Speaker Following STK path, tell me a little bit about the lure that it held for you. Well, I.

Speaker I had gone to a performing arts high school and I grew up in the era of fame. You know, the fame was very popular TV show and had been popular movie. And my junior year, a couple of girls from my performing arts high school had gone off and auditioned for Juilliard, one in dance, one invoice. And I knew that I wanted to move to New York. And so Juilliard just seemed to be the place to go because of the fact the location. I mean, you’re right in Lincoln Center and. I had thought of it as, you know, the the highest. It’s like the the Harvard of performing arts. That’s, you know, the highest possible place that you could possibly go to to study.

Speaker Performing, you know, whether it be voice. Acting, whatever.

Speaker And I didn’t research it any more than that, which would when I look back on it now, I know that that wasn’t my mistake. So when I got it came time for me to start making plans and auditioning for schools and whatnot. I thought, well, I’ll just audition for Juilliard because I should. I didn’t research the voice department at all. I just knew that my voice was the strongest part of me, my my talent at that time, I. My first clue should have been, you know what? I had actually, you know, audition with. You know, I had to sing an aria. I did have two English art songs available, Italian art songs. I think French or German was sort of a a choice, if you wanted to. So I just got enough together to go and do the required stuff for the actual audition.

Speaker And. I don’t know why they. I don’t know why they just don’t know why I was so unprepared and I didn’t know diddly about what I was singing. You know, I. I knew enough to get in. But. It’s just I just look back on it now saying, you know, why didn’t you just research it a little?

Speaker You know?

Speaker What what was your audition like? I mean, what were the people like? What was the. I mean, you walk a cat? Yes, well, I.

Speaker I am.

Speaker I remember walking in with my mother and you headed up to the fifth floor, or that’s where the music, mostly music auditions ended up happening because the fifth floor is where they have most of the studios, the right, you know, your private studios, your your main teacher. That’s where it usually happens on the fifth floor.

Speaker So I went up there and.

Speaker I was auditioning in room five thirty five, which was a Ellen Fall studio, and.

Speaker I just was too ignorant because, I mean, I remember being nervous, but not as nervous as I guess I should have been, or I just remember thinking, well, I’ll just go in and saying, well, it’s not some big theater. It’s just this tiny little room.

Speaker I can handle that. And I went in. And Ellen Faul was there. I think Edith Burs was there and it wasn’t Dan Farrow.

Speaker I can’t think if there was maybe was intrigued, Deja Sepi, who’s the other teacher that was there, and I sang. Have you any known thought to die from them? They today, Figaro and I did a little optional ending at the end, which is very tacky.

Speaker And then I sang a Samuel Barber song called Bessey Bobtail. And I had said on my application that I was a mezzo soprano.

Speaker And I’m not and I saying to you know, my offerings were soprano offerings and I walked in and told them I was a mezzo and after I finished, they just giggled.

Speaker And Ellen Fall said, How old are you, dear? I’m 17. She said, OK, OK, well, thank you. And.

Speaker Then there was a list that they put up that evening, you know, of who was going to get called back to sing the next day for the tire voice faculty. And we went down and my name was on the list. So the next day I had to go in and sing on the Juilliard Theatre stage. And they were all on the balcony.

Speaker So I was I remember being very nervous about that because, you know, that’s it started to feel a little more real. I went in and I sang my aria, did my little optional notes.

Speaker And Ellen Fall said, Dear, tell everybody how old you are. I said, I’m 17. And they just started laughing. I didn’t know. What’s the joke? I don’t know what’s going on here. Then I sang my little Samuel Barber song and they laughed some more. And I said thanks. And I thought, Well, I’ve blown it. I’ve blown it.

Speaker You know, they’re laughing at me. My mom said. How’d it go? They laughed. These aren’t comedic songs. I don’t think you know, I don’t understand why they laughed. And then I told her they asked to hold it where she said, well, maybe they think you’re too. I don’t know. Maybe they think you’re too old for the program or I don’t know what I mean. You’re just trying to figure it all out. So when I got the call two weeks later, we were both so shocked, you know? And I remember reading the letter over and over again. Does this mean I didn’t?

