“…If I listen close I can hear them singers…oh-oh-oh…”*

By Monia Estima, Senior Assistant Director for Music Admissions

Actually, one doesn’t need to listen all that closely during audition week to hear them; just cruise anywhere through Juilliard (the stairwells! the bathrooms!) and you’ll be assailed by unearthly vocalises best left to the imagination.

It’s Mónia Estima once more, taking a bit of a break in the week before music auditions to muse on the curious weather we experience every year around this time.  By weather, I mean the mood about the place as approximately 1,500 dance and music applicants descend upon us late February/early March.

Every morning during auditions I grab my latte, my walkie-talkie, and my building maps and pound the floors, to ensure that the music audition rooms are ready to go.  I pass through the lobby where dancers stretch out on the floor.  Orchestral musicians either flex their fingers, do lip-trills, or soak their reeds.  Singers guzzle their room-temperature bottled water, composers pore intently over their scores.  Parents settle in for the duration, awaiting their children’s fates.  Waves of emotion surge and crest; they’re palpable.  Hope, excitement, anticipation, even dread riot through the lobby and, as overwhelming as it can sometimes feel, it’s beautiful.  Here are young people of ambition, determined to take their dreams as far as they can.  It takes a certain fortitude to endure the uncertainty inherent in the pursuit of such passions, a chutzpah that not everyone possesses.  And seeing you all prepare to take on what may be the first serious challenge in your professional careers touches me more than I can express.  (You know, without getting all sappy and whatnot.)

Coursing through all of the above is a current of awe.  For many of you who are auditioning, it will be the first time you step foot inside Juilliard.  Just the name of the place can prove daunting for some.  We know how much more unnerving it can be to actually walk through the halls of history, knowing that “The Greats” once trod the same floors.  But Juilliard is more than a dusty testament to legendary figures in the arts!  It is a thriving, bustling body of energy, comprised of flesh-and-blood people who felt the same nerves you will when you stand before the faculty at your audition.  At some point, they too were awe-struck, they too wondered if they could make it at Juilliard.  So please try to relax: you’re in excellent company!

By the late afternoon a new front comes in from the north, known as fatigue.  It’s felt by applicants who are wrung out from playing or dancing their hearts out, by parents whose anxiety for their children has worn them down, and by some faculty whose departments hear more than 40 hours of auditions (!).  My Admissions colleagues and I too begin to suffer from shell shock-bear in mind that, during auditions, we clock in at 8am and often don’t leave until 8pm or later.  So around 4:30 the vocalizing heard throughout the building is the zombie-like chant: “…neeed…mooore…coffeee!”  (And in case you missed the not-so-subtle hints in my previous blog, we really dig the Starbucks in Admissions.  Just sayin’.)

But happily, the final forecast calls for exhilaration.  You’ve done it!  It’s over!  In Homer Simpson style, applicants shout joyous, “Woo-hoos!” on their way out the door.  (OK, I admit it-I’m doing that too.)    ;-)

*The title for this blog was nicked from the Duran Duran song “Union of the Snake.”

More Audition Tips!

By Evan Kuhlmann, Acting Principal Bassoon, Oregon Symphony. Juilliard BM 2006.

A note from Lee Cioppa, Associate Dean for Admissions: A few weeks ago, when I got the idea to write a blog on audition advice with tips from Juilliard faculty and students, I contacted Evan. You’ll see from his bio that Evan won his current position while still a student here, and I knew that the process he went through to win the job would still be very fresh – and clearly he has highly developed auditioning skills! Evan sent such good advice that I thought he should have his own blog entry.

The 3 weeks before the audition: You have already decided your repertoire, and have a good command of it. This last period of time is more for building consistency than preparing the music. To this aim, practicing for 1-2 hours 2-3 times every day will be much more helpful than marathon cramming sessions.

The day before the audition: Get plenty of sleep, avoid spicy/unfamiliar/dehydrating/junk foods and strenuous physical activity, play a slow and simple melody in your practice session and focus on beauty of sound, relax, smile, laugh, drink plenty of fluids but avoid those high in sugar/caffeine, bananas calm the nervous system, apples and celery prevent drymouth.

The day of the audition: Eat breakfast, and not just a mocha and a pastry at Starbucks. Allow plenty of time for travel. Arriving a little early is helpful, arriving several hours early is not. Don’t hesitate to ask the site staff for help. Be conscious of your energy level while warming up. Smile and say hello to the committee, they want you to do your best also. Remember the beauty of sound (see yesterday). If you are given a suggestion, take it as a good thing and try to thoughtfully employ the advice.

