Jordan Bak's Advice for Incoming Students

Tuesday, Aug 28, 2018
Jordan Bak
Juilliard Journal
Alumni Story
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Jordan Bak performing at Alice Tully Hall
Jordan Bak played the solo in Jacob Druckman's Viola Concerto with the Juilliard Orchestra and alum Gerard Schwarz, conductor, at Alice Tully Hall last year

Get Goosebumps

Allow yourself to get goosebumps. My first piece of advice is to go to recitals. We all have teachers and mentors here who help us become better artists and more mature people. But during my time at Juilliard, I’ve actually learned the most from my peers. You can have countless lessons with endless feedback on a particular piece of music, but not open your ears until a friend of yours blows you away with their interpretation. To be a great performer, one must be a good audience member. Oftentimes, things make more sense from the back of Paul, Morse, or Tully than they do on stage. Allow yourself to get goosebumps from someone at Juilliard you don’t know. Feel their energy, musicality, and presence—certainly while it’s still free! In a few years’ time, your classmates will be some of the most well-respected, sought-after jewels in their respective fields.

Patch up the wound and keep walking. My second piece of advice is to get used to rejection. Your acceptance letter to Juilliard is just the beginning of your career. During your time here and thereafter, you will audition for summer festivals, competitions, orchestras, possibly more school— and, more often than not, you will not be selected. You will feel bitter for maybe a few hours, days, or weeks, and that’s perfectly reasonable. Sometimes you’ll get rejected over and over to the point where you won’t feel anything, but you must never give up. No one said this gig was going to be easy! Patch up the wound and keep walking. Don’t change anything about yourself for acceptance; the right people will come and the right doors will open so long as you stay true to your personality, your mind, and your spirit.

Live life. Hard work sculpts your artistry, but so do life experiences. There is an entire city outside of Lincoln Center plaza, so get out there and explore! Find love. Risk getting your heart broken. Learn what it feels like to be an early riser or a night owl. Love the chatter at parties and social events— and the comfort of total silence. Meet new people and cherish them. Make time for coffee dates and visits to Vanguard (if you’re old enough) when you feel like your glass is half empty. Trust your gut feeling. Reach in from the depth of your soul and speak raw truth. Play like you mean it. And always, always be unapologetically yourself.

This summer, Artist Diploma violist Jordan Bak (MM ’18) performed in the Primrose International Viola Competition, taught at Classical Music Institute (CMI) San Antonio, and took part in the Verbier Festival Academy