The Juilliard Experience

Added on by Greg Anderson.
Dear Greg,
I'm an undergraduate piano performance student at the University of Toronto and also have taken lessons with Jacob Lateiner in New York. I wanted to study at Juilliard for my undergrad degree but this did not work out, as such I am planning to apply again once I finish my B.M. and artist diploma here. My previous teacher graduated from Juilliard (studied with Mr. Lateiner herself) and always told me it was impossible for me to get there. That may in fact be true, but I'm still going to try. I am just wondering - who was/were your teacher(s) and what were a the key concepts/lessons you learned from them? What was their teaching style? Of course, graduating with an M.M. from there is an incredible accomplishment, and you do play brilliantly, but how did you get to perform the way you do now? Did you enjoy your years at Juilliard?
With Respect, Jarred D.

Dear Jarred,

The six years I spent at Juilliard (B.M. and M.M.) were amazing, constructive, and productive. The energy within the Juilliard walls is phenomenal... absolutely inspiring. My colleagues were genuinely supportive and friendly, my teachers showed utmost concern for my personal well-being and musicianship, and the administration worked hard to push my peers and me beyond our comfort zones and into the real world. The school also supplied me with incredible performance opportunities.

I'm not sure where some of the untrue myths originated, but contrary to some popular beliefs, Juilliard is not a factory for automatons. There are no razor blades between the keys. Students and faculty members are not viciously competitive. The school does not value accuracy and virtuosity over musicianship. For an example of the contrary, check out the program notes to this concert that my piano class put together of our own accord.

Sometimes I wonder if people were so unfortunate as to listen to a performance by one of the few unmusical beasts who got lucky during their Juilliard audition... and then the listener made judgments about the entire school. Sometimes I wonder if people who didn't get into Juilliard spread fallacies about the school to ease their pain. Sometimes I wonder if a few Juilliard students found themselves intimidated by their surroundings, and blamed the experience on the school rather than on the source of the problem -- on themselves.

For the most part, I found Juilliard to be a happy and energetic place. I was constantly inspired by the performances of my peers. In a lonely practice room, Orion Weiss gave the most incredible performance of a Mozart sonata I have ever heard; Mozart's music has never sounded the same since. Melody Brown made me tear up while playing the music of Henry Cowell, and Elizabeth Joy Roe made my hair stand on end while running through the Barber Piano Concerto in studio class. My class of freshmen dancers (I was a T.A. for their music theory class) showed me just how exciting Gregorian chant can be; their innocent wonder couldn't have been more beautiful. And I had no idea that a simple twist of one's breath could make me writhe in my seat as it did during a fourth-year drama production. My Juilliard experience was amazing!

I apologize for my long-winded diatribe which was, for the most part, unprovoked. Too often, I find myself rolling my eyes when a musician says, "Oohhhhh... you went to Juilliard..." with a certain implication of disapproval. Your question didn't suggest any of that, but it brought up the issue, which I was clearly happy to write about. To be succinct, I loved my Juilliard experience. :-)

My primary teacher at the school was Julian Martin. I have no trouble singing praises of the man, but it would probably take me too long to fully express myself. In short: he is one of the most articulate musicians I have ever encountered. He can describe exactly how music works; although his demonstrations at the piano can be equally inspiring, what amazes me more is his ability to find the right words to describe his intentions. A few carefully chosen words, and *bingo*, you've just plunged deeper into the music than a few hours of practice could have afforded you.

I would hesitate to list key concepts/lessons that I learned from Julian Martin. I studied with him for six years, often for more than a mere hour a week, and I believe that any simplification of his ideas would be unfair to him. He is as inspiring teaching Bach as he is Rachmaninoff, and the sheer volume of ideas, concepts, principles, and information I learned over my six years could fill several books.

Thank you for your interest, and I wish you the best as you prepare to audition again!

- Greg