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“Arriving” at Juilliard

1 ThatViolaKid

Hi everyone! My name is Drew Alexander Forde! Some of you may know me from Instagram or Twitter as @ThatViolaKid! Welcome to my first ever blog post! WHOOOO!

I want to invite you guys to a glimpse of my life as a Graduate student at the Juilliard School! I hope to invite you into the workings of my mind and to share in the funny, quirky, derpy moments that happen to me every day! I will post the occasional video blog, outline upcoming performances I may have, keep you updated on my competition circuit, and also detail some of my Instagram endeavors! Without further ado, let’s get started, shall we?

My first time gazing upon the Juilliard School as a Graduate student

My first time gazing upon the Juilliard School as a Graduate student

I wanna take a moment to talk about arriving. What does it mean to arrive? Well, according to dictionary.com, to arrive can mean “to come to a certain point in the course of travel; reach one’s destination.” I like this definition. It’s simple right? You set out to do something, and you did it. For people who know me from Instagram, this kinda harkens back to my #JourneytoJuilliard! Done. Finite. The act of physically arriving lends me a choice: I can stop here, or I can briefly enjoy the scenery, allow the success in with a smile, and chug along towards the next goal.

Here’s another definition: “to attain a position of success, power, achievement, fame, or the like.” Ewwww, doesn’t that sound slimier? More arrogant? For some reason, that sort of definition seems incredibly limiting! Lemme tell you a quick story that outlines how this thinking can be toxic to your development in anything you do!

During my last stay in New York, I was a college senior on the audition circuit-desperately searching for a new school to call home. The eve of my audition, I had dinner with a dear friend of mine. We were roommates one summer at the Brevard School of Music and we bonded over my trips to Wendy’s, games of UNO and Chubby Bunny, and of course, the great works of Stravinsky and Mahler. Having studied at Juilliard for his undergraduate degree, he was also pursuing his Masters degree, so he had plenty of experience with the ins and outs and the do’s and dont’s of Juilliard.

When we sat down for some delicious pizza, I decided to pick his brain. I said, “Royce*, if there’s one piece of advice you could give me about being successful in Juilliard, what would you say I need to do?” Royce stopped, sat back in his chair and closed his eyes for a moment. I couldn’t tell whether he was taking in the wonderful smells of the pizza joint, or was thinking intensely. By the grin on his face, I’d say it a was 50-50 chance either way.

Shortly thereafter, Royce opened his eyes and said something I’ll never forget. He said, “Don’t arrive at Juilliard,” before promptly taking a huge bite and grinning happily to himself.

Naturally, I was kinda confused. “But wait, isn’t that the whole point of auditioning? To get into Juilliard?”

“Yeah man, but I don’t think you understand,” he said. “I’ve seen so many players-extremely talented players-ARRIVE at Juilliard. And then that’s it. They arrive. They don’t work for it anymore because they feel like they’ve made it.”

Then the picture began to form.

“Then there are those other players. The ones that don’t seem to be too talented or extraordinarily skilled. They get to Juilliard with a sense of urgency. You can see it in their eyes, they want to work for it. And they do. They bust their ASS every single day to get better.”

“But what about the other people?” I asked. “What about the people that are really good, but don’t necessarily work at it?”

“Well, not only do they not get any better, but they typically don’t win many jobs either,” said Royce. “Their lack of work ethic is apparent and, I mean c’mon, people talk. Who would want to hire someone who thinks they’re at the top? The humble people who work hard end up overtaking the virtuosic players anyway. Cuz while some people felt like they arrived, the others were staying up late practicing, getting extra help from colleagues, and playing in as many performance opportunities a possible. They made grinding a habit.”

And that’s what really changed my perspective. Royce’s words really struck a chord (haha pun intended) within me from that day forward. Wherever I go, I always feel like I’m behind. I’m constantly hearing amazing people and being told what I’m doing wrong from my teachers. The volume of talented players makes me feel inadequate and sometimes is more discouraging than inspiring! Have you ever felt that way? Well, you’re not alone. If you let those thoughts propagate too much, they can literally make you go insane. Don’t let that happen! The thing I want you to take away from this is: Don’t be discouraged if you’re among the weakest-in anything! Hard work will surely get you to where you want to go. If you want it bad enough, you’ll surely find the strength to put in the necessary work to realize your dreams!

Another good friend, Steven*, said this, “Doesn’t matter if you’re a small fish in a big pond; point is, you’re still swimming.” Nothing will come of inaction! Keep grinding, make it a habit, and I’ll do my best to be the example!

Thank you so much for taking the time to listen to the ramblings of a rabid violist! I hope you gained some value from this and I wish you all the best in your endeavors! Until next time!


*Names were changed to protect the identity of those involved.

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  1. Comment by Faust Taichou
    October 21, 2019 at 9:56 AM

    Dang, really needed this encouragement today. Thanks for being awesome and trying your hardest. I will have to keep this in mind when/if I get to GT.