Speaker I kept thinking maybe I didn’t pay the right amount for my audition fee or something. And I kept rereading is like, no, it’s the admissions office. But I guess I am in you know, I just did not have it really ever sort of sat just perfectly. I just I was just sort of confused by the whole thing.

Speaker So in retrospect, well, why do you think they were laughing? I mean, how could this have gone?

Speaker So I think I think they were laughing at my audacity to sort of improvise on a Mozart aria as I was doing.

Speaker I think I was a bit audacious in doing that. I think they were giggling at the fact that I called myself a mezzo and.

Speaker I think they were probably giggling at the fact that I most likely delivered the piece in a very sort of Broadway fashion because I’ve been doing so much musical theater in my hometown that I probably you know, I didn’t belt out the song, but I’m sure I tried to sell it. I think I probably would have been laughing at me.

Speaker And then just the age and I’m sure just sort of. Just compounded the whole thing, I think, just to make it a big laugh riot. The combination of all three. Got you. Oh, yeah. I think we thought I was just going to be entertaining for them.

Speaker So talk about, you know, so then, you know, you come to New York. You’ve never lived in New York before. Right.

Speaker You know, that’s a grand event in itself at 17. I mean, what was what was it like to get there and to begin studying there? I mean, what was the sort of process?

Speaker Well, with Juilliard at that time, they had no residence hall. They had a why? They had a deal with the YMCA. Sixty Third Street.

Speaker So you could stay in one of those rooms where you have the communal bathroom on each floor. And they had a residence hotel. About 90 third and Broadway in Narragansett Hotel. And you could stay there and have your own sort of little apartment, you know. And.

Speaker The thing is, they also had regular sort of New York type residents living in this hotel, too. And so I chose to stay there. And it was it was very strange. Because there’s no there is. There was no campus. You know, I lived, which I lovingly referred to it as like the crack hotel. There were just very interesting folks in that building, you know. It was a scary place to be. It was a scary place to live. You certainly had the other students which helped. But, you know, you didn’t really know what was going on in the freight elevator would stop in the middle floors and then your people sort of exchanging money or whatever, it was just a very sort of frightening way to begin to sort of felt that you didn’t really have that much of a community like sort of a college community, you know.

Speaker So my evenings were were usually spent being very afraid.

Speaker I’ve just the whole experience and.

Speaker The days were spent.

Speaker With me just way behind everybody else in terms of, you know, all the other students that were my age in my division, in The Voice, The Bachelor voice, which there were only five of us, they all had been singing opera. They had all been sort of studying it. They all knew that that’s what they wanted to do.

Speaker And so I just I felt like I was just sort of running to keep up and catch up with everybody that first year. So it was very difficult and confusing. And I think the lack of a. Residence halls or so to speak. Mate made the transition, I think, even more difficult because you just didn’t feel like you have you had a sort of a safe haven. You know?

Speaker And you began, what, immediately, like what kind of classes were you with? What kind of things were you studying? It was it was Muda. You were very new. Yeah. What? What kind of stuff?

Speaker I was I was studying my first year. I had Italian diction, music theory. They call it L.M. and. And even though I played the piano all my life and I certainly knew how to read music inside, read and all that, I never studied theory.

Speaker So. That was difficult. Time addiction.

Speaker We had a humanities class which cracks me up when I look back and just go. That’s their attempt at making this some sort of regular college experience. Here I have a humanities class and.

Speaker You’re training, which was very difficult for me and actually for most singers, it’s very difficult and for some reason not enough. They still do it at Juilliard. The singers are required to take it for all four years. But musicians can get out after two years.

Speaker I don’t know why that’s. And. We my voice. Listen, I would have my weekly voice lesson.

Speaker And in all of them, I was just behind. I was just behind, you know, I didn’t know how to. I mean, the Italian I learned, though, I mean, the Italian diction was Codina copyright law. And it was my first day first class. And that was a great sort of introduction because she was you know, she’s from Italy and. She made me feel comfortable in the class, but you dive right in into learning the international phonetic alphabet with which I knew nothing about an.

