Arts and Liberal Arts

By Hannah Goldshlack, 3rd year voice student

Juilliard is a conservatory in every sense of the word: the term “undecided” does not exist as a major, no one reads the textbook for the final exam in lieu of coming to class, and the words “frat party” are sparsely heard.  What distinguishes us from a regular four-year university, however, is not the absence of frat parties.  Our student population is atypical from the average 18-24-year-olds in the sense that each one of us is here with a very specific mission, plus the dedication and passion to match.  In essence, these are the qualities that motivate a young artist to consider conservatory life.

But before getting too excited about a world eons away from the standard college experience, keep in mind that Juilliard does not deviate so far from a standard academic curriculum.  Our liberal arts department is teeming with highly qualified professors from some of the most renowned universities in this country.  If you are anything like me, it will elate you to learn that you can kiss your graphing calculators goodbye.  Our liberal arts team is devoted to making sure that Juilliard students graduate with the ability to read, write, and speak eloquently via the development of critical thinking skills, while participating in a learning environment relevant to the arts.

Our Core Curriculum, which is designed for students in their first two years, addresses issues of morality, religion, philosophy, and aesthetics through the writings and teachings of classic theater, poetry, and novels.  Following the completion of our Core Curriculum, students have an impressive array of electives to choose from, ranging from foreign language to Norse mythology to existentialism.  The geek that I am says that these classes are exhilarating, enlightening, and fruitful, and that everyone should take full advantage of our learned faculty.  Music students also have the option of taking one class per semester at Columbia University, for which they receive a grade that appears on their transcripts.

Still, I know what some of you in the cooler crowd must be thinking: “Why should I??  I just want to play/sing/act/dance!”  The truth is that playing/singing/acting/dancing will occupy more of your time than the standard liberal arts curriculum, which is three credits per semester.  But how will you feel if you find yourself being interviewed on NPR and all you can muster are unintelligible or banal answers?  OK, this may be a slight exaggeration, but my point is that you will never escape the need to read, write, and speak publicly; plus, your playing/singing/acting/dancing will always reflect those moral, religious, philosophical, and aesthetic issues that prompted the composition in the first place.  Now is a time when it is not enough to simply apply a personal interpretation to a performance; the arts transcend what is solely personal to accomplish a universal thought inspired by something greater.


By Charlotte Bydwell, fourth-year dancer

1. Outside the confines of your discipline, you can be a member of student groups and take on leadership roles within the Juilliard community. As a programming assistant for the Office of Student Affairs and a staff member for Residence Life, I have been able to use my creativity in a wider range of areas and improve my time management and communication skills.

2. Educational outreach is a significant and important part of being an artist in today’s world. Juilliard has many pre-existing programs through which students can develop their skills as arts advocates and experience the profound effects of their craft on those who are not exposed to it on a regular basis. I have been repeatedly amazed by the efforts of my peers to find new avenues for outreach by developing their own projects. Students from all the divisions commit their free time to the development of outreach programs and cultural exchanges that extend the reaches of their art forms.

3. Fatigue. To accomplish the supplemental activities listed in #1 and #2, a huge amount of energy and effort is required. Completing the curriculum alone demands a commitment of your total energy beyond what I could have imagined. For four years, you are asked to perform at a very high level for nearly all of your waking hours. Finding a regime for your downtime that will allow you to recuperate from your daily exertions is incredibly valuable.

4. Proper nutrition is a crucial factor in being able to meet the emotional and physical demands of the Juilliard curriculum. Being a dancer, food was always a concern, but in the past four years I have seen the impact that a balanced diet can have on everyone -actors and musicians included. Proper nourishment is key to being present and focused throughout the long hours of class and rehearsal.

5. Along with that, indulgences are important. I could never have anticipated the quality and abundance of tasty desserts in the Lincoln Center area alone. Bakeries and restaurants offer wonderful treats that are the perfect reward after a hard week’s work. A personal favorite: Levain Bakery’s enormous chocolate chip cookies (74th and Amsterdam). My newfound foodie identity has also led me to explore other areas of New York City in search of hidden hot spots and culinary gems. These discoveries have helped make NYC feel a little bit more like home.

6. A Juilliard student ID will give you discounts and freebies far beyond what you initially expect. Free movies at MoMA and $10 student tickets at the Brooklyn Academy of Music are only two of many cultural exploits that are possible on a student budget, thanks to a Juilliard student card.

7. Seeing in-house performances can be an education in and of itself. As a student, you can attend concerts, recitals and plays from all the divisions free of charge. It is truly inspiring to see the fruits of your peers’ labor and know that you are seeing the stars of tomorrow in action.

8. Although I anticipated having close ties with the other members of my class, I underestimated the importance and value of the bonds that I now share with my 24 classmates. They have been my support system throughout our four years together; they have offered their counsel in times of challenge and their congratulations in times of success. They will continue to be a strong source of inspiration and a valuable resource in the years ahead.

9. Everyone is at a very specific point on his or her own learning curve. When surrounded on a daily basis by high-achieving young artists, it can be difficult to not compare your progress to that of your peers. Learning to value my own journey, with its hold-ups and standstills, and give credit to myself for my individual set of skills has been a huge part of my development at Juilliard.

10. I didn’t realize that I would be on the brink of graduation and have no clear conception of where I hope to go from here. Juilliard was the dream for so many years, and I never really thought about what would come next. My four years have been filled with such a wide variety of experiences that I find myself blessed and cursed by having developed such a large array of possible interest and careers paths.

