Postcards From Juilliard Alums
Life after Juilliard has been quite a whirlwind. Adjusting to new schedules and routines has presented its challenges; however it has also allowed me to put all of my great training to work. I live in Boston now, dancing with the Boston Ballet, and though I thought I knew myself very well, being in this company has taught me new things every day. Along with performing, I have kept up with my creative forces. I recently choreographed a new work for Dallas Black Dance Theatre’s second company that premieres this spring (April 12-13), and I am being asked by other ballet companies to create work. It’s an exciting time for me!
My’kal Stromile (BFA ’18, dance)
After graduating, I adopted a dog I named Ludwig, and he’s my lucky charm. Soon after he came into my life, I won the Concert Artist Guild competition and as part of the prize gave my Carnegie Hall debut recital. I was also a member of Ensemble Connect, a two-year fellowship program of Carnegie, Juilliard, and the Weill Music Institute. We performed regularly at Carnegie Hall, and through it, I taught band students (90 clarinetists!) at Wagner Middle School. After several days attempting to talk over the constant squeaks of reed instruments, overblowing brass sounds, and kids arguing about whether Cardi B or Ariana Grande is better, I realized that being a band teacher is the most frustrating and challenging job. Nevertheless, I have so many cherished memories with the students and, by the end of my time with them, they performed at Juilliard and I had never felt so proud. After Ensemble Connect, I said what I thought was my final farewell to Juilliard and began life as a freelancer. But a mild case of cabin fever combined with a need for more steady income had me hankering for a part-time job—and I found one at the Juilliard Store. So now, whenever I’m not traveling for concerts, you can find me manning the register or helping a customer find the Bärenreiter edition of the Mozart Clarinet Concerto.
Yoonah Kim (MM ’16, Academy ’18, clarinet)
Life after Juilliard has been an amazing journey of discovery. Texas Christian University offered me a full-time, tenure-track position in 2003. TCU is a thriving private institution in Fort Worth with about 11,000 students. I enjoy teaching talented students, performing near and far, exploring new repertoire, collaborating with musicians and across disciplines, recording, and adjudicating. Founding the TCU Cello Ensemble and the TCU Cellofest have been two of the highlights. Through my experience on the faculty senate, I enjoyed thinking about how to advance the institutional mission of and the common good, and this year I’m on a fellowship from the American Council on Education, a nationwide higher education leadership program. An important takeaway for me is to strive to make education, like the arts, accessible to others, regardless of their circumstances. I’ve also found that the skills and values artists learn, such as empathy, listening, critical thinking, problem-solving, teamwork, intercultural competence, self-discipline, and, of course, time management, are very relevant and handy in other fields and in life.
Jesús Castro-Balbi (DMA ’04, cello)
Since graduating in May, my biggest passion has been finding ways to use the training and tools I learned at Juilliard to give back to our community. I immediately began working with CO/LAB Theater Group, which offers individuals with developmental disabilities a creative and social outlet through theater. I also volunteer with the 52nd Street Project, and I’m starting to coach actors and hope to teach acting in the future. Shortly after graduation, I played Lady Anne in Richard III in Boston with Commonwealth Shakespeare Company, and I became a member of Actor’s Equity, which has been a dream come true. I’m now also recording audiobooks as a narrator for Audible, and I’m getting married this month! I am so grateful for the years I was lucky enough to spend at Juilliard, and I’m thankful every day for all I learned there.
Libby McKnight (Group 47)
I love being a concert pianist and teacher. I had a U.S. concert tour this fall, followed by a Moscow Conservatory debut in December. I also recorded my first album, at Sono Luminus Studios, featuring works by Bach, Beethoven, and Busoni. I was recently appointed director of piano Studies at Nevada School of the Arts in Las Vegas, and I’m also a Las Vegas Strip headliner as half of the magic/music combo Jarrett & Raja. We were semifinalists on America’s Got Talent, have starred on Shark Tank, and are on our sixth season of CW’s Masters of Illusion.
Raja Rahman (BM ’91, MM ’93, piano)
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