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.