Life After Juilliard

Tuesday, Feb 20, 2018
Juilliard Journal
Alumni Story
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Life After Juilliard
Gwendolyn Ellis, Michael Ippolito, Julian Schwarz, Gia Mongell, and Michael Hey


Being a student in the Drama Division absolutely changed me for the better. I’d spent several years between graduating from Vassar College and enrolling at Juilliard waitressing and cobbling together a piecemeal life in the arts, so I knew the landscape I’d be returning to once I graduated from Juilliard. But here’s what’s different: my network of peers is enhanced and expanded, my ability to work well and quickly is much more finely tuned, and I have the confidence to learn in public. I was lucky enough, over the past year, to have played Young Elsa Einstein in National Geographic’s Genius and Rose Mills-Wright in Sink Sank Sunk, a web series created, written, and produced by NYU alum Will Seyfried and Juilliard classmate Hannes Otto, neither of whom I would have known had it not been for Juilliard. Most of all, I’ve learned that the skills that keep us engaged and spur us to persevere in school are the same ones that help us make a life after graduation.
Gwendolyn Ellis (Group 45)

Since graduating, I have taken a position as assistant professor of composition at Texas State University in San Marcos. It has been a great place to teach, with wonderful colleagues and students, and also a great place to compose. Earlier this year, I released an album of my music, Songlines (Azica Records), with the Attacca Quartet (fellow Juilliard alums) and my work Triptych for the Florida Orchestra will premiere February 23–25. I was thrilled to be back at Juilliard this fall for a performance of my Nocturne with the Juilliard Orchestra, conducted by Edo de Waart. My wife and I have two young kids, a 3-year-old daughter and a 1-year-old son, so they keep us pretty busy as well.
Michael Ippolito (MM ’10, DMA ’14, composition)

Since leaving Juilliard I’ve been fortunate to have filled my life with music. My first year out was spent as my mentor Joel Krosnick’s teaching assistant and further establishing my duo with piano alum Marika Bournaki—we won first prize at the Boulder chamber competition, recorded Bright Sheng’s Northern Lights (Naxos), and toured in China—and laying the groundwork for my current season. I’m an assistant professor of cello and chamber music at Shenandoah Conservatory and on the faculties at the Eastern Music Festival and Lunenburg Academy of Music Performance, and I write for Strings magazine. This season I have six debuts and five returns with orchestras all over the country; tours with viola alum Caeli Smith’s group Frisson and with the Mile-End Trio with violin alum Jeff Multer; a recording of the complete Rossini quartets; and two commissions—by composition alum Lowell Liebermann and by my father, conductor (and trumpet alum) Gerard Schwarz. It’s also been fun to hear and see the growth of my incredibly talented cousins Nathaniel Silberschlag and Alec Manasse: numbers 9 and 10 from our family to attend Juilliard!
Julian Schwarz (BM ’14, MM ’16, cello)

Shortly after graduation I got to live in Paris for three months while performing as an ensemble member and workshopping An American in Paris at the Théâtre du Châtelet. It was a dream! When the show transferred to Broadway I became a swing, and after the first year, I was given the role of assistant dance captain for an exhilarating two-and-a-half-year run. I’m now a vacation swing for the national tour of An American in Paris and have been on the road quite a bit this past year. I’ve also had the pleasure of teaching master classes and summer programs throughout the U.S. including at the summer Middle School Arts Audition Boot Camp [a Lincoln Center-NYC Department of Education partnership]. The audition hustle is real but I’m very inspired and grateful. Looking ahead, I’m excited to be dancing in Massenet’s Cendrillon at the Metropolitan Opera in April and May!
Gia Mongell (BFA ’14, dance)

Shortly after graduating, I was graced with concert management and being appointed associate director of music and organist of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York. Much of my time is spent in front of a computer writing emails to brides, outlining why they don’t have approval for a violinist and CD player to play Coldplay’s Viva la Vida for their wedding. Or making repeated phone calls explaining why hula dancing in the cathedral during an orchestra concert isn’t permitted. Never a dull moment. But at the end of the day, I’m able to play lots of repertoire and improvise organ music for daily services at this magnificent landmark. I’ve also performed organ concertos with the San Francisco Symphony, played for the first visit of Pope Francis to the U.S., and most recently, I received first prize in the Shanghai Conservatory First International Organ Competition. Above all, I love sharing my music with others. Alongside playing chamber music with friends, biking, and being a foodie, I’m about as happy as can be.
Michael Hey (BM ’13, MM ’14, organ)