Four years ago, I officially committed to the Juilliard class of 2020.
It was an accomplishment I had always thought would be far-fetched and impossible, even after advancing the prescreening round, after auditioning in February, after receiving that “Congratulations!” email. And when I started my first days of classes, I was even more humbled by the overwhelming talent that surrounded me. I had no idea what to expect on my journey, but I spent four years discovering more about myself and my potential as an artist than I could have ever imagined.
During the decision-making process, I was torn between attending a university or a conservatory. I wanted the diversity that a university offered, with the options to minor in another field, meet students of other studies, and live on a large campus. I’d have the opportunity to explore other career options and even switch to a totally different path if I wanted to. Going to a conservatory felt like committing myself to a career only in classical music, something that, at 17, I was still unsure of. But what made me ultimately decide on Juilliard were the unparalleled level of artistry and the multidisciplinary opportunities. Since Juilliard has dance, music, and drama divisions, I would be able to cross-collaborate with dancers and actors, something other music-only conservatories didn’t offer. It also didn’t hurt that the “campus” was New York City and Lincoln Center was right across the street!
What other people didn’t tell me is that going to a conservatory, even Juilliard, didn’t necessarily have to mean a commitment to the orchestral track forever. I still had opportunities to take non-music classes through joint programs organized by the school, and the Career Services and Community Engagement Offices offered fellowships, grants, and guidance to explore other paths and integrate my abilities into society.
Looking back, I would have had a tremendously different experience if I had gone to a university. I’m sure I would have worked just as hard there, but I might have chosen to take a completely different path. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, and I’d love to find out what I might have done in an alternate universe! This path is NOT for everybody. Many underestimate how difficult it is to be an artist and how much hard work, dedication, and creativity it takes to have a relevant and sustainable artistic career in today’s world. Many of my colleagues chose to take their passions in unconventional directions after graduating—some even entirely leaving the arts world, for careers as doctors or professors or lawyers—but Juilliard provided transferable skills, guidance for finding and choosing new options, and a drive to succeed and chase opportunities that I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life. Even though I still don’t know what career I might end up having in the future, I’m a lot further along in my artistic journey than I was at 17, and I know I’ll be able to navigate the twists and turns I’ll inevitably encounter in this thrilling journey.