Loosen Up and BE YOU

by Patrick McGuire, M.M. Cello

It’s been five years since I auditioned for the undergraduate program at Juilliard but I still remember the intense excitement and nervousness that I felt that day as if it were yesterday. It was the last of five college auditions I took that year and, having been practicing the repertoire for almost nine months, a climactic moment at the end of many hours of hard work. It was exciting to think that I’d be able to show the fruits of my labor in that audition, but also nerve-wracking to think about everything that might go wrong in my playing. My audition was back-to-back with a good friend of mine from the same high school. What if he got in and I didn’t? And, after preparing for so long, what if I had a memory slip or made a careless mistake?

Looking back now, I realize that I was too concerned with the outcome of the audition in the moment and not concerned enough with having fun and making music. Fortunately, a bizarre and unexpected experience in the audition room helped me to get outside of my head and into a normal mental state to play music.

Three days before I’d played an audition at a different school, and it was BAD. Even though I felt totally fine in the moments leading up to the audition, as soon as I walked into the audition room–a computer lab, strangely enough–I panicked. It felt like my arms were playing the cello and my mind was in a completely different place. One of the panelists starting dozing off, and another got up and sat down at one of the computers. After it was over, I nearly ran out of the room and hoped I wouldn’t see any of the panelists again for awhile. Then I realized that one of them also taught at Juilliard, and that he might be on the Juilliard audition panel.

Three days later I walked into the audition room at Juilliard and, sure enough, he was there. I chose to ignore the situation and hoped that he wouldn’t recognize me. I sat down, adjusted my endpin, and took a deep breath. I was about to start with a Bach allemande when I heard from across the room, “Are you Patrick McGuire?”

Yes. It was really happening. I said yes and hoped for the best. But then he went on to ask, “Are you Irish?” Well, yes, I am, so I said so.  “You don’t look Irish.” I’m also Italian, and I said so. Everyone else seemed content with that answer, but then he said, “You don’t look Italian, either.” I didn’t really know what to make of the situation, but it was pretty funny. I would have never expected to have had that conversation in my Juilliard audition and, for whatever reason, it helped me loosen up and to stop thinking about everything that could have gone wrong. My advice for anyone auditioning at Juilliard and other schools is to get out of your head and just let yourself be you.

Tips For Your Best Audition

by Arianna Körting, B.M. Piano

Hello fellow Juilliard applicants! It is less than a week until  auditions begin!  It is such an accomplishment to have made it this far into the audition process, and you only have one last big step left to go. It seems only yesterday when I felt the exact same way as all of you do right now: stressed, nervous, excited, etc. Although acceptance to Juilliard is mostly dependent on the audition, I would like to take some time to give you a bit of audition advice so that you might find your audition experience at Juilliard much less scary and death-defying than you thought.

The moment I walked into the audition room, the Piano faculty members were sitting at a long table. We graciously greeted each other with smiles and I immediately made my way to the piano and sat down. At that moment, one of the jury members told me to begin with any piece I preferred. The best part of the audition process (for Piano) at Juilliard is that applicants are given the opportunity to choose the first piece to play. When I heard of this, I felt relieved because I knew I would be able to put my best foot forward with a piece that I was fully comfortable with. For me, the first couple minutes of any audition are very crucial because I am still in the process of adapting to the feel of the piano. I advise audition pianists to take some time to choose a piece out of their audition repertoire that is the most comforting to play; I decided to play my Bach Prelude and Fugue. Some of you may be thinking that the showiest and most difficult piece in your repertoire is best to begin your audition. If you feel it is your strongest piece, go for it! If not, then I would suggest starting with the piece you feel you will play the best.

After playing through a bit of my first piece, they stopped me and requested for me to play another piece from my audition repertoire list. The rest of my audition was solely based on what the faculty decided to listen to, as will be the same for your audition. The jury may stop you and have you play whichever pieces they deem necessary to get the full glimpse of your artistry. To my surprise, the jury asked me to play the beginnings of each piece in my proposed repertoire except one. What they choose for you all to play is based on the combination of the pieces you have prepared for them along with what they feel like hearing from you. Be prepared for anything!

Here are some additional tips about preparing for your audition that you might find useful:

Make sure to get enough rest two nights before your audition date. For me, it is nearly impossible to get a good night’s rest the night before auditioning. That is why it is best to catch up on sleep two nights before so that you feel fresh and ready to go.