Speaker I think in my mind, I just kept thinking, where when do I get to sign up for my dance class? And when do I get to sign up for my acting class?

Speaker And I just kept thinking that things were going to change, I guess.

Speaker Cough, it’s like 10 pounds when I listen to people, would be the voice person with whom I concentrate and I stop breathing. Oh, my breath. Oh, snap learning these things by being Julia.

Speaker And so Julia is good at that, you know.

Speaker But.

Speaker The individual lessons learned, replacing the individual lessons are quite intense. I mean, we’ve been sort of watching them and it seems that in some ways the lesson is that the core. Yes. And, you know, people are watching. I mean, did you experience these very kind of Hands-On classes?

Speaker What did you think of them? And even at the time, thinking about them now. And then harking back.

Speaker Do you see a lot of really technical work that you’re that you’re working with now? I mean, it really helped you.

Speaker Well, my my lessons. I started out with Ellen Fall and my lessons were very.

Speaker They were very technical because I guess I look back and I think they accepted me because I I guess my voice does sort of have this inherent classical sound. And they were able to hear that. But it was a struggle for them to to find it. And. To keep pulling that side of me out because I kept fighting the whole time. So my lessons were filled with, you know, singing with a mirror or singing with their hands, a rule like that and. Singing up against the piano, you know, I’m pushing, you know, all those sorts of things to sort of sort of discover this more sort of cultivated classical way of singing and.

Speaker I felt like I sort of never improved.

Speaker Because I didn’t like the sound that they were pulling out of me. And I look back on it now and I say, well, it’s it’s my sound, you know. But then I just kept thinking this. I don’t like this. So every Friday at 3:00, which is when I had my lessons, was always a big struggle. Because I just I was never really getting anywhere.

Speaker And it was also at a time when my teacher was. Deciding that it was time for her to leave Juilliard as well. So we just sort of never hit a groove. But it’s not. I mean, I don’t I don’t put it on her at all. I put it on me.

Speaker Although I remember my first I think the first month that I’d been there, just she decided to have a big masterclass just with her own studio.

Speaker And she had Veronica VRM very well. Do you know where she is? She’s a great opera singer who’d been discovered, I think, by Scotto back in Chile.

Speaker And Miss Fall said that I wouldn’t have to sing, you know, so I just went and she had all these incredible students and they were all getting up and singing their arias or whatnot, and then Misfold turned to me. After. Veronica had some and said, why don’t you get up there?

Speaker Veronica had just. I think she’s saying simply leave it. And. She might have done something from Bohem as well. And then she said, watch you get up there. So I got up there and they made me sing Kotomi, which is, you know.

Speaker The tricycle of all sorts of Italian. Art songs, everybody thinks it’s the it’s the first art song anybody sings, basically. And.

Speaker I got up there and tried to sell it, and they all just sort of giggled and made me sing another art song and.

Speaker Tried to sell that one, too. I remember that was a first my first attempt at trying to, like, make my voice sound like theirs and. Just.

Speaker Really not being happy with the results.

Speaker Was there no place, no room to talk about interesting music? I mean, it’s a lot of people that I’ve talked to sort of.

Speaker Sort of.

Speaker Talked about the fact that even from a death department or the sort of death boy combination, that the great American art form music is musical theater and this is the American Conservatory. But there’s just no it’s not worth it. And what would happen when you fix? I mean, how did you express your interest in that? And what and how did you and what what got said in return?

Speaker Well.

Speaker Well, one time I did sort of approach it.

Speaker I think that first year when I was deciding what to do for my my first summer after my first year at Juilliard, and I decided that I wanted to audition for summer stock and.

Speaker My teacher said. Oh, no.

Speaker You should, you know, go to Aspen or to Tanglewood, one of those, you know, audition for one of those schools. And I didn’t feel that I wanted to do that. And so I just kept sort of putting it off course. And then I got cast in a summer stock production of Matt Lamantia playing Eldon’s. And they weren’t thrilled that you’re going to ruin your voice. You shouldn’t do that kind of singing. And it’s basically that it was bad for me. And so I.

