Juilliard auditioning...

July 1, 2014 at 05:43 AM · I've been a long time lurker on this site and there were many things that were very useful! But now I have some questions of my own and I would be glad if I get help.

I am planning to audition for Juilliard very soon, and some questions come to mind:

1. How and what did you use to record your prescreening recordings?

2. Do politics play a large role at Juilliard? (I have almost no connection to the Juilliard faculty so I was wondering if, leaving aside my level of playing, I have a chance of being accepted)

3. To anyone who auditioned to a music conservatory- what was your experience like the day of the audition? Did you talk to the judges? Were there a lot of people? Things like that :)

No one around me is a serious violin student so I would appreciate it if someone can help me out ^-^

Replies (33)

July 1, 2014 at 07:40 AM · I don't understand the obsession with Juilliard. For instance a person will have a much better chance of getting into the Cleveland orch. if they go to CIM, and get a better all around musical education. Or go to a lesser known university and get lots of special attention and a low tuition cost plus an in to grad study at a better known conservatory where the teachers have a reputation for getting jobs for students.

July 1, 2014 at 11:57 AM · Hi,

To answer your questions...

1. How and what did you use to record your prescreening recordings?

I recommend getting a professional recording made.

2. Do politics play a large role at Juilliard? (I have almost no connection to the Juilliard faculty so I was wondering if, leaving aside my level of playing, I have a chance of being accepted)

It depends on the school and teacher. Some teachers only accept students with whom they have had previous contact or know their teachers, while others are more open. It is best to take a lesson with the teacher before the audition.

3. To anyone who auditioned to a music conservatory- what was your experience like the day of the audition? Did you talk to the judges? Were there a lot of people? Things like that :)

The day can be quite busy as you may have to do other tests, etc., and there isn't always that much time to practice or room to practice. Auditions depend on the school, but at the major American conservatories, they are very short in my experience, about 5 to 10 minutes tops, sometimes less. You do not get to talk to the judges unless they ask questions. It is basically in, play, out. Time is short for the jury as they have ton of auditions to listen to. Auditions in these schools are really best seen as a quick first impression.

Cheers and best of luck!

July 1, 2014 at 01:55 PM · Bruce:

I do not appreciate your choice of using the word "obsession". Everyone has different lives, experiences, etc. and I trust my teacher and myself on the choice of the school.


Thank you very much! I expected answers along those lines, but I didn't realize that auditions are that short. As for the recordings, when I went on the tour, the guide (a viola student) said she recorded in her living room. As long as the quality is good, does it matter where/how you record or is it better, like you said, to get a professional recording?

July 1, 2014 at 03:25 PM · Nozomi,

I don't know if you saw this thread. There are some eye opening discussions, many of which are based on pure speculation, but relevant to the questions you are asking.

What pieces to know before College

Surprising that Bruce would diss Juilliard given that he graduated from there. But the prestige is certainly worth something. If you are a musician applying for a job, I would think it helps to have Juilliard on your resume. Just like it would help for an attorney to have "Harvard Law" on their resume.

But, I have to agree in part with Bruce. The best schools do not necessarily offer the best educations. I graduated from Johns Hopkins, a relatively prestigious school, and I have to say, some of the professors were tops in their field, but they were awful teachers.

July 1, 2014 at 04:06 PM · I hasten to add that I was not one of Smiley's teachers.

I have no experience with violin schools of any kind - but I have racked up a lot of teachers! Seems to me that dynamic with a teacher is far, far more important than institution. Lets face it, a prestigious school tag may get you into the door (for interviews thereafter) occasionally, but its not going to do you any good at all if you can not deliver.

July 1, 2014 at 04:13 PM · Thanks for all the messages, but rather than focusing on the school I decide to audition for, I was wondering more about any auditioning process itself... I will rely on my teacher about what school to choose, and I am very aware about the importance of the teacher rather than the name value of the school.

July 1, 2014 at 04:39 PM · Nozomi - have you searched this site? It seems similar questions come up very often - while the expertise here varies.