I always make sure to eat a banana at least an hour before my audition because it contains Vitamin B and potassium to help calm my nerves – just a thought!

Lastly, play with much confidence and from the heart. Whenever I perform in front of a jury, I keep in mind that I am there to produce beautiful music and the jury members are there to soak it in and enjoy. Take the faculty on a fantastic journey through the various contrasting pieces you have in store for them. Showing your passion for this great art is definitely a crucial part in winning the interests of the audition jury.

Carpe diem and best of luck to you all!

Not A Perfect Audition

by Elliott Hines, M.M. Voice

Greetings and congratulations on your invitation to a live audition!  Your hard work has already begun to pay off and you should be excited about the opportunity to get up and perform the music that you love.

That being said, sometimes you get up to perform the music you love and you bring dishonor and shame to the composer who wrote it, and possibly your family, friends, and neighbors. ;D

My name is Elliott Hines and I am a first year M.M. Voice student studying with Ms. Edith Wiens and a native of Houston, TX.  The majority of my undergrad experience was very extensive in choral and early music.  Coming to Juilliard was, and has been, an exciting opportunity to be pushed out of my comfort zone which, in effect, has pushed me to be even better than I thought I could be.

My Juilliard audition was my very last audition.  This was right during tech week of the opera at Oberlin and I had just sung another audition two days before.  I was…exhausted.  There would be no tears shed for the end of traipsing across the country and figuring out creative ways to keep my suit unwrinkled in my carry-on bag.  Nevertheless, I was very excited about this audition and had prepared the LARGE repertoire list to the best of my ability.

The morning of my audition, I met with the wonderful collaborative pianist who would be playing my audition (ADVICE: If Juilliard says, “You can meet with your pianist beforehand”, DO IT. PAY THE 30 DOLLARS AND DO IT. YOU WILL NOT REGRET IT).  I brought him a separate binder with all my music, double sided, no bass notes chopped off, and clean.  We spent about 30 minutes just setting tempi for the 9 pieces and, more specifically, working out the fancy fireworks I was going to do on my Handel aria, should they pick it.   Now I was just ready to go and sing my face off and get into Juilliard!

Most of the other guys around were super friendly and supportive of one another, which was great.  I got out on stage an opened with Duparc “Le Manoir de Rosemonde” which went splendidly.  They then asked for Grieg “Zur Rosenzeit” which went ever better!  I had done my 2 pieces and if I didn’t get it, then at least I know I had sung well!

The panel began to speak amongst each other and was debating a 3rd piece for me to sing: a Stravinsky aria or an obscure Handel aria.  They decided on the Handel after me describing the aria to them.  This is where I started to sound TERRIBLE.

I got way too excited about this aria and was pushing it way too fast for me to sing.  There was a point where my voice was singing but I was not present in my body and I just knew that the sounds coming out were BAD.  I was singing super pushed, not singing HALF of the coloratura notes, and couldn’t breath. I stopped, nervously laughed out loud and asked, “Can I try that again?!”


Thinking that the restart would help me get back in it, I only sounded worse and worse. I missed ALL of the cadenzas that I had so carefully planned with the pianist out of sheer nervousness, I cracked a couple of times, and acting…not even in existence.  There was NO WAY I was getting in.

The thing to remember though is that the audition panel UNDERSTANDS.  They have all been there. They are all human and have had bad days and performances, too.  It doesn’t make you a bad artist or a bad person or mean that you didn’t work hard enough.  As important as those 15 minutes are, and as important as it is to do your very best and present yourself in the best way possible, mistakes happen and IT’S OKAY.  You’re auditioning to come to SCHOOL and LEARN, and they want to help you.  If your audition isn’t perfect, PLEASE trust that they see your POTENTIAL and not your hiccups.

My advice:

  1. Do music you love.
  2. Be completely prepared
  3. Rehearse with your pianist beforehand and bring nice copies of your music.  You will not regret it.
  4. Be nice to the people around you!  You’re all in the same boat just trying to do your best.  Support each other.

