By: Hannah Goldshlack, Second-Year Music Student I am sure that all of you as prospectives, current students, parents, or teachers can relate when I say that mentioning the name "Juilliard" in the context of applying or attending elicits certain incredulous stares that imply your insanity. I have found that rather ubiquitously, people are under the impression that Juilliard is about as brutal as brutality can get. We current students have to laugh at these outraged reactions, because the number of erroneous rumors about Juilliard is overwhelming.
Rumor: The competition inside the walls of Juilliard is nothing short of cutthroat.
Fact: The fact is that if you have been accepted, you have already overcome most of the competition you will encounter at Juilliard. This rumor is easy to believe simply because of the very small number of students, but if you decide that Juilliard is the place for you, inevitably you will be pleasantly surprised that the environment among students, faculty, and staff is warm, constructive, and highly cooperative. Inter-departmental collaborating is one of the aspects at Juilliard that many current students find the most appealing and rewarding. Do not feel daunted solely from what you saw during auditions.
Rumor: Pianists stick razor blades between the piano keys.
Fact: I laughed in the face of the person who asked me if this rumor was true. I have heard this one from a few different sources, and I do not have the slightest clue who put that out there, but I can assure you that no one's motives to succeed are strong enough to sabotage personal practice time, a fellow student, or the Steinway.
Rumor: Movies like "Save the Last Dance," "Step Up," and "Center Stage" are an accurate representation of how Juilliard functions.
Fact: Juilliard musicians do not sing or play their instruments obsessively in the hallways 24/7, our dancers do not look like stick figures, and it is not the norm for someone to have a nervous breakdown about a lesson. Movies that insinuate the Juilliard institution or explicitly call that mammoth hurdle Juilliard should never, ever, under any circumstances, be used as a gauge or guide. Juilliard students are just that: students! The only difference between the students here and the students at a regular four-year university is that we are focused on and dedicated to the arts. The notion that we are programmed robots who have never heard the word "fun" is untrue. Do not be fooled by that girl in "Center Stage" who developed bulimia because she felt it would get her ahead. The Juilliard atmosphere NEVER condones self-destruction.
Rumor: Your audition is not as important as having connections to the faculty and the school.
Fact: Juilliard students come from all different backgrounds, places, and levels of artistic education. Some graduate from fine arts high schools, some from public schools, some were former students of the Pre-College Division, and for some, their Juilliard audition was the first time they have ever been to New York. Maybe you already have already worked with some of the faculty; maybe you have never met anyone who affiliates themselves with Juilliard. A trial lesson is smart simply for your own understanding of the teachers' styles and your compatibility, but it does not implicitly save you a place on the roster. All students who audition are heard objectively. If you don't believe me, I come from a town with a diameter of five miles, most of which is corn and cows.
As the list of ridiculous rumors continues to extend based on other peoples' lack or misunderstanding of truth, be wary. Juilliard is a place where students come to work hard on what they love, and to get the best arts education available. But I suspect you already knew that.