Hi, the Juilliard legal counsel (Hi Mr. Edelson!) will send me haunting and passive-aggressive emails about my breach of their social media policy if I do not include a disclaimer, so I am doing it here: Please be aware that this post is not sponsored in any way by The Juilliard School. Moreover, following the advice contained in this blog does not in any way guarantee your admission into The Juilliard School. Duh.
I’ve received a couple emails and DM’s on Instagram now (although not nearly as many as this guy or this girl) about general tips on getting into Juilliard. Frequently, these emails touch on really similar themes, so I wanted to address them here.
1. YOU ARE NOT ENTITLED TO ANYONE’S ATTENTION
This step may seem a bit jarring and out of place, but it’s first because a lot of people get upset with me if I don’t reply to unsolicited emails after a while. So I’ve gotta lay down some truth.
You’ve gotta strip the entitlement from your expectations.
I consider myself a pretty empathetic person, but one group of people that it’s taking me a long time to come around on is entitled men and women in dating. 1 It really grinds my gears when men that do favors for women or buy them drinks get upset if the woman does not agree to have sex with them afterwards. Women are guilty of similar practices, obviously.
But it’s not just in dating, it’s in real life, too. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been with someone and they’ve smiled at a person and said “what a bitch. I smiled at her and she didn’t smile back.”
Guys, what you’re communicating in that moment is that your act of kindness was only done with the goal of a specific reaction. I promise, life is better when you do nice things for people and don’t expect things in return.
When you’re asking someone for advice, unsolicited… don’t be that person. It comes across really poorly, and I promise your passive-aggressive email will be shown to all of that someone’s colleagues and laughed at.
2. YOU WILL CHANGE YOUR MIND, PROBABLY NEXT WEEK
Therefore, there’s a strong pull towards the narrative of the little girl that always wanted to be a master violinist, and is selling out Carnegie Hall twenty years later. It’s not only a powerful narrative, but it’s also super simple.
But actual life is definitely not that simple. There are so many people who change their mind after Juilliard and give up music altogether. Allow yourself the flexibility–don’t pigeon yourself into a role.
3. SMALL, FREQUENT GOALS OVER BIG GOALS
There is no virtue in pretending to know what your life is going to be like 5 years from now. Change this statement:
“I will be in Juilliard five years from now.”
to this statement:
“Tomorrow, I want to be a better musician than I am today.”
This is important because big goals sound good to us and make us look impressive to our friends and family… but they don’t help us focus on the little, less glamorous steps necessary for success. Moreover, big, specific goals are often out of our control, and can feel deflating to not accomplish. But consistent small ones are always within our control, and have a much better track record in getting us to those big goals.
4. CHOOSE MUSIC SCHOOL FOR THE RIGHT REASON
The fame. The glory. The sold-out shows. The travel. The fans.
These are all terrible reasons to be a musician.
There is only one reason that you should dedicate 6+ years of your life to music school: you love playing your instrument, both in the practice rooms that look shitty enough that you just might be catching a faint whiff of asbestos, and in Carnegie Hall. You have to feel an obsession with making music, to the point where you can’t picture yourself doing anything else, even if it meant a life living below the poverty line.
(Because, unless you’re really great and really lucky, you’ll spend at least some time there.)
5. ONCE YOU’RE THERE, LEARN TO FALL IN LOVE WITH THE PROCESS
In learning your instrument, there are a variety of skills needed in order to achieve mastery. Scales, Arpeggios, Etudes, Ear Training, Music Theory/History, the list is way, way too long.
But the single most important skill you could ever learn in music school has nothing to do with scales. It’s identifying what on that list absolutely sucks — that thing that you absolutely hate working on — and figuring out how to love the process of working on it.
Those who learn to love working the aspects of music that are hard to learn more than doing things that come easily to them are the most successful.
6. HAVE A BIG PICTURE
Consistently, the people that I see doing well are the people that take tremendous chances. They take the biggest auditions, set the highest goals.
So you want to go to Juilliard. That’s a big goal! Awesome! But it shouldn’t be the only thing. Tons of people get into Juilliard and flame out. Why do you want to come to Juilliard? Have you talked to anyone that has gone to Juilliard? Maybe it’s terrible! 3 Maybe the marketing team and a few great alumni just do a great job of making it seem like a shiny, automatic success factory.
Don’t go to Juilliard because it’s the top of the mountain–go because it’s the next rung on the ladder.
7. OBLITERATE YOUR EGO
As I noted in my response to Orlando, we spend our whole lives since birth unlearning a terribly self-centered assumption that the whole world is how we perceive it in that moment.
A lot of people will reject you. Juilliard has a blisteringly low acceptance rate of something stupid like 4%. So they’ll probably reject you too. It’s just math.
In all of your hard work, if you get rejected anyway, the worst thing you could do is make that rejection about you. Rejection is, often, the unlucky product of a decision that took fractions of a second to actually arrive at (Acceptance takes even less time). It’s not an evaluation of your entire being or self-worth.
So by all means, audition for Juilliard. Maybe you’ll get in, maybe you won’t. But the world and a career in music is (unfortunately) bigger than Juilliard.
Make sure you’re ready.
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