Advice from the other side: Eventually I began serving on audition committees, and here are some thoughts on what I hear. Strong fundamentals are very important, and your command of the instrument is best displayed on a piece of a complimentary level of difficulty. A student that brings their artistry to a piece within their technical command is more impressive than a student that compromises their artistry for a piece beyond their technical command. Teachers love to see a student whose playing conveys their enjoyment, whose preparation conveys their dedication, and whose flexibility in response to suggestion conveys their open-mindedness.

More ideas to help build consistency: Schedule extra private lessons, record yourself, study the full scores of the music you are going to present, listen to your favorite recordings for inspiration, attend live performances, know the English translations of any foreign language musical terms in your audition repertoire, practice with an accompanist, read a book or go see a movie between practice sessions to relax and maintain perspective, play your audition repertoire in your audition outfit to make sure you will be comfortable, etc.

About nerves: I think nerves are great. They’re a reminder that you’re excited to perform. That excitement also means that you care about the music, and you have fun playing it. So don’t forget that we do this because we love it, if you have any questions don’t be afraid to ask, and good luck!

Preparing an Audition – Tips from Juilliard

By Lee Cioppa, Associate Dean for Admissions, and guests

It’s hard to believe it’s already February, and our auditions are just a few short weeks away. I’m sure that many of you have already taken at least one audition for another school, and perhaps are even finished auditioning except for here!

While your previous auditions will serve you well at your Juilliard audition due to simple repetition of an experience, auditioning is a craft. It’s something that you can learn and get better at, not just a talent that some have and some don’t. There are some specific things that you can do in your preparation that will improve your audition – you don’t have to actually take lots of auditions to get better at auditioning! So for your weeks ahead, I thought it might be helpful to hear some direct advice about preparing your audition from some members of the Juilliard community.

Stephen Clapp has been an esteemed member of our violin and chamber music faculty since 1987, and has heard literally thousands of auditions (not to mention worked with probably hundreds of students preparing various auditions). Jesse Schiffman, Hannah Goldshlack and Tharanga Goonetilleke are all current students. Jesse, a flutist, started at Juilliard this year (so had many auditions this time last year!), while Hannah (a voice major) is a second year student. Tharanga is a second year Master’s student in Voice, who this fall auditioned for many Young Artists programs, and was admitted to the Juilliard Opera Center.

From Stephen Clapp:

In an audition, the first impression you make will prevail unless something dramatic happens thereafter to change it. So make that impression a positive one!

Begin with your most secure piece in which your artistic personality comes through. Security comes from confidence, the result of knowing a piece VERY WELL (thoroughly memorized, all technical difficulties worked out through slow practice, and numerous successful performances of the piece behind you), and being comfortable in the performance environment (if possible, get a good look at the audition space days or hours beforehand, and picture yourself in that space while practicing).

You will not be able to think while performing, so don’t plan on a mental check list of maneuvers at the weak spots. Practice those spots slowly until the correct physical motions replace inaccuracies and there is no longer a problem, so that your mind is clear to express character and emotion. Avoid distracting situations that will break your concentration (looking at your audience for reactions, shoes or jackets that are too tight, straps that slip, being too cold or too hot).

Plan to enjoy yourself and share your artistic self with listeners who want to hear you at your best.

From Hannah Goldshlack:

Understandably, the Juilliard audition experience can be a daunting one, to say the least. You are likely to be getting thrown tidbits of advice from just about every direction, so the most important thing is for you to stay centered, focused, and be objective about what others are saying. Keep everything in perspective; realize how fortunate you are to have the talent that got you this far, and believe that you are enough. Even if the judges have heard your audition repertoire a thousand times, they have never heard your version of it. Do your absolute best in the audition, and don’t criticize your performance until you leave the room, because the moment you let your confidence and clarity waver is the moment you let your potential slip. All the best of luck to you!

From Jesse Schiffman:

As someone with experience taking college auditions, having auditioned at 9 undergraduate schools and 5 graduate schools, I would like to share some advice that may benefit those preparing to audition.

1. Choose repertoire that flatters you. While remaining within the repertoire guidelines, select pieces that show off the best aspects of your playing.

2. Simulate the audition environment. Give recitals and practice run-throughs of your program for your teacher, friends, and in your own practicing.

3. Be ready to jump around. You will be required to prepare pieces from various musical periods, and it’s important to capture the style and affect of a piece from the moment you start playing.

4. On the day of the audition be sure to arrive at the location in plenty of time to check in, warm up, and find your way to the audition room.

From Tharanga Goonetilleke:

There are two stages that occur before an audition: the preparation period and the day of the audition.

The Preparation period is lengthy (length depends on the individual). The longer you have had your materials the more confident you will be. Do read and reread the audition requirements and know what is expected of you. Inquire and clear any uncertainties you may have in that respect. Be proactive!

