Imagine yourself here…my Juilliard Dance audition

by Alex Jones, 1st Year Dancer 

To my dearest prospective fellow students……..I never imagined I’d be writing something like this. Not so long ago, it was I sitting at that computer, dreaming, researching frantically, looking up YouTube videos of Juilliard dancers, reading blogs instead of doing homework, quickly changing the window back to Microsoft Word as my mom walked in so as to make her believe that I was actually doing something productive with my life. But now I’m here – exactly where I imagined myself being.

My name is Alex Jones and I’m now wrapping up my first semester as a dance major here. Here………..yeah. I’ve been asked to share my audition experience with you all. Hopefully it will shed some light on the situation you’re about to throw yourself into.

I came pretty close to not even auditioning for Juilliard. Why should I even try? Why waste a 50 dollar application fee on a school I’m not going to get into? Why build my hopes up just to be let down? Why do that to myself? I was pretty set on that idea, especially given that I had another program lined up for me already at home. But, well, you know how moms can be sometimes. And with some convincing from her and a mentor and teacher of mine, I finally gave in and sent my application.  

I had a relatively heavy dance schedule at the time. I was dancing at my arts high school, my ballet school, and rehearsing for two “Nutcrackers,” which rounded up to a solid forty hours a week of dancing. I used a solo that I had been familiar with for a year, so I felt quite ready on that front.  Due to my heavy schedule and partially due to my own stupidity, I also had a very injury-prone year. I, luckily, was at a brief moment of healthiness at the time of the Juilliard audition – between multiple severe muscular injuries in my left leg and a compression fracture in my upper spine. Call it fate, I guess.

The time leading up to my audition, however, was not nearly as mentally stressful as it was physically. I still had a rather pessimistic attitude going into my audition and was thus, not very nervous at all. I was going for the experience. I expected to get cut the first round, no matter how much preparation I’d done……and I had done a LOT of preparation. Even during the time when I couldn’t rehearse my solo full out, I spent a lot of time with my music – figuring out musicality, intention, and focus. So despite my injuries, I still felt prepared.

 I remember my audition day quite vividly, but I’ll keep it brief… 

San Francisco, my hometown. San Francisco Conservatory of Dance.  I’d never been there before. My mom giving me quick advice before I got out of the car. Me not listening. A lot of people (57), stretching and showing off how flexible they are in a nice big studio. Me in a corner, eating snacks and giving myself a pep-talk. Numbers: 17. A very small studio with no mirrors. Ballet class….simple and not too stressful except for Larry Rhodes , Risa Steinberg and Alphonse Poulin staring at you the whole time. Me falling out of a pique arabesque and swearing right in front of the camera that stands in an obscure corner of the studio. Modern.  Again, very simple. Me messing up a very simple rhythm and being out of order in line. First round of cuts – remember how I said I wasn’t nervous? Well I was now.  34  gone. When I heard Katie call “17” I felt like someone had just taken a two ton truck off my back. Solos. They make you stand in front of a camera and say some stuff. I mess that up too. They also flip the studio so you’re now facing the long direction, not the wide way. How am I supposed to travel? My ballet slipper flies off during my solo. Oops. Next cut. Nobody gets cut. Next round: coaching. A simple phrase taught by the lovely Risa Steinberg. That goes pretty well.  She gives some corrections and you repeat the phrase a few times. Last Cut. “How am I still here?” There are ten of us left for interviews. Of course, I now have to face the director of the program, Larry Rhodes. First question: How do you think you did?

Oh no……..

“Not too good. …..My shoe fell off.”

“Yes,” he says, looking up poignantly from his notes, “We took note of that.”

But aside from that one moment, I felt that the interview went pretty well.  It was, perhaps, the best part of the audition for me. I called my mom and told her the news. My acceptance call came about a month later, but that’s a whole other story.

Yet the truth is that not all of you who are reading this will get in. In fact, most of you probably won’t. That’s no big secret, it’s just the truth. You can’t control the outcome of your audition.  In my experience, you can’t really even control how well you do either. A lot of it is luck, or fate maybe. All you can do is try your best. Bring the best of you to the table and show it honestly, truthfully, sincerely.  Don’t try to change yourself for the sake of the program. They’re not looking for that.