It Was About the Music

by Daniel Chmielinski, B.M. Jazz Studies

The drive from Chicago to New York City is about thirteen hours. Since flying was out of the question due to the large double bass coming along for the trip, we decided to take on the thirteen-hour trek. With the car loaded up and my dad in the driver’s seat, we set off; only 900 miles between me and the audition that my entire musical career had been leading up to. It was Juilliard, the big one.

It was the last stop on the college audition tour, and by far the most challenging. With only about 40 students in the entire program, I felt my chances of getting in were slim at best. Lots of thoughts run through your head on a drive of that nature. You really hope that you perform at the top of your ability and leave absolutely everything you have on the table. You hope that all of your hard work pays off and that you don’t let nerves hinder you. Mostly though, you just hope that it goes as smoothly as possible.

When I arrived, I immediately recognized most of the other bassists auditioning. In an age focused so heavily on social media, you are incredibly in tune with the “who’s who” of your age bracket. You know who has won what audition, who has been featured in what bands and who has won what competitions. You may never have met them in person before, but you know who they are. Being that they only called back 9 of us, this was quite intimidating.

I threw myself in the practice room and waited to be called in. I didn’t have much time though, as I was called in not long after I finished warming up, cursing the fact that my last name starts with a C as I headed towards the room. (Why couldn’t it have been Zhmielinski?) Immediately, my heart began to race as I was greeted by 15 faculty members sitting behind a table only a few feet from where I was supposed to stand, in a rhythm section with Helen Sung on piano and Luca Santaniello on drums. As they began to introduce themselves one by one, I wanted to yell “Yes! I know who you all are!  I have your records; I’ve seen you in concert. This is really unnecessary.” But with each name, the tension grew.

And then, somehow, my attitude completely flipped. My incredible state of nervousness had transformed into incredible excitement. I was excited at the thought that I could have the opportunity to work with all these incredible musicians on a daily basis. I was about to play the music I loved with a world-class rhythm section for a group of people whom I had admired for years. It was then that I realized that they were on my team. It became solely about the music at that point. My ego shut off, I heard “start whenever you’re ready,” and I began to play.

It would be a lie to say that the audition was not tense. It most certainly was, but somehow the previously stated rationale got me through it. I knew that I was giving it my all, and whatever happened afterward was not a reflection of how I performed, but rather how they perceived it. I knew 110% was coming out of my instrument, firing on all cylinders, and that was that. You don’t think, “Gosh I really hope they’re enjoying this” in the moment, you just go for it. It is a surreal experience.

I was fortunate enough to get my acceptance letter a month later, and am currently living out the dream playing the music I love and learning from people who are some of the finest jazz musicians and educators in the world. Whether the letter said yes or no, I knew that what I left in that room was me. I gave them who I was as a musician, as a person, and as a student. And as chance would have it, they liked me.

Hey, Music Auditioners: Are You Ready to ROCK???

by Monia C. Estima, Associate Director for Music Admissions

Admissions is! (Well…almost.) While you’ve been practicing, we’ve been preparing all of the materials necessary to audition about 1300 music applicants over 7 days. So I suppose we’ve all been kind of busy, gearing up for that first week of March, eh?

Next week, you’ll read audition stories from some of our current music students, but there’s one audition story to which the average individual may not give any thought—the faculty’s. “What’s there to think about?” you may ask. “They’ll ask me to play a bit and then they’ll send me on my merry way, right?” Well, that’s just part of the story.

Sure, you step into your audition room, smile big at everyone, and do your best to knock their socks off. What you don’t know is how big they’re smiling back at you. (It may not be immediately apparent, but trust me: they’re smiling in their hearts.)  (I promise.) What you don’t know is how excited they are to meet you. What you don’t know is that they want to love you. Juilliard’s music faculty, who are among the most dedicated and caring teachers I’ve known in all my years in higher education, share your passion for music, and they are ready, willing, and eager to be WOWED by you.

So just before you cross the threshold of your audition room, remember that you’re about to do the thing you absolutely LOVE, and when you do what you love, there’s nothing at all to fear. The faculty at your audition want you to do well, as do all of us here at Juilliard, including our current students, who hope they’ll have the opportunity to work with you next year.

We’re all rooting for you.

(PLUS, we’ll have bananas and chocolates waiting for you at the check-in table in Larkin Lobby, and if that ain’t love, I don’t know what is.)

PS: For those about to ROCK—I salute you.