July 1, 2014 at 04:44 PM · Yes I have searched this site before asking my question (I did not want any repeats). And I was a long time lurker before joining. I see many were sensitive with the word "Juilliard" so it's okay- I'll just go back lurking :)

July 1, 2014 at 05:31 PM · Nothing wrong with asking a question, unless it's the "What to play after X piece" that tends to appear weekly. (and even that's fine to ask though realistically nobody here can assess the person or what they're ready for next. )

To answer the question since you were more wondering about the actual process than the process for the specific school, I can share mine. Mind you, this was like 20 years ago and I'm sure those who went to music schools before then had a different experience.

1- Used a regular tape recorder for 3 of 4 schools I'd applied. For two schools (One univ, other conservatory), that was all they needed. One conservatory it was used for a pre-audition, much like Julliard. The fourth school required an in-person audition the entire way through the process due to living like, just inside the weird "Within 500 miles must audition in person" rule although I DID send a tape, which netted a lovely phone call from them. =P

The tape recorder was damn pricey at $30 or something! Yeah, don't use a tape recorder now though!

2- There's politics everywhere to some extent. Some more obvious than others. If you want to study with a specific teacher, regardless of the school then try getting a lesson with said teacher as has been suggested. Their studio may be full come time to accept admission or some other issue may arise to prevent the two of you from working together. If accepted, they can start you on the repertoire they want you to learn during the school year, answer some basic questions about the school, give advice, etc, etc..

3- Christian said it best. You go in, play a few minutes, walk out. That's the jist of it. You do not quiz the 'judges'. On the rare occasion, they'll ask a question or two but that's really it. But when you do the in-person audition, be sure to allow yourself enough time ahead of the set time to snag a practice room, warm up and such. And just tune everybody else out around you as that's the bigger distraction than anything imo...The whole psych/comparing yourself to others.

Then you leave, wait a bit and get your envelope. Good or Bad. Accept it and hope your 2nd/3rd choices accepted you if not accepted to the first choice. Usual college stuff. :)

July 1, 2014 at 05:44 PM · Thanks John! Now I have a better sense of the actual process ^-^ All that's left for me is to practice practice practice! (The only sad realization is that I can't take lessons prior to the audition since I live in Japan...)

July 1, 2014 at 10:42 PM · "I hasten to add that I was not one of Smiley's teachers."


And if you were, I probably wouldn't have turned out to be the underachieving derelict that I am.

July 2, 2014 at 12:42 AM · Hey!! I just finished auditioning for conservatories this year, so maybe I can give you some advice. For prescreeing you definitely want a high quality recording- even if that means going to a professional (that's what I did) but a good quality microphone should be ok. Also, record in a room that isn't either echo-ey or dead.

At any school politics play a part in admissions, but you don't need to know someone to get in anywhere. It can be helpful to your own admission to the school but it is not required. It's also helpful to have a trial lesson to see if you "mesh" well with your chosen teacher.

At the actual audition, don't expect the judges to be warm and fuzzy- some can be but it's just a plus when that happens. They are tired and this is a routine experience for them so don't pay attention to how they look or move because it probably has nothing to do with you. The best advice I've ever heard is to stay excited. Just be pumped you're seeing all these new places and people (maybe dance in your warmup room). It worked for me and I aced all my auditions :)

Practice hard and good luck :)

July 2, 2014 at 09:01 AM · To share my experience with auditions: Its sometimes very complicated to play in/warm up, because rooms are limited and everybody fights for it. My advice: Fight for it! There is nothing worse than going in cold to an 2 minute audition. If you don't get a room, practice where you are at, nothing can replace your limited time before audition, its worth like gold. I wish you good luck in New York!

July 2, 2014 at 11:28 AM · Helen,

Congrats on getting into Juilliard. That is awesome! A few years ago, Juilliard was the #1 hardest school to get into. It is still way up there.

100 Toughest colleges to get admitted

July 2, 2014 at 01:27 PM · Probably the most comprehensive material on auditioning on this site is in Karen Rile's blogs about her experience as an auditioner's parent. I'm sure you've read them, but they are worth serious consideration.

