Born in Syracuse, N.Y., Yassmeen grew up in Jordan. She moved with her family to Clifton Park, N.Y., when she was 12. Yassmeen earned a B.A. in English from SUNY- Plattsburgh and an M.A. in English from the University of New Hampshire, and taught three semesters of first-year writing as a teaching assistant in grad school. Before that, she worked for a year in customer service/sales support at a company that provided DHL services to businesses. She says, "I think it's safe to say that the business world and I are not meant to be."
How long have you worked at Juilliard, and what do you remember about your first day?
I’ve been at Juilliard for a little over a year. The thing I remember most about my first day was that Ara [Guzelimian, the provost and dean] sent me to watch the Renata Scotto master class; I remember thinking, “I could get used to this!”
What job at Juilliard would you like to try out for a day and why?
Well, since this is open-ended, I’d like to try President Polisi’s job for a day. I mean, why not aim high?
What is the strangest or most memorable job you’ve ever had and what made it so?
My dad owned a smoothie shop for about two years, and I helped him out when I was on breaks from school. I was always so hyped up on sugar because I naturally helped myself to free samples. I discovered that smoothie-making was not my calling in life (though smoothie-drinking might be).
If out of the blue your boss said to take the day off, what would you do with your free time?
I think Ara will appreciate this: I would head down to Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn and stock up on Middle Eastern groceries. (I’ve been meaning to do that for some time now.)
Many Juilliard staff members are also artists; are you?
I no longer know how to answer this question as working here has been such a humbling experience that whatever musical skills I possess hardly seem to qualify me as an artist. However, I did join the Young New Yorkers’ Chorus in January (thanks to Noah Opitz in the Juilliard library), and that has been a lot of fun. I minored in music when I was at SUNY-Plattsburgh and studied voice for several years, so it’s really great being able to use those vocal cords again. Had I started my musical training at a younger age, I have no doubt that I would have pursued singing seriously.
What other pursuits are you passionate about?
Working in higher education and traveling; I don’t do the latter nearly enough! My dream job would be to coordinate a study-abroad program at a university, which would ideally combine both pursuits.
What was the best vacation you’ve had and what made that trip so special?
I spent the summer of 2007 studying at Cambridge University in England (through a study-abroad program coordinated by the University of New Hampshire). My friend Lisa and I spent a week in Ireland beforehand, and we all got to tour various parts of England and Scotland during our six-week stay in the U.K. I fell in love with the architecture of the Cambridge colleges, and met some wonderful people, with whom I’m still in touch.
What is your favorite thing about New York City?
I guess I have two: I love the fact that I don’t need a car! I am definitely a train person, and the subways are just so convenient (except for all the weekend construction on the 7 line). Also—at the risk of sounding extremely generic and cliché—I love Central Park. You can find me there every weekend during the summer months. I’m always finding new trails and corners to explore.
What book are you reading right now, or what CD are you listening to?
I have a very bad habit of starting books and not finishing them. Technically, I am in the midst of reading Edward Said’s memoir Out of Place, rereading Pride and Prejudice, and finishing up David Sedaris’s Me Talk Pretty One Day. In terms of music, those who know me know that I am a Radiohead fanatic, and I have been listening to their albums Amnesiac, Kid A, and In Rainbows a lot.
What else might people be surprised to know about you?
Well, this may not be a real surprise, considering my name and background, but I speak Arabic.