And as far as advice goes…….I guess I’ll just say this. Keep an open mind. Don’t try to do stupid tricks after ballet class. Stay healthy. Listen to your parents and your teachers because they tend to be right, even when you don’t want them to be. Trust yourself, trust your training, trust your artistry. Don’t hope too hard, but also don’t be afraid to dream big – because if you don’t dream big, then there’s no use in dreaming at all….

But most of all, listen to the ads. Imagine yourself here. Because I’ve found that sometimes when you imagine something hard enough, it becomes real. 


(good luck)

A Thespian’s Tale: Auditioning for Drama at Juilliard


by Mary Chieffo, 1st year actor

I spent much of my winter break last year in my garage with a punching bag, four monologues and endless trepidation.

When I returned to school in January, I entered full throttle rehearsals for the Spring Musical and review classes for first semester finals. I was, without a doubt, stressed to the max. I would go home after rehearsal and drill and drill my monologues – instead of counting sheep, I whispered the words of Antigone until my nerves finally gave way to a much needed slumber. I realized this was not a healthy way to function around the time I ripped a hole in the knee of my pajamas out of pure panic. That Friday I approached my drama teacher.

“Mr. Adell, I was wondering…well…I mean…I am really…struggling with…anxiety about…college auditions.”

Tears began to swell in my eyes.

“Sit down, let’s talk”

And we did, and my wonderfully insightful drama teacher reminded me that college does not define the entirety of my life or the overall value of my character. It will encompass much of the next four years, yes, but whether I become a success or failure is more dependent on what I do for myself within those four years wherever I end up physically. I decide what external forces can say about who I am as a person. If a school “rejects” me, that does not mean I am not worthy – it means that I am not the right fit for this particular year and class. So many incredible actors have auditioned for Juilliard Drama multiple times before they entered the program. I don’t think they let their first tries make them feel inferior enough to not try again.

My teacher also reminded me that the application and audition process are not a one-way street: the school is auditioning for you too. Maybe it isn’t the right fit for you right at this moment. Most importantly, my teacher made me realize that my audition was in the simplest way an opportunity to act in front of people who love and understand the profound beauty of theatre. What could be better?

So I decided to come in with the attitude that I indeed was auditioning Juilliard just as much as it was auditioning me. This mentality combined with the excessive amount of butterflies in my stomach morphed into a sort of false self-assuredness that could have been my demise had I not been exposed to the generosity of spirit emanating from Kathy Hood, Richard Feldman and Becky Guy at the beginning of my initial audition in San Francisco. They were everything I could have hoped for: from the moment the audition process began, I felt safe, appreciated, and at peace. Kathy was so gracious – she walked around the room shaking every single person’s hand, looking him or her in the eye, welcoming and acknowledging everyone for putting themselves out there. I fell in love with the program all over again.

It feels dangerous to fall in love with a program that you haven’t been admitted into yet doesn’t it? But there is something so exhilarating about knowing you would truly love to be a part of an institution because it appreciates all artists for their art as well as their humanity. This intrinsic sense of belonging and trust helped me reach a serene mindset I have experienced only once or twice before in my life: I would be satisfied with whatever happened that day because I knew I was going to give it my all and learn something in the process.

Because sure, eighteen people are selected out of thousands, but that still leaves eighteen spots to be filled – why shouldn’t you be one of them?

Great ideas on a platter – blogs from Eastman

As I’m sure you all know by now, great ideas for your music-making can come from anywhere – your teacher (obvious), recordings, friends, hey – YouTube! and hopefully many seemingly far-flung places – paintings, a novel or biography, a snow fall…

When you are lucky, great ideas are handed to you on a platter.  In Juilliard’s case, a colleague at the Eastman School of Music’s Admissions Office wrote two wonderful blogs on audition preparation.  I’ve done some blogs on this (see February 2010), and if you go back into our archives you’ll see a lot of wonderful advice from students, alumni and faculty about auditioning.  But these blogs have some great, very practical tips – my favorite is to jog up some stairs to elevate your heart-rate and get short of breath, to mimic how you might feel when very nervous!

Many thanks, Christina Crispin – and to all of our music applicants, here you go, on platter!