads as follows:

Scheduling Auditions – Please Do Not Disturb

(Unless there’s a fire.)

(In which case, you should be running out of here, madly dialing “911″ on your cellular.)

(You’re not still standing there reading this, are you?)

This year, though, I’ll likely do the bulk of my scheduling from home (no, you can’t have the number) so I can slip in some Guitar Hero practice before my son gets home from school (there’s an 80s version!!!!!).

“But how does she do it?” you may ask, “How does she fit over 1300 instrumentalists, vocalists, composers, and conductors into a measly seven-day audition period?” Well, I wish I could tell you; after a few hours of scheduling I experience fugue states which eventually find me at a Starbucks begging for a Grande Toffee Nut Latte, with no memory of how I got there or how many days I’ve been MIA. But I’m told it usually takes me an afternoon (or a day, depending on the size of the department) to schedule all of a particular area. I first schedule folks who’ve put in requests for particular dates on which their departments hear auditions, then “special situations,” and then all other applicants.

Departmental audition dates: Certain days are selected for certain departments because those are the only dates the faculty are available to adjudicate the auditions – no faculty available, no auditions. With some departments – this year, for example, Double Bass – there really was only one day during audition week that we could gather the full department to hear auditions. Tearful pleas for a different date don’t fall on deaf ears, they just can’t be accommodated because faculty members can’t make it. (Honest! I’m a Sagittarius – I cannot tell a lie! Not convincingly, at least…)

Special Situations: OK, well, the above paragraph notwithstanding, I’m now going to sing you a song I wrote called, “The Not-All-Faculty-Members-In-A-Department-Can-Be-Present-For-All- Audition-Dates Blues” (in D-minor, which is a great key for me). Some departments, Violin for instance, have upwards of ten studio faculty members and, because they are premier performing artists as well as teachers, they often have numerous engagements which conflict with audition week. Therefore, out of five potential audition dates, a teacher may be able to attend only two. But don’t fret – my absolute top priority in scheduling auditions is ensuring that your first-choice for a teacher is present at your audition, since, if you are admitted, Juilliard makes every effort to assign you to that studio.

I’m often asked, “Is it possible to change someone’s audition date once it’s been scheduled?”  OMG!  I often reply, “You’ve NO IDEA how difficult that is!” Why is it so hard? Let’s pretend I’m about to schedule – oh, let’s say, oboe. Suppose I’ve got only 50 audition slots to fill. And suppose exactly 50 oboists apply. Once I’ve scheduled them all, all of the slots will be full. My Admissions colleagues will then process the data I provide and notify the oboists of their audition dates/times. And then the oboists (who may possibly be negotiating OTHER auditions in the area) will book their air travel and lodging, secure in the knowledge that their Juilliard audition dates are set. It’s not Juilliard’s policy to ask someone to switch dates with another applicant, thus forcing them to re-book all of the above (and possibly lose hundreds of dollars in the process!). The only way we can change an applicant’s audition date is if someone vacates a slot (by either cancelling the audition or asking for a change that jibes with someone else’s change request).

But on a lighter note (B-flat), once I’ve scheduled all 24 music departments (and my boss, the Associate Dean of Admissions, has rescued me from Starbucks – but not until she’s made me get her a Tall, half-decaf, half-regular, skim Misto), I can catch a bit of a breather. Until, of course, it’s time to focus on audition room scheduling and generating audition forms! (Rumble of thunder, tritones screech in the distance)

*The title for this blog was gleefully ripped from the Duran Duran song “Hungry Like The Wolf.”