After having learned the music and having found your own interpretation for each of the works, it is important to have everything memorized at least two weeks prior to the audition date. After memorization is done, one must rehearse/ practice these works by memory but must also practice them with the score. This is important because this will keep the audition from swaying too much away from what the composer expects and also simply helps you be more score literate. Mental rehearsal (running with audition materials in your mind without actually performing; seeing yourself performing in your minds eye) is a very helpful tool. Being healthy and eating well during this period is of crucial importance. Prepare your audition clothing during this period as well. One should wear something comfortable and something that speaks for one’s personality. However, one must conform to the boundaries of any specifics that may be required by the college/ institution that one auditions for. Pay special attention to the comfort of your foot wear.

Make your travel plans / find directions a few days before your audition. Have any printouts (maps/ tickets) in a notebook so you do not have to think about it at the last minute. Pack all you need to take with you the day before your audition or the day before you travel for your audition.

The day of the audition one must not be thinking about all of the above. Relax and run your materials in your mind if you need to. Eat well and be well hydrated. Know that you are prepared and think positive at every moment. Give it all you’ve got!

But that’s not all – look for an upcoming blog of tips from a recent Juilliard alum who won a professional position with the Oregon Symphony last year – coming next week!

Before you audition – applying for Financial Aid at Juilliard

By: Tina Gonzalez, Director of Financial Aid.

Hi! I’m Tina Gonzalez, Director of Financial Aid. While I know you are all busy practicing diligently for your upcoming auditions, now is also the time to start thinking about your financial aid application. Our deadline, March 3, is fast approaching, and although late applications will be accepted, it’s always best to apply on time.

Many students choose to wait to find out whether they’re accepted to Juilliard before they begin to think about financial aid.  I can understand that, since the process is so time-consuming. But think about it – what if you receive the good news that you’re accepted to Juilliard, only to remember that you haven’t submitted any forms and have no idea how you’re going to afford this! Then your excitement quickly turns to panic, and it’s a mad scramble to fill out forms, submit them, and then frantically call our office on a daily basis to see what’s up.  It’s better to invest the time now to apply for aid, so you’ll have more time later to decide which college you’re going to attend.  So, to get you started, here is some useful information about the application process.

First, let me quickly run through the process: detailed instructions on which forms are required can be found in our Financial Aid Application instructions http://www.juilliard.edu/pdf/FinAidApp08-09.pdf. In short, we need essentially the same three items from all applicants: Our own application, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (F.A.F.S.A.) form (or the international student supplement), and tax forms/salary documentation. Once we receive these three items, we can start to put together a financial aid package. We start with the E.F.C. (Expected Family Contribution) from the F.A.F.S.A. form (or international student supplement). This figure is an estimate of how much we feel your family can afford to pay for a year of school. We’ll subtract this number from Juilliard’s total cost of attendance to estimate your financial need. Then we plug in all of the federal and state aid for which you’re eligible: Stafford loans, federal and state grants, work-study, etc. The end result is called your Unmet Need.

Once we know your unmet need, we take the file to the Financial Aid Committee. This group includes representatives from Admissions, Financial Aid and Academic Affairs, as well as the Dance, Drama, Jazz, Orchestra and Vocal Arts departments, depending on your major. The Committee will allocate scholarship funds based on your unmet need and audition results as well as other factors such as educational debt and special circumstances.

Many students ask how they can receive as much aid as possible. First, I can’t stress enough the importance of applying on time. Certain kinds of aid are limited, such as the federal Perkins loan and the federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (S.E.O.G.). We try to give those out as equitably as possible, but once the funds have been spent, they’re gone for the year. It’s also important to fill out the forms accurately, which means you really should have your 2007 tax forms completed before you file the F.A.F.S.A. If you use estimates on the F.A.F.S.A., your financial aid package will also be an estimate. Since scholarship decisions are very time-sensitive, we often accept tax forms from 2006 for scholarship consideration. However, when we finally do receive the 2007 figures, we’re required to correct the F.A.F.S.A., which often leads to a change in financial aid eligibility. I’ve had many families call me because they’re upset or confused when this happens. We realize that the deadline for filing tax returns isn’t until April 15, but if it’s at all possible to complete these forms now, you should do so to avoid confusion later on.

Finally, be sure to contact us if you have any questions or if there’s any information you feel is not being reflected on the F.A.F.S.A. Many families are reluctant to share details about their financial circumstances, such as divorce, unemployment and outstanding medical expenses. We appreciate the sensitivity of these issues, but sometimes we can’t help you unless we know whole story. We promise to respect your privacy and treat your information confidentially and professionally. So, that’s Financial Aid in short! Our goal is to make the application process as easy and painless as possible. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to ask us directly. The office will be open during audition week to collect forms and answer questions, and you can call or email us any time (financialaid@juilliard.edu). Good luck!

More details are available on our website: http://www.juilliard.edu/admissions/financial.html and http://www.juilliard.edu/about/faqs.html.