A Day in the Life
When I was growing up in Union, Ky. (a town with no notable landmarks), Juilliard seemed like a mythical land from a fairy tale far, far away from tobacco fields and farming equipment. Yet here I am, less than two months after arriving in the master’s voice program. Reality settled in after orientation and the school was very quick to put me to work, which has meant 19 credit hours of theory, history, ear training, piano, diction, movement, and acting classes, plus working nine hours a week at the Alan D. Marks Center for Career Services and Entrepreneurship, coachings for three Juilliard Opera productions, coachings for the Juilliard Cabaret, and working on music for the NYFOS @ Juilliard concert on January 11. Here’s what happened on Wednesday, November 1.
Good morning! Onward to Juilliard from my apartment on 164th Street. No classes today but a full schedule nonetheless. The 1 train gets me to school in about 30 minutes, but I always give myself an hour just to be safe.
This unhappy 6' 4'' tenor is squished in a train that’s delayed between two stops. That’s why we plan extra travel time, folks.
Disgruntled, I exit the subway platform right next to the school, but it’s hard not to smile at those beautiful glass panels.
I start my first coaching of the day, with guest coach Ian Axness for the Vocal Arts Cabaret, a nice change of pace for an opera singer—I get to work on musical theater rep I wouldn’t have sought out by myself. It’s like Juilliard wants me to be a “well-rounded” musician or something. The project is still in its preliminary stages, so we’re still working on picking repertoire to suit me. We fiddle through five or six songs, transposing, reworking, changing context, all with the goal of creating a new and interesting scenario to glue the otherwise disparate songs together.
Off to work at the Career Center. It’s mostly taking phone calls, checking emails, and some data entry, which may not sound like much, but it’s really quite rewarding. The center is an incredible resource for our students and alumni. It’s great to be a part of it and pay some bills along the way!
A 30-minute break?! What will I do with all this free time? I could practice! Work on some homework! Oh—time to go already?
I head into a coaching with the magnificent Reed Woodhouse for Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor (The Merry Wives of Windsor) in which I will be performing the role of Spärlich. We’re not performing until February, but there’s lots of work to be done. The music is mostly patter, so my German has got to be on fleek (as the kids say) lest I sing total gibberish on stage. Interestingly enough, the music will be sung in German, but the dialogue is Shakespeare’s English.
I’m back with Ian Axness, this time with another cabaret cast mate, Nicole Thomas. We’d barely gotten to know each other prior to this coaching, but here we are trying a new piece. There’s nothing quite like making music for the first time with a world-class talent like her.
Food! Shout-out to the Halal carts of Manhattan. For $5 I eat like a king and sport a gorgeous food baby for the remainder of the day. I eat this meal of champions on the couches next to the Vocal Arts office, a wonderful chance for me to get off my feet before the next five hours of standing.
NYFOS time. The New York Festival of Song @ Juilliard is perhaps the most interesting of my current projects. Headed up by faculty member Steven Blier, NYFOS is a celebration of rarely heard song that utilizes lucky singers like me to showcase just how much great rep there is out there. This year’s concert here (details below) is called William Bolcom and John Corigliano: An 80th Birthday Tribute. It has been my distinct pleasure and honor to work with Steve to pick music for the concert. The pieces we’ve looked at are new, fresh, fun, and incredibly challenging and demanding of the singer. Yet another example of how Juilliard expands my reach of the repertoire. Here’s hoping I’m up to the challenge.
In the hustle and bustle of the city and in the intense work environment that is Juilliard, it’s important to find opportunities to relax, especially since the city can be particularly stressful and gray compared to my old Kentucky home. But a walk through Central Park reminds of beautiful green plains of bluegrass, and before you know it, I’m ready to hunker down and get to work again.
Time for the designer run-through for Juilliard Opera’s La finta giardiniera. I’m covering the role of La Podestá, which will be sung by the incredible Joshua Blue. My job for the night is to enjoy the show as it’s completed up to this point. I make sure my music is in line with what Josh is doing so I can be sure to fill in for him if needed at any point.
After finally getting home I can begin my homework. I guarantee you I never had to sing in four languages in one day like I do here. But nothing is more rewarding than knowing you did it all, and you did it all well. It’s a daily struggle to say the least, but what an honor it is to say that I lived the struggle at Juilliard!
First-year master’s student Matthew Pearce has a Juilliard Scholarship