Freshman Year Findings

By: Lea Ved, First-Year Dancer

Sharing a few discoveries from my first year:

1. The best way to take advantage of the city is simply to… get out!

Okay, so the reality of freshman year is that the dorms and the school are literally only a platform walk away.  Between classes, rehearsals, and meals, remaining cooped up in this one block of Manhattan seems to occupy the majority of the week.  Get out!  Especially on the weekends…even if it’s just a few blocks away to Central Park or the pier (my personal two favorites), I guarantee there’s an experience just waiting to happen.  Because it’s New York! And the potential for marvelous spontaneity lingers around every avenue —whether that be a celebrity encounter with Julia Stiles, the discovery of that underground cafe everyone talks about (Alice’s Tea Cup!), or even as I happened to encounter, the 5th Avenue Greek Independence Day Parade!  The majority of my fun experiences happened to just find me… all I did was walk around a little :)

2. Here at Juilliard, we live in a time-warp

At least as a first-year dancer, I can attest that my weeks have never felt like they pass by so quickly.  So much happens in one week within and between classes and rehearsals that sometimes it feels as if a whole month’s worth of activity and memories could have occurred.  Especially when surrounded by the same people every day, the episodes of each week mesh together and suddenly things that happened just a few days ago—like that midnight run to Duane Reade for ice cream, that particular Monday morning when I woke up to snow, or a mere hello in the hallway to a friend from a different division—all seem as if they happened decades ago.  I frequently hear myself and classmates questioning, “Wow, was that just yesterday?”  Bizarre.

3. People will introduce themselves to you in the elevator.

As everyone comes to know, from the residence hall to the school building, Juilliard students ride a great deal of elevators—and I remember one of my first impressions of Juilliard students was the regularity of elevator introductions!  Even a friend who came to visit from another New York college noted a difference in elevator friendliness.  It sounds a little strange, but, why wouldn’t you introduce yourself to a fellow Juilliard classmate, even if it’s merely inside an elevator?  I mean, it won’t happen every time, but chances are the person in the elevator wants to meet you too.

4. There are so many ways to get involved

Whether your interest is outreach, collaboration, or leadership, students here can make anything happen—I don’t even know where to start.  Some classmates are involved in outrageously awesome outreach projects in New Orleans, Tanzania, Botswana, and of course right here in New York.  Opportunities for leadership positions are endless, from the Residence Hall to the school itself, and they plan a whole lot of fun, social, and educational events (one of my favorite organized events was a Sunday afternoon spent handing out flowers to strangers in Central Park).  There are all sorts of clubs, from the Green Group, to Health and Fitness, to Helping Hands, and even a Global Awareness and News Group started by a couple classmates and I this past year.  The list goes on…possibilities are endless!

5. Spring break is 17 days long

I absolutely adore this statement.  In the middle of second semester, just when it feels as if discipline and concentration can go no further, Juilliard holds your hand, says, “You need a break,” and bestows on all of us a terrifically long, magnificent, spring break—to spend to our heart’s content.  Needless to say, friends from other colleges were definitely envious.  I chose to seek an entirely different atmosphere and went to a quaint town in Florida with a classmate for 5 days, and spent the rest of the time in my hometown.  Some students chose to stay in the residence hall to relax and explore the city, or to make extra money by helping work the auditions!  Which brings me to my next point….

6. Making money in school is possible!

One thing I was grateful for was the opportunity to work for some extra cash through the school.  Work-study jobs are available in pretty much every department, and students pick and choose those that best coincide with their schedules.  For me, I’ve worked for the Concert Office as an usher, the Wig and Makeup Shop, the Costume Shop, (all of which are fabulous to see more performances and even observe backstage!) and a few other side jobs and projects that randomly appear when offices are in need of help.  As hectic as our schedules are, squeezing a couple work hours every week is very doable.  Plus, it’s always nice to receive a paycheck in the mail every two weeks, however big or small.

7.  There are performances everyday.

I’ve especially noticed this fact while serving as an usher—but there are even a million posters and signs all around school informing us about upcoming vocal and instrumental solo performances, senior recitals, collaborative projects, drama shows, dance performances etc. Most are even free and open to the general public!  It adds an element of exhilarating commotion all day, every day…there’s always something going on.

8. Busy schedules make it hard to keep in touch with homefolk.

Okay, so it’s no secret that Juilliard can be overwhelming.  High school was pretty demanding for me, but it’s different being busy when I’m in another state, away from the people I love at home.  Family and friends have commented on the frequency in which I have not been able to answer a phone call.  And while they and I both know it’s because I’m in class or rehearsal or writing a paper, or simply unavailable—emails, phone calls, text messages, etc. take a little more effort to keep track of and return.  But!  I make it work and it’s just important to keep the communication flowing with people who matter.