10 Things I Didn’t Know About Juilliard

By Lyn Schoch, 1st year trumpet major

1.  As I mentioned in my previous blog, I am reminded of the Olive Garden slogan: “When you’re here, you’re family.”  All of the faculty, staff, and students at Juilliard are supportive and eager to make sure your time at Juilliard is productive and beneficial to your art as well as your person.  Juilliard is truly a unique institution, and while the students here are constantly faced with very high expectations, the entire community wants to see nothing but success. 

Which brings me to the next thing…

2.  At Juilliard, success does not exclusively mean achieving perfection.  Our teachers and colleagues want to see us improve, whether that means becoming increasingly comfortable playing in studio class or winning an orchestral audition.  Sure, there is a certain amount of pressure to perform to the best of one’s abilities, but there is rarely any kind of unhealthy demand to achieve perfection.

3.  Lincoln Center is truly the single most amazing place to live, and there could be no better home for Juilliard and its students.  Between the Metropolitan Opera, the New York Philharmonic, the New York City Ballet, the 66th St. subway stop, and Big Nick’s Pizza, it doesn’t get any better than this.

4.  Just to clear up any confusion, Juilliard is a conservatory, which means there is no traditional academic curriculum that includes math, science, history, and english.  Students here are required to take a certain amount of humanities/english/literature classes, which may also include a foreign language, but you generally only take one of these classes per semester.  And of course, music history classes are required.

5.  No one here ever puts razors between piano keys.  People do not try to sabotage their peers, and any competition that arises is healthy and beneficial to everyone involved.  None of this “I’m the best” stuff.

6.  Itzhak Perlman can actually be seen around school from time to time, and President Polisi really is an accomplished bassoon player.

7.  The entire school consists of one 5-floor building, and the dorms are located right next to the main building.  The dorms are in a 29- floor building, and you can actually walk from them to the main building without going down onto the main street.  Did I mention that the dorm (and the school) is right next to Lincoln Center?  That means you are a two-and-a-half minute walk away from Avery Fisher Hall, the Metropolitan Opera, and the New York City Ballet.  It’s awesome.

8.  There are about 400 undergraduate students and 400 graduate students, so the entire student body is less than 800.  Music students represent the bulk of the school– only about 200 students are non-music majors.

9.  I have had an amazing experience being able to collaborate with the graduate trumpet players, and I’ve also been able to play with other graduate instrumentalists in orchestra.  There’s only one orchestra, so there is always a wide range of grade levels within the sections.  I can’t speak for other studios, but at least in the trumpet studio there isn’t a giant wall between the undergraduate and graduate students.  I have learned and grown so much from being around the older students, both in musical and non-musical situations.

10.  Being a student at The Juilliard School is the single most amazing thing in the world.  It’s just that simple.

Snow and other sad tales

What is the worst thing that can happen during an audition?  I’m sure from a student’s perspective, it’s falling on stage, or forgetting your music, or having your cello (that was shipped as luggage) not make it to your audition city.

But for admissions staff at a school in the Northeast, with auditions in early March, it’s a snow storm.

I don’t watch the weather, usually – I’m the person who never has an umbrella, and who wears the pretty shoes on the day it snows.  But around audition time, I have up on my computer all day – tracking rain, tracking snow….hoping that the “March roars in like a lion” will be a bit delayed, or not happen at all.

Two years ago, we had a massive snow storm around our drama audition callback weekend.  Miraculously, everyone made it in – though a few students drove hours and hours, missing the first day of the callback, because of cancelled flights.

And this year, it has happened again.  A massive blizzard, dumping up to a foot of snow in some areas.  New York only got about 6 inches, but no matter, because flights were cancelled, buses were cancelled, trains were delayed, and in general just getting to New York was virtually impossible for about 12 hours.

So, my day was spent running around after phone calls, emails, delayed applicants, lost instruments (yes, both a cello and a bass were lost in transit), re-scheduling applicants, notifying faculty, and in general trying to make sense in a whirlwind.  Somehow, though, in all of the craziness, only 6 people today didn’t make it to their audition – 6 out of about 200.  So in the end, perhaps, it was not at all as bad as it could have been.  But the potential of it was the worst stress – trying to come up with contingency plans, trying to calm down the many frantic phone calls, and at the same time trying to keep the auditions running smoothly and calmly for everyone who was here!

I am hoping that the rest of the week will be easier – at least a bit less frantic so my poor feet can make it until Friday.   And I hope that everyone makes it here safely, and has the best audition experience that we can give them.

To end my sad tale, I leave you all with some wonderful song lyrics that I heard recently at our 3rd Year Drama Cabaret.  I love attending the cabaret – our drama students may not all have the most beautiful voices (though so many do!), but they can tell a story like nobody’s business!  The young man who sang this song (from a musical, “Violet”, that I had never heard of) rocked the room with a moving, soulful and completely heartfelt rendition that has stayed with me for days – perhaps you’ll understand why just from reading the words.

You gotta give it room and let it, let it sing
You gotta give it room and let it sing
Oh you gotta lift up your voice and sing
Got some years ahead to go
You’ll go free if you take it slow
Got some years it won’t be long
You’ll be free to sing your song

Oh boy you got left, right
Oh boy

There’s precious little really folks like us control
You can make your music from the simplest thing
And though no one has got to tend your soul
You’ve got to give it room and let it
Let it sing, oh
You’ve got to give it room and let it

You’ve got to let it sing, oh
You got to let it sing
You got to give it room
And let it sing.