Things I Didn’t Know About Juilliard: The Juilliard Family

by Sam Lilja, 3rd-year Actor

Because of the audition experiences I had with other schools, when I auditioned for the Drama Division in 2010, I fully expected to encounter a faculty that was stand-offish and egocentric. Much to my surprise and delight, however, I discovered something wildly different. From the minute I walked through the door in Chicago and was greeted with a warm smile by Kathy Hood, to my time in the room with Richard Feldman and Ralph Zito, to my final callback in New York with the entire faculty, I was treated like a member of the Juilliard family. The faculty and the students seemed to want me there, to have me spend the next several years of my life with them, and they all made me feel comfortable enough to relax and to do my best work. Being treated in that way was incredibly encouraging and made me realize that, should I be lucky enough to be accepted, Juilliard would be the perfect place for me to hone my craft and grow as an artist and, most importantly, as a person.

Every step of my journey at Juilliard has exhibited to me how seriously the sense of community is taken here. I have spent the past three years of my life with the same seventeen people, growing and struggling with them in a variety of ways. They are always there to support me, to celebrate my successes, and to lift me up when I’m down. I recently lost someone who was instrumental in my decision to be an actor, and the entire Drama Division reached out to me in my time of grief. The love they shared and the support they gave me revealed to me how much each and every person means to the program. My family is now eighty-odd people strong, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

As students, we are privileged to have the opportunity to help facilitate the audition process at the school. I remember how nervous I was on the day of my audition and how Kathy and Richard and Ralph helped me do the best I could do that day. When the option to work auditions is presented, I jump at the chance to be able to do what they and the rest of the Juilliard community did for me: provide an environment for the courageous ones who audition to do their best work. It is important to me to pass that love and support on, to welcome each and every possible new member of my family, and to help them do their best work. I wouldn’t be where I am today if that hadn’t been done for me.

Things I Didn’t Know About Juilliard: Services for Professional Development

by Caeli Smith, 3rd-year Violinist

It’s comforting and empowering to know that there are people and programs at Juilliard standing by to help us become successful and well-rounded artists. Whether you’re a musician, actor, or dancer, once you arrive at Juilliard, you will discover that there are many different offices and programs outside of your department designed to support you, your education, and career.

One of my favorites is the Office of Career Services, where they help you out with everything from cover letters and resumes, to editing videos and recordings for auditions. Not only that, they’ll also hook you up with gigs for a that much-needed extra cash. Of course, Career Services is also a great place to find practical, real-world career advice. At Career Services, they make you feel supported as a student in a different way than your department teachers do. It’s comforting to know that there are people who are concerned with the business-end of your career – you know, the complicated bureaucratic stuff that we sensitive artists don’t always like to deal with! Career Services helps guide us through practical situations and prepares us for life after Juilliard.

Another office I love to visit is Educational Outreach. Let me just say it: this department is incredible. Educational Outreach offers numerous fellowships to students, to help us share our art through performances and teaching, all over the entire NYC metropolitan area. I am currently thrilled to be a recipient three of the fellowships, and to have the opportunity to teach and perform for New Yorkers of all ages. Aside from being an antidote to those soul-crushing hours toiling alone in the practice room, these fellowship opportunities provide us with teaching experience, resume boosters, and the extra cash needed fund our fabulous NYC lifestyle (AKA, that tiny little apartment in Astoria).

Also – take your blinders off! When students first arrive at Juilliard, they’re totally and understandably focused on and excited about all the great work ahead of them. It’s tempting to be narrow-minded and sink all your energy into classwork and practicing. Be sure to open your eyes. Be mindful all of the incredible artists around you, in so many disciplines. Take advantage of all the other divisions’ performances. Collaborate with them in performance and teaching. When you are at Juilliard you’re at the epicenter of the performing arts world. Music, dance, theater: it’s all here. Take advantage of the art being made by your peers outside your discipline. Their art will inform yours, and you will be stronger and better for it.


Things I Didn’t Know About Juilliard: Advice for Newcomers

by Yuga Cohler, 2nd-year M.M. – Orchestral Conducting

1. Many of the restaurants and shops in the Lincoln Center area offer discounts for Juilliard students, so be sure to ask about it before you order anything. This advice is especially important for older-looking graduate students eating in the Juilliard/SAB Cafe. They might mistake you for faculty and charge you the full price.