Speaker I went and did it.

Speaker And it was the first time in that entire year that I started to sort of feel like myself again, you know, and I don’t know that I had taken that much technique and knowledge with me to that first year of summer stock, but.

Speaker It was just nice, too nice to get back to myself. But every time I basically tried to sort of approach it, it was just. Well, that’s not what what happens here, you know?

Speaker Then maybe you should think of other schools, if that’s what you want to do. But that’s that’s. Not right for here.

Speaker Well, what is the big difference between singing people in musical theater and singing opera? I mean, someone heard this on watch. I mean, from a voice.

Speaker I mean, this is going to hurt your voice. What are what are the big differences and why would they be so against it? Well, I think it just has to do with the fact that I can see one thing. Sure. My voice is my voice is never in and sort of in. My question is a little bit. Yeah.

Speaker I think the big difference. Between singing opera, classical music and singing musical theater, sort of Broadway standards, whatever. Is that the.

Speaker The importance with opera is the purity of the sound of the tone, the tone must be beautiful, the tone must be cultivated, correctly placed must be loud enough to, you know, carrying these huge houses without amplification, amplification of no, no.

Speaker And the drama’s nice. But the sound is what is. What is absolute?

Speaker That’s all it’s really about, if you’ve got the sound. Nothing else matters. And I think. With musical theater, it has more to do with its more character driven and dramatically driven and you know, the lyrics are important and you can sacrifice vocal purity to get sort of a great sort of dramatic point across. And no one’s going to say, oh, you know, well, they really ruined it. You know, it’s I just think the stress is more on.

Speaker From my standpoint, I guess the dramatic. And why?

Speaker Why would a conservatory not, I mean, in your thought, not be I mean, you know, it’s Lincoln Center, it’s across from the Met, but it’s also on Broadway.

Speaker Yes. Crossing the Belmont, I mean by.

Speaker And yet they honored a lot. They honor the people that go into that quite a bit. In retrospect, so we’re in a kind of a psychological catch 22 in a way. But why is it that you think that they that it’s not appreciated there?

Speaker I mean, I think it’s not that it’s not apprec. I think that musical theater. Is not necessarily not appreciated at Juilliard. But I think.

Speaker It’s not a part of the classical vocal training, and it it’s I think it’s considered detrimental to classical. A classic vocal training because. You sort of can’t cultivate a sound and keep it pure and beautiful if you’re belting out Broadway tunes. So it’s just not a part of their focus because that’s not what that department is about. I know that because I certainly had tons of friends in in the drama school. I had lots of friends in the in the dance departments as well. And I know that in the drama department, they. At least touched upon musical theater.

Speaker I mean, they were I imagine they still do, they’re allowed just to you know, they take singing lessons, I think. They certainly take movement and. You know, maybe if it’s acting the song, I don’t know exactly what the particular classes are, but it’s it’s incorporated into their sort of curriculum. I don’t think they actually do music musical there. Do they know?

Speaker No, they’re thinking about. They do the cabaret. They do that. Would cabaret at night in their third year. Right. You know, right where I was saying which is the night of the classic sort of their singing show. Right. Right. Right. And.

Speaker So they I just think it’s touched upon more there than it’s just not it just doesn’t exist in the operatic part of Juilliard and in the classical vocal training that just sort of doesn’t exist because it’s not what they’re focusing on and it’s sort of detrimental to, you know. Your career, if you want to be an opera singer.

Speaker So so not wanting to be an opera singer. What? How did you keep manoeuvering? How did you how did. I mean, how did you sort of find your way? Because something worked, because look at what you know, look at what you’ve been able to achieve. You didn’t let go. You kept going and you forged your own way very strongly.

Speaker Well.

Speaker To sort of survive and make my way in that world.

Speaker You know, the classical voice department, I it was all about sneaking out to do things or participating in events at school where I could sort of. Ve a little bit more of a musical theater baby, like the the Martin Luther King celebration, which the first celebration they had was my first year there. And to be able to do two things, sort of gospel music there.

Speaker I would collaborate with the dancers on projects where they were like, oh, could you could you sing like dance my piece or whatever? Things like that.