I think so many here are a bit 'down' on Juilliard (even the ones who can't quite spell it) because the market is SO tight, that wonderfully talented and dedicated musicians, even with that magic word in their resume, are having trouble.

Trust your teacher, have backup plans--ones you BELIEVE in, not just 'failure' security--enjoy (as much as possible) the process, and good success to you.

July 2, 2014 at 04:19 PM · Ok, I'll quit dissing "the yard" as we called it. My audition was in 1966 when it wasn't so difficult to get in. The audition preparation was very thorough since I had learned all the pieces far in advance. I was lucky to be able to stay across the street from the old Juilliard building on Claremont Ave. at Union Theological Seminary, so I just had to cross the street to get to the audition. I got there in plenty of time to rehearse with the supplied pianist. My repertoire was Paganini #1 with Wilhemj cadenza, Bach E major Preludio and some other movement, Ysaye Ballade #3, Bloch Vidui (my "contemporary" piece, which I knew I would not be asked to play), all memorized of course. I was not particularly nervous since I had already been accepted as a student by Galamian the year before. Notice that the literature picked was not controversial, musically speaking...No Beethoven, Brahms, or an easy piece like Lalo or Bruch. Also, Bach was straightforward. The Ysaye at that time was considered to be very difficult and not so much played. The Vidui was very easy, so would not be picked. Josef Gingold was very savvy about picking repertoire which showed off the best. I got in, and talking about politics, I got a mm. and got into the DMA program (only 2 violinists admitted per year), since I had been there forever-same as Setsuko Nagata who had been at Juilliard starting in the precollege division. Not too many got in who didn't have some sort of previous connection or audition. One who did was my eventual apartment-mate Michael Masters. He didn't get the teacher he wanted, Leonard Rose. However, he quickly discovered that the teacher he was assigned to Maurice Eisenberg was a wonderful musician.

July 2, 2014 at 10:02 PM · "..No Beethoven, Brahms, or an easy piece like Lalo or Bruch."

Easy for whom? There are about 200 v.com readers who would like to jab an ice pick in your eye sockets right now Bruce :-)

July 3, 2014 at 12:04 AM · Thanks for your messages everyone :)

Smiley: Sorry but I got to agree with Bruce with the choice of music hehee :P

I am more confident about what the auditioning process will be like though the "prior connection" is bugging me... I guess that means to play at my audition the best I can to the level that politics won't affect me then....

July 3, 2014 at 08:00 AM · Nozomi, I trust you have protective safety glasses - Remember Smiley didn't say that none of his 200 live in Japan.

I wouldn't be at all surprised if Juilliard teachers visited Japan occasionally. If there's a teacher or teachers you particularly fancy, why not contact them to find out whether they are visiting Japan between now and your audition - or even see whether they have a website on which you can ascertain their programme?

July 3, 2014 at 03:29 PM · No need for safety glasses; Nozomi gets the meat grinder :-)

July 3, 2014 at 04:27 PM · ... and don't forget the potential of Skype lessons. Could be your access point...

July 3, 2014 at 05:11 PM · I appreciate everyone's messages! I have a better sense of what I need to do now ^-^

July 4, 2014 at 12:16 PM · If an orchestra career is desired best to go to a school that has an active concertmaster as a teacher. Orchestra auditions can be fixed. Students of concertmasters are frequently advanced to the final rounds where they can be seen and hired. As an example two of Alex Kerr's students were just hired by the Dallas Symphony. It is a disgraceful practice which the unions unfortunately seem to accept. But as long as in is a common practice it should be a consideration for students looking for teachers.

July 4, 2014 at 12:44 PM · @Elise,

Cover your eyes. Those things that Jack mentioned don't really happen here in the U.S. All the systems we have in place here are completely honest and devoid of corruption :-)

July 4, 2014 at 01:07 PM · Smiley - where are the Epsom salts? My delusions are shattered. Well, if you can shatter glass thats already been ground to sand.