2. This having been said, there is a tragic dearth of affordable yet savory places to eat near Juilliard. If you came to Juilliard thinking that you would be in the epicenter of culinary delight, you were dead wrong. Assuming you are on a budget, your best bets are the following: Empire Szechuan Kyoto on 69th and Columbus (as the name suggests, an amalgam of affordable Asian food), Chipotle on 72nd and Broadway (an all-time favorite), and the food cart on 66th between Broadway and Columbus (not the one directly outside of Juilliard). For the last of these, I recommend that you order the combo platter with plenty of hot sauce and the ever-mysterious “white sauce.”

3. Juilliard students can attend most, if not all, Juilliard events for free if they get their tickets early enough. Take advantage of this privilege, not only in your discipline but also in the other two.

4. But it’s also okay not to go to every single event going on around the school.

5. Famous people come to Juilliard all the time; in fact, if you go here, in all likelihood you study with one. I once saw Newman from “Seinfeld” in the cafeteria and almost freaked out. Make sure you are aware of this surreal reality before coming here so that your reactions are not inappropriately jejune when you encounter a celebrity.

6. Perhaps the only expensive place to eat near Juilliard worth checking out is Magnolia Bakery. Their banana pudding is unbelievable.

On Stage at Juilliard: A Little Night Music

by Gillian Abbott, 4th-year dancer

My name is Gillian Abbott. I am currently dancing my last few months away at Juilliard. Looking back at my favorite experiences, I realized many of them were collaborations that I or other students made happen on our own time. I have had some amazing opportunities to work with extraordinary artists in all divisions. Last spring I got to choreograph the first musical ever performed at Juilliard! My dear friend Claire Karpen Pettry dreamed of making Sondheim’s A Little Night Music come to life by incorporating students from all three divisions: Dance, Drama and Music. In her final year of the Drama Division’s Actor Training Program, she decided to truly pursue this idea as an independent project.

Claire and I had become good friends through a school-run outreach program called GLUCK. The two of us, along with two other actors and one opera singer, went to different medical centers throughout the city to perform for patients of all ages. She asked me if I would be interested in helping her tell the story of this beautiful classic. I was so honored to be asked and jumped aboard! We held auditions for students at Juilliard in the fall of 2011 and it was such a great experience for me to be on the other side of the table, figuring out how we could best tell the story. We ended up casting 10 actors for the characters, and 5 opera singers for the “quintet”. In true Sondheim fashion, the music was incredibly complex and could not have been tackled without our Music Director Evan Fein, a forth-year student of the DMA in Composition and a new faculty member of Juilliard’s Pre-College and Evening Divisions. It was nice to work with him again as I had been friends with him from another school run outreach program called Artreach in which we went to New Orleans to build houses with Habitat for Humanity and to work with students at the YMCA. Taking parts of Jonathan Tunick’s orchestration along with the piano-vocal score, Mr. Fein orchestrated the score for four instruments! With himself on piano, and three Music Division students on Clarinet, Harp and Cello, the sound came to life. I learned so much from working with him, as I had to know the music like the back of my hand in order to put counts to my choreography to teach the actors and singers. The biggest battle we faced collectively was “A Weekend in the Country”, but somehow we did it!

So when do Juilliard students find time in their insanely busy schedules to make a musical? Sundays and holidays! We rehearsed every Sunday starting in December, as well as one week over spring break in March. Thanks to both the Drama and Dance Divisions, we had studio space to play in and a great black box for the show. I loved working with the actors and singers and was so impressed by their willingness and eagerness to try new things. I was thankful for their patience as well, as this was the first show I ever attempted to choreograph. I love telling stories through my choreography, so eventually I felt at home working on a musical.

In my eyes the show was a great success and, more importantly, something I think all of us will cherish forever. In Mr. Fein’s words, “Juilliard is not just about creating at the highest professional level, but about stretching the boundaries of the profession itself.” We hope this project inspires others to break down division walls and find inspiration and growth from each other just as we did. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to work with such talented artists and I hope it is just the beginning of collaborating with Mrs. Pettry and Mr. Fein!