9. The library is full of MUSIC

Yes!  It’s just one of those pieces of information I had easily overlooked until second semester.  But actually, the upstairs archive is loaded with all the essentials—and can be accessed by everyone.  I really enjoy both jazz and classical music, but there’s so much I don’t know and have yet to appreciate!  I try to go to the library every week to check out some CDs and widen my musical familiarity with composers I’ve never heard of and look more into the artists I already adore.  You can only check out two CDs at a time, but I hope by senior year I’ll have broadened my ability to recognize a few more artists and composers offhand.

10. Every single person you meet is talented.  These people are doing beautiful things.

I know right….duh? But!  Actually, actually.  The many circumstances in which Juilliard students meet each other sometimes has nothing to do with our respective majors, but rather through some social event, dorms, hallways, classes etc.  And I can’t describe how sincerely and pleasantly surprised I still am every time I go to a Juilliard performance, big or small, to find out that the really cool person in my humanities class, or on my floor, or who I met in the elevator, is actually, so wonderfully, TALENTED!  It really is a beautiful discovery each and every time.  I love this school.

Happy little Juilliard surprises!

What I didn’t know before coming here…

By Molly Yeh, 3rd-year percussionist

1. There are secret little candy bowls scattered around the school.

Perhaps the most well known is Barli Nugent’s on the second floor in the chamber music office.  When her office is closed, my day gets a teensy bit sad. But it’s ok because around the corner, Margot has a fabulous hidden chocolate jar that I didn’t even discover until second year. There are also a few pop-up candy bowls that only people who are in the know get to experience before they’re gone (like when Joanna Trebelhorn was given a bag of milky ways by the drama department… one of my friends was all, in his top secret whisper, “Joanna’s got candy hurry up before the whole school finds out.”) I also tried starting a candy bowl via the chamber music assistant’s office. It had gummi bears. But alas, that got way to expensive :-(

2. The teachers and administrators are your friends.

They are not scary grown-ups like in high school. I love bringing my lunch into Joanna Trebelhorn’s office, sharing cookies with the music library, and eating vegan food with a certain orchestra manager. Also, my private lessons recently have seemed to turn into a schmooze session with my teacher about new restaurants that we need to try. A lot of the administrators are recent grads of Juilliard, so there isn’t a huge separation from the students, and they are super awesome hangs.

3. Until now, the most stressful part of my life was… high school!

I know, this is totally weird, but while Juilliard is very stressful at times, it is stressful in such a better way. Let me explain- in high school, I stressed over calculus and physics and (gag me about this one) BIOLOGY! And it was absolutely terrible because I was spending time on things that I did not enjoy and did not think I’d use at all in the future. But at Juilliard, while it is very stressful to have overlapping rehearsals scheduled from 10am to 11pm without a break on some days, it is so nice knowing that all of the things I do here will help me in my career.

4. Collaboration with other divisions is mucho encouraged.

One day during my first year, a dancer approached me with Iannis Xenakis’ Rebonds B and said, “I want you to play this and I’m going to dance to it.” And I said ok. And it was one of the most interesting and rewarding experiences, to create something and have someone create something to the thing you just created. We performed it for all of the first year dancers in their “dancer with musician” workshop. Since then, I’ve gotten to play for dancers and actors on numerous occasions and it is always so interesting to see how other artists work.

5. People here don’t say “freshman,” “sophomore,” or “junior,” they say “first year,” “second year,” and “third year,” etc.

And I still have no idea why.

6. Juilliard is in the BEST location for sweets.

Are you ready for this? In a ten block radius from Lincoln Center: Magnolia Bakery, Crumbs Bake Shop, Buttercup Bake Shop, Levain Bakery, Bouchon Bakery, Bombolini, Haagen Dasz, Coldstone Creamery, Screme Gelato Bar, and on Sundays, the Street Sweets truck is parked on 75th and Broadway. It is perfect for when you need to buy your friend an “I just got into Pacific Music Festival” cookie, or when the only thing that will make you feel better after a bad lesson is a pistachio macaroon. Or when you want to bribe people to come to your recital by having mini Magnolia cupcakes at the reception.

7. Juilliard students get a super great discount at the 63rd Street YMCA.

{See number 6}.

8. Masterclasses are open to the public.

BOY did I find out the hard way. It was my first year and I was like, “SWEET! Masterclass! Of course I’ll play!” Thinking, naively, it would just be for the studio. FALSE. When I walked in to play, I saw in the audience, the entire MSM percussion studio, the entire Mannes percussion studio, the principal percussionist in the Phil, the new timpanist in the Phil, the timpanist in the Met, the principal percussionist in the City Opera, all of my teachers, and approximately one zillion freelance percussionists. Room 309 was packed and there was no backing down. So I played the drums… and then immediately learned relaxation techniques for the next masterclass.

