Prelude to the Juilliard Orchestra

Friday, Nov 10, 2023
Juilliard Journal
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The horn section in an orchestra rehearsal
Horn players Andrew Arloro, Carys Sutherland, and Sylvia Beach

By Sylvia Beach

For freshmen, a series of firsts marks the start of the fall semester. There is the first college move-in day, the first college roommate, the first time calling Lincoln Center home, and the first Juilliard Orchestra experience. As I’m a first-year horn performance major, the anticipation of joining the Juilliard Orchestra hovered above these major life events. And the first chapter of this remarkable journey began with the Juilliard Orchestra Orientation, a rite of passage for all freshmen orchestral musicians.

Taking place at the beginning of the semester, Orchestra Orientation marked the commencement of our orchestral experience at Juilliard. Whether Orchestra Orientation was a student’s first or thousandth time in an orchestral setting, everyone in the room learned how to adapt and play together in our new environment. Under the baton of Jherrard Hardeman (Graduate Diploma ’22, orchestral conducting), each rehearsal was a chance to immerse ourselves in the world of Juilliard's orchestral excellence. And by the time it was over, Room 543 had become our sanctuary as we embarked on our musical journey.

The percussion section during an orchestra rehearsal
Orchestra Orientation 2023

Orientation began with a series of meetings, including an enlightening seminar on injury prevention and hearing protection, underscoring the orchestra department’s dedication to the well-being of its musicians. We learned that Juilliard offers many benefits to support its students and foster strong physical and mental health.

For me, one highlight was the brass and percussion sectional with Ray Mase (faculty 1987–present). While I was initially apprehensive playing in front of my peers, my trepidation soon gave way to awe as I found myself surrounded by an incredible brass section sound and supportive peers. The horn section, in particular, stood out for me as a source of inspiration and camaraderie.

Orchestra Orientation also offered some surprises. Musicians from all sections from the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, and the New York City Ballet sat in each rehearsal to play and listen. My studio professor, Erik Ralske (BM ’80, MM ’82, horn; faculty 2012–present), even sat next to me during a rehearsal. The incredible feedback we received from these artists was engaging and constructive. While each student learned something new, we were surprised to see how smoothly the integration process worked and how quickly we connected and formed as a group.

A unique perspective on auditions emerged as we sat on the other side of the screen during an audition workshop with Ralske. He spoke about training our brains and our bodies to perform at our best during auditions. It gave me a deeper understanding of the rigorous standards that define both Juilliard and the professional world beyond.

The culmination of Orchestra Orientation was a rehearsal and recording under the baton of David Robertson, director of conducting studies. This recording serves as a baseline for our class, sets the tone for four years of growth and accomplishment, and confirms that we are in the right place. I look forward to absorbing the musicality of my colleagues in future orchestra cycles, and knowing that the faculty and staff in the Orchestra Office are here to help us, I feel comfortable embracing the high standards Juilliard demands.

Orchestra Orientation introduced an incoming class of classical musicians to Juilliard. We concluded it excited to work with exceptional conductors, hone our craft, and witness each other’s artistic growth over the next four years. Embarking on my journey in the Juilliard Orchestra, my heart is full of gratitude as I am inspired by being surrounded by the incredible artists and friends that I now call colleagues. I’m ready to seize every opportunity to grow as an individual artist and an orchestral player, and my anticipation for what lies ahead at Juilliard is boundless.

Sylvia Beach is a first-year horn student