Speaker And I would go back and forth between that and having spells where I would try. With the classical thing, I’d maybe advance this much vocalese. And so I see that as a positive thing and think, OK, maybe I maybe I do have what it takes to be an opera singer. And maybe this is what I’m supposed to do. And so I try and throw myself into it. I tried to study up on the operas and learn more about them.

Speaker I would go to operas. Certainly it was easy, you know, being right across the street from the Met and City Opera. I started to listen more to opera singers and I sort of put my Barbra Streisand tapes away for a while. I got really into Franey and Carlos. And Scotto, those are the three that I started to listen to a lot. And I’m.

Speaker And then it would stop, you know. And I think, what am I doing?

Speaker I think also my way of surviving at Juilliard was.

Speaker I became very just involved in the student life there. My third year, as they were starting to build the residents all my third year, I became a resident advisor there. I had a whole floor of first time freshmen girls that I took care of. I was very involved with the Student Affairs Office and. Was a little social butterfly. I tried to make it a college experience, I guess.

Speaker And it was. I mean, everybody talks about the competition and the stress and the, you know, did you find. I mean, how did you find. It was very competitive.

Speaker When the issues were more within yourself that.

Speaker You were sort of struggling with it, like with your voice, not your singing voice, but your your your inner voice, you know, sort of getting, you know, getting heard or read, just having to be your own kind of supporter because they’re it because I’ve certainly noticed it in the in the odd percent or now.

Speaker There’s a lot of competition, there’s a lot of. About casting hearts, about seeing favoritism, about seeing. Mean, I guess that just doesn’t ever go away in any. I mean, as well as people say it’s not really college, it’s about going there to be the best. It’s about. I mean, did you did you how did you manage your sort of you sort of stress and keep your own self? Going.

Speaker Any sort of sense of competition that I felt. At school at Juilliard. Because let me start by saying because we were basically the bottom of the barrel in terms of the first time the The Bachelor of Music students that were voice majors, like I said, there was only five of us, so there was not. A lot for us to do. There was not there were there were no real opportunities for us to sort of have any sort of. Attempt at practical application of the know performing is what I’m trying to say, we didn’t have those. We just took classes. So there wasn’t really a sense of sort of competition because there was nothing that we were competing for. We you know, we didn’t I think we did chorus one year and just we had to do some sort of choral sort of requirement. But there was nothing for us to do, you know? So we just sort of shuffled around with the other music students, you know, and took our diction classes while the the opera center people were quite busy. And the master’s students were, you know, that were sometimes involved in some of the operatic productions. But for us, there was just nothing to do. There was no reason to be competitive in that sense. The only sense of competition, I felt, had more to do with the different studios competing, you know, in terms of. And I don’t know if that had more to do with, you know, just the faculty, the voice faculty, you know, I mean, in terms of if you studied with this teacher, what did this teacher think of that teacher? And it had more to do with, you know. The politics involved within the Ring of Fire. The Rakova of the Voice teachers there, that’s what I felt was more of that’s in my own sort of naive way.

Speaker I think that’s what I saw. More of just that. Competition between the studios and not necessarily. For us is tiny little bachelor of Voice students who had nothing to do except homework.

Speaker You know, a lot of people have had a really hard time.

Speaker It’s not what everybody, like, chats about, you know? But, you know, people have. I mean, certainly we’ve been following actors and it’s a far more structured program.

Speaker Absolutely. Yeah, that’s the thing. That’s the problem. There is no there was no structure of the boys department is the least. I mean, it’s like philosophically unbound. Yeah. But Frank Corsaro, who was he there? Yes, he was. He was directing a lot because now he’s the artistic director of the Voice Department.

Speaker And he was sort of saying to me the other day that he really thinks that. That offers really going to change because to be the as he sort of said kindly, the fat lady on the stage, you just stand there and say it’s just isn’t enough anymore. It just isn’t going to cut it.

Speaker Well, that’s hopefully he’s right. I mean, he just thinks that all these and, you know, Giuliani’s this is why whatever of the record or her own record, like off the record. On the record.