9. Dating fellow students is a bad idea.

This school is so small, you WILL see them the day after that deal-breaking awful date.

10. Everybody here is one huge happy family!

I know, it’s super cheesy. But it’s true. I was nervous coming from a high school that was triple the size of Juilliard, but after almost three years with the same hundred kids in my class, I have really grown to love them like they are family. Everybody here is so supportive of one another, not just in performing, but also in dealing with personal issues. It is so nice to have people to talk to who are going through the same things you are, and to know that everybody here truly wants everyone to do well in their art. Aw I’m getting teary… I love Juilliard :)

Getting in

By Chih-yu Chiang, temporary Admissions Assistant

Every year thousands of hopeful applicants bet their futures on getting into music school. Just a few years ago I was one of them.

I’d just finished my master’s degree and was applying to the doctoral program at my alma mater. I loved the school and the city and never entertained the possibility that I might not be accepted. Still I was leaving nothing to chance: in preparation for the audition I practiced harder than I ever had. The performance went well and I proceeded to the interview part of the application. I felt the normal anxiety that accompanies any interview, but was confident about the eventual result.

That’s why, when the result arrived several weeks later, I was completely unprepared. As music was the only life I’d ever envisioned for myself, I felt my future collapsing around me. Music defined who I was, and I’d failed at it. I resented the school for “kicking me out.” I was so ashamed I couldn’t face any of my friends. (I even sent one away who had come to visit me at my apartment.) My life was now a blank slate: everything I thought I would be had disintegrated. I felt like I was drowning.

In the time that’s passed since then I obviously turned out all right. Now that I’m working in the admissions office I’m reminded of my own experiences as I watch this year’s crop of students try and either succeed or fail to get in. I can’t help but wonder if it’s the same for them as it was for me. Are their entire identities wrapped up in the results of a decision that’s to some degree beyond their control? Have they made their own choices to get to this point? Do those who aren’t accepted feel lonely as they watch their peers “pass them by”? I want to reach out and share my thoughts.

A professor at Boston University once asked me how I define success. Not until years later did I realize how narrow my answer conception of success had been.

Now that I’m a bit more experienced there are two “truths” I would share with my younger self. The first is don’t be so sure you know exactly how everything in your life will turn out, or even how you’ll be the happiest. Life can take you by surprise, and we hold a surprisingly small degree of control over our futures. Years after my audition result I wouldn’t trade my life now for whatever life I might have had if the result had been different.

The second is don’t define yourself solely by your accomplishments, especially according to a definition of “accomplishment” you formed at an early age. I now see myself as whole person with intrinsic worth – something that might have helped me whether what I now see as a temporary setback.

We all have different goals that we want to achieve and we all define success differently. If I can play a role in helping today’s students through an experience that can be powerful and sometimes traumatic, my own experiences were a small price to pay.

Parting is such sweet sorrow…

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

Today I blog about my dear colleague Geoffrey Scott, who took up his position as Juilliard Recruitment Dude about the same time I started here as Music Admissions Chick, back in August 2004.  After nearly six years of service to Juilliard, Geoff leaves me — I mean, us — to direct music admissions for The Shepherd School of Music at Rice University.

Many of you prospective applicants and current Juilliard students met our Geoffrey at performing arts college fairs, or when you came to visit Juilliard and he arranged for you to observe classes.  I can’t say I remember the very first time I met Geoff, but I do have many, many wonderful memories of working, and goofing, with him over the years.  I remember us wolfing down post-college fair bacon-cheeseburgers and fries.  I remember late nights during auditions when we’d be so giddily over-tired from the 12-hour days that we’d start cracking each other up over nothing in particular.  I remember my son and I meeting up with Geoff and his pug, Bella, after Thanksgiving one year to take a surprisingly freezing walk through Central Park.  I remember how he’d sit across from my desk, proofing my music audition schedules with me and, with a completely straight face, telling me stuff was horribly wrong when it wasn’t (evil, wicked man).  I remember going to see the movie “300” with him (This! Is! ADMISSIONS!).  I remember sharing a classroom-turned-office with Geoff for a year while the Admissions suite was being renovated and throwing the occasional paper airplane over the divider that separated our work-spaces (but only very, very occasionally because we are, after all, professionals).  I remember him picking up the most delicious red velvet cake in creation from Cake Man Raven in Brooklyn for my 38th birthday party (don’t ask when that was).  And I will always remember all the times that Geoff had my back when I needed help, a quirky quip when I needed a laugh, a bit of chocolate when I was down, or just an open ear when I needed to blow off steam.

And…well.  Now he’s going back to Texas, from whence he sprung, and life at Juilliard will never be the same.  So Geoff–since parting really is a bittersweet sorrow, let us say “Peace out!” till it be morrow.

PS, Geoff: If I get to do any recruiting for The J in Houston, dinner’s on you.  Just sayin’.