Mony Estima, who was born and raised in Mount Vernon, N.Y., attended Concordia College (Bronxville, N.Y.) for two years and then earned a bachelor’s degree from Five Towns College in Dix Hills, Long Island, where she majored in music education and voice. Among other jobs she has been an administrative assistant for the Center of Continuing Education at Sarah Lawrence College and an admissions counselor at Manhattan School of Music. She lives in Pelham with her son, Sebastian.
How long have you worked at Juilliard, and what do you remember about your first day? And what is one of your favorite memories from your years here?
I celebrated my seventh year at Juilliard in August, so memories of my first day are fuzzy. My favorite memory so far, though, is that Admissions used to call newly admitted students to congratulate them (these calls took place before they received official notification of admission). Responses varied from delighted squeals to simple thanks—you never knew what to expect. One time, after I told a young woman she’d been admitted, I heard a stunned gasp, followed by crackling silence on the line. Then she started sobbing, wordlessly, for long, long moments, and soon I was crying right along with her.
What job at Juilliard would you like to try out for a day and why?
Admissions work doesn’t leave a lot of room for getting to know students once they’re admitted (unless they work for my office in some capacity), so perhaps academic advising.
What is the strangest or most memorable job you’ve ever had and what made it so?
As a teen, I worked at a Carvel Ice Cream store for a week. It was a brief, though tasty, tenure.
If out of the blue your boss said to take the day off, what would you do with your free time?
First, I’d ask her if she was feeling all right. (Just kidding, boss.) Hmmm, what are my parameters? Is it Daylight Savings Time? Is money no object? Is there a carnival in town?
Many Juilliard staff members are also artists. If that applies to you, how do you balance your job and your artistic endeavors?
I like to sing and I like to write. Being a single mother hasn’t left me too free for the former, as band rehearsals and gigs would’ve taken me away from my son when he was younger and needed me at home. But I can write anywhere, so I’ve focused on that. When we’re not in peak application/audition season at Juilliard, I try to carve out time in the evenings and on weekends to write, though I admit that the reserves of mental energy required are low after a full day at work. Committing to a routine is vital, as is avoiding distractions (if I get home and park myself in front of the TV or Facebook, I’m sunk).
What other pursuits are you passionate about?
After chatting with maybe a couple of hundred prospective applicants at a busy college fair, I passionately pursue a bacon cheeseburger, curly fries, a Diet Coke (just for the taste of it), and Lindt chocolates. Apart from these, I enjoy kooky art exhibits (see favorite N.Y.C. thing answer); British television and film; books by Jane Austen, Jasper Fforde, Georgette Heyer, and Edgar A. Poe; and music by Duran Duran, Blondie, Depeche Mode and, most recently, Kasabian.
Where would you most like to travel and what draws you to that place?
I have saudades for my parents’ native Portugal, which I haven’t visited in about 21 years. Saudade refers to this (perhaps uniquely Portuguese) sense of intense longing or hunger for something you’re missing, or something that can’t be, or is possibly lost to you for good (youth, love, your homeland). Plus, whenever my relatives overseas get me on the phone they never fail to ask when I’m going to bring my son over to experience (half of) his heritage in person, so the pressure’s on.
What might people be surprised to know about you?
How much I agonize over my writing and fuss with it, compulsively, until I feel ready to unleash it upon an unsuspecting world.
What is your favorite thing about New York City?
New York provides so many opportunities to take in such a wide variety of art—I checked out the Tim Burton exhibit at MoMA last Valentine’s Day, the Harry Houdini exhibit at the Jewish Museum on my birthday, and I can hop on the 1 train and ride to the tippity-top of Manhattan Island to soak up the medieval vibes at the Cloisters whenever I like. (Well, whenever it’s open and the trains are running—you know what I mean.)
Now that your son’s a senior in high school and getting ready to submit his own college applications, what surprises you most about the process?
College-bound seniors get a lot of junk mail. A lot. Not from Juilliard Admissions, though—our office is paperless! Mostly.
What book are you reading right now?
Would you believe James Joyce’s Ulysses? No, I wouldn’t either, if I were you. I’ve tried, as I’m a fan of Greek myths and I believe Ulysses parallels Homer’s Odyssey to some extent, so I’m definitely interested. But I’ve not been able to get past the first couple of chapters or so. I expect I’ll attempt it again, someday.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
Just this little Portuguese proverb, Quem não arrisca não petisca. (Or, Nothing ventured, nothing gained.) (You know, within the bounds of all local laws and the dictates of your conscience.)