Speaker But it’s like, you know, there’s some very, like, hefti, you know, like classic opera, you know, girls there. And he keeps saying, no, don’t fall back on that.

Speaker If you, like, yell class like you don’t get used to that. Don’t think that would be that big that we think, you know, I mean, he’s really, you know, and he’s kind of like the sassy guy.

Speaker Yeah. He just thinks that the face of opera is going to change.

Speaker People are just not going to enter the same world that they were entering into. Forty isn’t enough.

Speaker Well, I mean, you even see it something like opera news. You know, you see these photo shoots and, you know, it’s it’s the the image is getting more sort of young, hip, glam.

Speaker I’m noticing, you know, you know, like, you know, shirts off, you know, sort of like a gloss. How do I put it? Just I’m seeing that it’s it’s it’s becoming more about being sort of glamorous.

Speaker And and fit.

Speaker I, I just I’m noticing that just flipping through my little opera news, I don’t know if that means anything, but I hope he’s right because I know as a as a performer and as a and I and I do love opera. I came to love opera at Juilliard. I came to love it. But it’s hard to sit through it when you’re only being sort of treated to the sound. And the production may be totally lavish and the sets beautiful and the costumes beautiful. But if they’re not great, good actors and if and if all they’re doing is singing pretty, you might as well be at home listening to them on your C.D., you know, instead of, you know, sitting through that. And so it’s and it’s what happens is it’s glorious when you do when all three do marry, you know, someone like with like Renee Fleming, who who I think is a great actress and and does incredible work, you know, with the character as well as with the voice, you know. But if that if opera heads more in that direction, then God bless it. And that’s good. And the form should continue to evolve anyway, that sometimes it got frustrating for me. Why shouldn’t the form continue to evolve? I mean, even though, you know, opera is the great sort of it’s got its own sort of classic roots and it’s been there forever and ever. But. I think it does it a disservice to just sort of be staid and sort of. Stodgy and stuck in its own sort of. Sense of glory without moving and shaking, it happened and continuing to move forward. That makes sense. You know, so I hope he’s right.

Speaker And you had a really hard time there. But you’ve been open about I mean, just trying to re not not here now, but I certainly have. You know, even recently you were on Charlie Rose talking because I knew all of Charlie’s specials, like getting old Charlie, you know, stuff on the side. So but I mean, how did you kind of manage. You know. Well, you kind of you know, I mean, what happened is sort of lost herself rebound yourself.

Speaker I mean, do you think that did you feel a commonality of looking around you and seeing other people actually are that were maybe similar to some people that were struggling?

Speaker In terms of with sort of career identity crisis or personal threat. Yes.

Speaker There was most definitely.

Speaker And maybe it has to do with the fact that the whole building is her medically sealed and you can’t open the windows. I mean, you walk every time I walk into Juilliard now, I still just this me immediate weight comes down on me.

Speaker And there was quite. A bit of sort of stress that was that was very evident, you know, among my friends, and and it just had to do with feeling. Not good enough. I think he just felt like that all day long, every single day.

Speaker And I think I can speak for a lot of people who who felt that way, too, just in every department. You just. It was never what you were doing, right? But it was always what you were doing wrong, and that’s that’s what they’re supposed to do. They’re supposed to teach you how to, you know, be a better performer. But.

Speaker And the way.

Speaker I guess a lot of that just has to do, you know, everybody has that stress in college anyway.

Speaker But. I think because.

Speaker We were all there studying what was to become our life’s work. We weren’t there trying to figure out what we wanted to do with our lives. We all supposedly knew what we wanted to do, which is why we are here in this already very structured program.

Speaker The stress was.

Speaker Even more, because if you were constantly being told everything that you were doing wrong, and this is the only only option, your only option for your career in life, you know, you just I just think.

Speaker You ended up feeling like, well, what’s left if I can’t do this?

Speaker And everybody keeps telling me that I’m not doing it right. And what’s what’s going to be there for me after this? After this. So that’s how I felt after these five years here. If I don’t succeed, there’s nothing else for me to do. I have not prepared myself to do anything else because I’ve been in a conservatory all this time. I don’t know. I’m not reading any of the great classics. I’m not studying biology. I’m just studying what’s supposed to be my life’s work. And that’s it.

