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.