by Taylor Peterson, 3rd-year Horn player There is no greater place to gain exposure to the current orchestral scene than at Juilliard. The performance experiences here are like none other, and though you will be busy, you will be doing what you love most. Whatever that is, may it be acting, dancing, playing the horn, or the bass, you can only benefit from such an environment with so many diverse opportunities. I mean, where else can you walk across the street to the performing arts capital of the world after rehearsing at school with a world-renowned conductor? I have learned so much about performing and the orchestral scene by attending and performing in so many performances.
One Friday evening last fall, I finished a Juilliard+Met opera rehearsal with James Levine and walked across the street to see Esa-Pekka Salonen conduct the New York Philharmonic in a performance of Sibelius Symphony No. 5. Last year, I saw the Chicago Symphony play Respighi’s Fountains of Rome at Carnegie Hall. Just yesterday, I saw the Metropolitan Opera’s production of Britten’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. These are just a few of the performances that are readily available to Juilliard students.
My freshman year, I saw an impeccable performance by Gill Shaham, who played the Brahms Violin Concerto with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. It was so bizarre to witness a full orchestra pull off a performance without a conductor. It wasn’t until I started in the Juilliard Chamber Orchestra cycle that I really understood how these performers could play together. JCO is an experience in which we are not given a conductor, but instead a coach, usually from Orpheus, to lead rehearsals in a chamber group setting. Playing without a conductor forces every individual sitting on stage to listen even more intensely than ever before. I remember, after my group performed Bizet’s Symphony No. 1 in C, how proud we all were that we took on the task and developed our own musical ideas rather than ideas from a conductor. This isn’t to say that no one needs a conductor, but the process within itself was quite rewarding.
The other day I listened to a recording of the time I performed Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique with the Juilliard Orchestra at Avery Fischer Hall, home of the New York Philharmonic, under the direction of Itzhak Perlman. This past October I played Bruckner 7 with Alan Gilbert conducting. The same day, I observed the London Symphony rehearse Shostakovich 15 at Avery Fischer with Bernard Haitink conducting, whom, might I add, I had just worked with in Juilliard's Lab Orchestra. Speaking of observing rehearsals, I also saw Berlin Phil’s dress rehearsal of Mahler 2 in Carnegie Hall, and yes, it was one of the greatest experiences I’ve had yet.
These experiences are all very regular opportunities at Juilliard. As an undergraduate, I have been in contact with more famous conductors and players than I ever would have imagined. And get this: I still have 3 semesters to see and do even more!