It starts with a fire in the stomach, and keeps many aspiring artists awake at night long before they recognize the drive toward performance excellence. This call to arms knows no geographic boundaries and speaks many languages. For every artist who seeks a career as a performance artist, there are no guarantees of success, which does not deter thousands of students who apply to and audition for The Juilliard School each year.
This venerable institution attracts students who come to pursue their dreams as performance artists, and a world-renowned staff of working professionals who provide an enviable education. The admit rate for the past year of undergraduates was 7.6%, the year before it was 6.8%. This makes Juilliard more selective than Har
The Juilliard experience isn’t right for everyone. Students must discover who they are inside and outside of the rehearsal studios and recital halls. Apart from the school’s reputation, it is wise that young artists chart their own path, and prepare themselves for the realities of the outside world. One of the hardships students might face upon graduation is a professional lull after an intense four or six year program, for which some aren’t prepared after emerging from The Juilliard Bubble. In today’s society, the supply is larger than the demand for musicians, and the Office of Career Development does its best to prepare the students along the way and after graduation with professional seminars and workshops.
The emerging artists introduced here have similar traits and belief systems. They are dedicated to their instrument, practice and performance schedules, and realize that Juilliard is a resource. At the end of the audition or competition, the best player gets the job or award, not necessarily the person from Juilliard.
Prior to the undergraduate and master’s programs, students as young as seven years old begin their formal music education in the Music Ad
Students roll out of bed everyday and practice their instrument, not worrying about the revolving door of others coming through. Certain students feel a career in music is a predestined path; it would go against their nature to do anything else. There are no student molds at Juilliard. Each pupil is an individual, in attendance for technical, emotional, and professional discovery and growth. Unlike traditional academic programs, students are able to speak through their instruments, channeling nerves, insecurities, and fears into their music.
Natalie Joachim began playing flute at the age of nine. Natalie credits the school district requirement in her
Ms. Joachim doesn’t fit a role or in a category, unusual for pre-packaged artists in many genres inside the hallowed halls of Juilliard and in the professional world. “I’m more than a Juilliard student, I’m an artist living in
Students are protected at school, within the bubble, but some don’t plan beyond graduation. It takes more than a formidable education to fulfill goals as a musician. There’s no sense of entitlement among the students, yet more of an understated expectation that Juilliard on a résumé will open or knock down doors at auditions and in competitions. There are no scientific predictors for future success. Artists who step outside the box, and challenge the status quo are more likely to etch a career as a musician.
Brandon Lee is a trumpet player in the Jazz Studies program who remembers being musical since he was two or three, singing in his father’s church. His parents laid an early foundation for his burgeoning musical career back in
Students aren’t able to see family and friends as often as they’d like due to the ten or more daily hours of rehearsals, performances, recordings, and professional gigs. Jumaane echoes that artists must have an unrelenting desire to stand above the rest. “There are five hundred people in a five block radius that can do the same thing I can. What separates them from me is my training.”
Audrey Flores plays French horn in what she describes as the
There are more female brass players at Juilliard than in the professional world, a fact she bears in mind as she nears graduation. The
Ms. Flores is a composed and confident person, who wants to provide music for the less fortunate around the world. The
Christopher Guzman is a second-year pianist in the Master’s Program, who credits his mother with his auditioning for Juilliard. “Juilliard is a great and competitive place to be. You love and hate it at the same time.” His passion for music makes it worthwhile. “There’s a lot of backstabbing in the music world, loyalty doesn’t exist.” He feels important that all aspiring musicians prepare themselves for not being a superstar, and the likelihood of not being hired. There’s an underlying sentiment of an educational imbalance in the conser
The musicians profiled are aware that the odds are stacked against their future success, yet they are prepared for the long haul ahead. Juilliard can be a key to eventual success, but isn’t the key. It’s important to have a singular commitment to an instrument and the craft. Many seek careers as musicians, but what gives them an edge are personal and professional dedication and focus. Musicians who realize and are not upset by the possibility of there being someone better than they are on any given day, are those who have prepared for different scenarios. Today’s student peers are tomorrow’s professional competitors.
Artists who pursue a career as a musician must weigh their decision against perhaps more stable careers in arts administration, teaching, or leaving the field once the reality of the imbalance sets in. It’s a nontraditional career path, definitely not lucrative, and only a handful of musicians land steady jobs. The goal of the administrators and faculty at The Juilliard School is that the available individual and group training, extensive library, and access to artists in other mediums, will arm their students for years to come.
* This article originally appeared in the Music Mayhem Issue of unChín Magazine.