The real depravity is not the occurrence but, as Jack mentioned, the blinded-eye tolerance. Corruption feeds on acceptance until it too large to stop.

July 4, 2014 at 01:22 PM · just curious, I'm not familiar with this particular situation. Is it known that these auditions in Dallas were not done as blind auditions ?

July 4, 2014 at 02:53 PM · Didn't Jack say that the "corruption" consisted of advancing students of concertmasters to final rounds? Doesn't this imply that at the final rounds the students are treated and assessed just the same as anybody else? Isn't this just saying that orchestras trust the judgement of concertmasters as to whether their students should get to a final round or not, because concertmasters know what is required like the back of their hand?

If a concertmaster pushes a few students to final rounds who don't deserve it, won't it sort of get around? As it is, the orchestras seem to me to be saving time and labour by taking the concertmasters' word for it.

July 4, 2014 at 03:35 PM · If you want to get into Cleveland orchestra, it is very helpful to study with William Preucil at Cleveland Institute. Mr. Preucil, by the way is concertmaster of Cleveland orchestra.

July 4, 2014 at 06:58 PM · And if Mr Preucil doesn't think you're going to be good enough to get into Cleveland on merit, will he keep you on as a pupil without "dropping hints" that perhaps you'd be better off with a different teacher? Remember, the reputation of the Cleveland Orchestra is not a matter of complete indifference to him.

July 4, 2014 at 07:44 PM · For subjective assessments, there is always going to be cases of preferential treatment. This is not a US corruption thing, it is human nature and happens everywhere in the world.

I once had a Jewish boss and it seemed an interesting coincidence that all the summer interns and new hires he brought into the company were Jewish. Have you ever watched figure skating? It is almost a given that the judge from the skaters same nation will always give the highest score, BY FAR. I guess that's why they have the policy of tossing out the highest and lowest scores.

Even I have to admit that I am guilty of foul play. Not sure it is a good idea to admit it on a public forum, but it was many years ago and no one cares now. I was a teacher's assistant in a college calculus class, and one of the students was my friend. I gave her an A in the class even though she really deserved a B.

Yes, sometimes it matters who you know and they can give you a boost. It may not be exactly fair, but it's not criminal either as long as the degree of preferential treatment is not overly egregious.

July 4, 2014 at 08:42 PM · "Yes, sometimes it matters who you know and they can give you a boost. It may not be exactly fair, but it's not criminal either as long as the degree of preferential treatment is not overly egregious."

That's the problem. If one group is in charge (say white) and each person does a little biased favoring guess where that ends up. Its almost a definition of discrimination.

Everyone is liable to exercise selection based on factors that should not be. That's why the recruitment/award etc system should be designed as far as possible to be fair.

The real problem is that those that succeed have a very hard time admitting there is a problem. Here's a nice example from the violin world - look at an orchestra in England 50 years ago - every member was male and just about every one of them would tell you that that was because 'women can't play at that level'.


And then look at an orchestra in France at about the same time - already ~50:50 female.


July 4, 2014 at 08:56 PM · John,anyone who makes it to a final round of a professional orchestra audition is more than qualified for the job. Many times the final round is not blind and the jury can simply pick people they know for the job. I know of professional violinists that have good jobs in Europe who pay considerable amounts of money to attend an audition in America. You can imagine the frustration when they find out the outcome is fixed or that no one was hired. The Met Orchestra auditions are blind in all rounds. That is the way it should be with all orchestra auditions.

July 5, 2014 at 08:04 AM · Thanks for that clarification, Jack. In UK universities (whether the discipline is science or arts) and hospitals, appointments could sometimes be fixed too. The differences were that

1. The institution has to pay the interviewees' travel expenses - This leads to departments picking candidates as local as possible when an interview process is phoney; and

2. There is never any suspicion of actual bribery. The motivations seem to be continuity and "better the d- you know".

Recent legislation has fought against the practice, but I'm not sure that departments cannot still get round the regulations.

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