Student Reflections: Jacob Melsha and Paige Quillen

Thursday, May 26, 2022
Juilliard Journal
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A wide-angle photo of the stage at Carnegie Hall, taken from beind the audience as the Juilliard Orchestra and Juilliard Jazz Orchestra, with David Robertson, take bows
David Robertson conducted the Juilliard Orchestra and Juilliard Jazz Orchestra in their first join concert—at Carnegie Hall in February

Students Reflect on an Action-Packed Year

Just before commencement, we asked students—some graduating, some staying on—to reflect on their time at Juilliard. They wrote about highlights, top takeaways, and things that were and weren't surprising. In addition, some shared what scholarship had meant to them and what their summer/future plans are. Keep an eye out for entries from other students and check out this video highlight reel from commencement. Congratulations to the class of 2022!

Jacob Melsha


  • The Juilliard Jazz 20th anniversary celebration at Alice Tully Hall this winter may have been my favorite Juilliard Jazz Orchestra rotation in my five years—it was really neat to be able to work with and celebrate so many incredible jazz alumni from the past 20 years.
  • As a second-year master’s student, I’ve pretty much knocked out every credit I need. That said, I thoroughly enjoyed taking another jazz history course with Seton Hawkins last semester. This music has such a rich (and relatively recent) history, and it’s so rewarding to be able to study it. Plus, it was cool having classical musicians in class with us!
  • Socially this year was a bit different than the previous four. Most of my undergraduate class of 2021 has left Juilliard, and there were times where I felt like I hardly knew anyone in the building anymore. But it was also an opportunity to nurture new friendships. And I really enjoyed being an orientation leader again. Those first few weeks are always a highlight of the entire year.

Scholarship support
It’s the only reason I’m able to be here! Not many people can afford the full cost of attendance here at Juilliard. Even with my scholarship I’ll still have to pay off loans every month for the next decade. However, my scholarship and the generous donors who made it possible are the reason that my family was able to send me here and I’m so grateful to them. So, in a sense, scholarship support enabled me to do quite literally everything I’ve done over the last five years.

Top takeaway
You belong here. I struggled for my first two years with awful imposter syndrome. It took me the first two years to realize that I belong here as much as anyone else. We all have our strengths, our weaknesses, and our own paths. Lean into yours and trust the process. Each of us is here for a reason—don’t forget that.

Next steps
While my summer plans haven’t completely formed yet, I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to add some shows to my calendar already. I’ll definitely be staying in New York and I’m looking forward to being able to support myself as an independent artist postgraduation. Sure, it’s scary to think about, but I trust that Juilliard and my hard work have prepared me for the “real world” sufficiently.

Anything else?
I can’t imagine my college years taking place anywhere else, and I don’t take for granted the education and experiences that have been afforded to me over the years. Thank you to the many staff, faculty, and friends who have made Juilliard what it is and will always be—a place to call home.

Trombone player Jacob Melsha (BM ’21, jazz studies), who’s finishing his master’s degree, grew up in St. Louis

Paige Quillen


  • This year was the first year I have been at Juilliard that essentially felt normal.
  • Artistically, many COVID restrictions were lifted that allowed us to have full orchestra rehearsals with guest conductors, and one performance that really sticks out was Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade under Xian Zhang.
  • Scholastically, having classes that met in person and not over Zoom increased my interest in subjects such as music history.
  • Socially, I’ve made so many friends with people from all around the world.

Biggest surprise
Juilliard has shown me so much about making music with others. Through chamber opportunities, studio performances, and orchestra, I have realized that music is a very large picture, and one musician is just a small fragment in it. It’s beautiful to see ensembles coming together to create.

Paige Quillen is a second-year horn player from Granbury, Texas

These pieces are adapted from a special feature that originally appeared in the Summer 2022 issue of the Journal.