On Stage at Juilliard: Concerto Competition

by Matthew Lipman, 3rd-year Violist

On December 13, 2012, I had the amazing opportunity to perform the Walton Viola Concerto as soloist at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall with the Juilliard Orchestra and Maestro Edward Gardner. It was such an honor to be able to work and perform with friends and colleagues, for an audience that was also full of friends and colleagues, and the feeling was truly indescribable.

Each season, the school holds several competitions for specific concertos with orchestra that have already been programmed. The competitions are open to all degree levels and are a great way not only to learn a new piece, but to have the opportunity to perform it with orchestra. Although instruments like piano and violin might have two or three competitions in a given season, some of the more rare concerto instruments only have such an opportunity once every four years. Luckily, and despite having a relatively small concerto repertoire, violists have the chance to compete annually. Since I know and love the Walton Concerto, I decided that this year, my third year of undergrad, would be a good time to enter the competition. In the first of two rounds that both take place in Paul Recital Hall, one must play excerpts from the concerto with a pianist (often the most demanding passages) for a jury that consists of Juilliard faculty. In the final round, on the other hand, one gets to perform the whole piece for an audience and a jury of non-faculty. I was overwhelmed with joy when they announced that I had won, and I could not wait to call home and tell my parents. After excitedly giving my mother the good news, it turned out that she had also received important news that day: she would be having major surgery near the date of the concert and would not be able to travel to New York to see it. Although the win seemed bittersweet at the time, and although I would not get to see her smiling in the audience, the surgery wound up saving her life.

Before rehearsals with the orchestra started, I was able to play through the concerto with piano for Maestro Gardner. We immediately started working on the piece, with me showing him how I wanted to play certain passages and him suggesting ways for me to better convey them. His enthusiasm and knowledge about the piece was instantly inspiring–like Walton, he is British–and I couldn’t wait to begin rehearsals. At the first rehearsal, I realized that many of my friends were in the orchestra this cycle, and I couldn’t help but grin whenever there was an orchestral tutti. It also became apparent that playing the Walton with a 100-piece orchestra was much different than playing it with piano. Because the viola is an instrument that has difficulty projecting, it was clear that I would need to play almost as loud as possible nearly all the time, and although that may seem limiting, the vast range of an orchestral accompaniment made my color possibilities all the more varied. It was in the rehearsals that I really got to know the piece. From its melancholic duets with woodwinds to its machine-like, percussive drive, I began to form a new interpretation with Maestro Gardner and the orchestra, and I became increasingly anxious to perform it.

I had performed the Walton with orchestra a few times before in high school, but somehow this performance seemed different. Something about being on home turf at Juilliard, having friends and teachers in the audience, and performing at Alice Tully Hall with the possibility of being reviewed made this performance all the more thrilling yet totally nerve racking. As the concert approached, doubts about my ability and preparation started creeping in, and for days I had butterflies in my stomach. In the hours leading up to the performance, my nerves became so overwhelming that they put me in a daze and I felt I wasn’t able to focus. As the orchestra was tuning on stage, Maestro Gardner and I exchanged words about how much we enjoyed working with each other and he tried to convince me that this performance, however terrifying, would also be fun. The stage door opened, the full audience started applauding, and I instantly realized he was right. As soon as I walked out, my friends in the audience already cheering, every last nerve I had disappeared, and all insecurities that had developed recently were lifted. What an opportunity to perform a concerto with the Juilliard Orchestra in New York City, and I was going to make the best of it! I also knew that, although she was not in attendance, I would be playing to my mother in this performance. The orchestra began playing, and it was clear they were revved-up as well. There was a new level of interplay between the orchestra, conductor, and me that kept the performance lively and spontaneous. I was so in the zone–I actually don’t think I’ve ever been so focused in my life–that the performance felt like it was moving in slow motion, yet in retrospect, the 25 minutes on stage felt like only a few moments. The concerto ended, and while Maestro Gardner and I were taking our bows, I finally got to look into the audience; it is an amazing feeling to see friends, colleagues, and teachers who you respect so much clapping and smiling for you. In the greenroom afterwards, I was so touched, not only by friends who showed me love and support, but by the many people who said they were there for my mother, that I began tearing up. The opportunity I had to perform the Walton Viola Concerto with the Juilliard Orchestra proved to be the most amazing and fulfilling opportunity I’ve ever had, and it will be one I will surely remember forever.