Speaker That stress is huge. And a lot of, you know, students deal with it in the normal way, you know? You know, drinking, you know, just sort of. Typical sort of college behavior. But. A lot of students. Also have a really difficult time with dealing with I know there were a few students that have I think there are few students that killed themselves, if I’m not mistaken. I mean, there’s a couple of students. That ended up at a psychiatric hospital. I’m one of them. A lot of students that were in therapy. Therapy at the school. And I don’t know if that’s normal, maybe that is normal for college, but I imagine that.

Speaker The rate.

Speaker Students visiting is much higher than any other court.

Speaker And how did you work yourself? I mean, when you when you sort of got to that point of, OK, you know, time out here, I just I you know, or maybe other people sort of decided it for you. I mean, how are your. I mean, were you talking to your parents?

Speaker Were you talking to people in the faculty where you were just like, I’ve had enough and I’ve got to go at least for a while? Did that I mean, was there any kind of.

Speaker Sense from teachers, people who are seeing you all the time of.

Speaker Them supporting. Your kind of breakdown?

Speaker Yeah. Yes, I felt very supported when I sort of reached that boiling point. Because the faculty you’ve been seeing it the entire time that I was there, that I was just struggling with this sort of split personality of what am I gonna do? Am I going to be an opera singer? Am I going to be musical theater? Why am I still here? Why am I not in the drama department? You know? So they were all seeing it. So when the big breakdown for me finally occurred, I got all the support I needed from the school.

Speaker You know, they’re the ones that sort of found a place for me to go. They’re the ones that said when you’re ready, you can come back and finish so you can end up with your degree. They are the ones that had a counselor, therefore, for me. So I got lot a lot of support from the school in that sense, which is which was wonderful. I mean. And then when I finally got a chance to go off and do a Broadway show at a time when I should have been finishing school, they gave me their blessing. They said, you go off. You do that. And then you can come back and get, you know, finish your courses and get your degree. But that’s obviously where you want to be.

Speaker So and that was like my. Fourth year when they think people just resigned themselves, the fact that this is not what I was going to pursue. So let’s just get through it somehow. Let’s just get her through the program and least so she’ll have a piece of paper to take home to her parents when it’s all done.

Speaker And to think that if you think on on those kinds of troubles, do you think it is like the struggle that that finally kind of just broke you in a way was trying to do what they thought you should do, not being able to hold on to what you really wanted to do in the base?

Speaker I mean. On the face of this.

Speaker Group of people that have been hanging around since 1985 telling everybody what the music world is all about.

Speaker I mean, this it did it just is holding onto yourself, whether you’re an actor or or a singer. I mean, not that sense of trying to hold onto who you are amidst this giant thing is that is that in a way because it isn’t.

Speaker Should I do this or should I do this? It’s who I. Who am I. Yeah. Anyway. Or did you always know and that felt, well, they’re not letting you know or.

Speaker I think I’m understanding your question in that.

Speaker Help me to understand it, then, that is what caused the breakdown.

Speaker I’m thinking about it. Is that when things come to that point? If you if one was so confident that they knew what they wanted and it wasn’t being over there, they would go. You’d go. You’d have the strength would be in your stand yourself said something about I think about these conservatory’s these ivory towers is I want the wrong thing there. Right. They’re right. I’m wrong or something. Or an inability to find something in yourself that can take what you want from them. Apply it later.

Speaker Right. It must be it must become very, very difficult to stand up to the kind of thing that Juilliard is there in a way. I mean, I’m wondering if that would become people’s struggle.

Speaker It seems to me that that that’s a. That’s definitely a huge issue in terms of struggling in a conservatory setting like that is, you know, am I wanting the wrong thing and. I don’t know what’s best for me, they do. You do start to lose your sense of self. And I, I, I think that is a huge part of it, because I know as soon as I left. Juilliard.

Speaker And had a little bit of success outside.

Speaker That I remember having that. It was a very sort of visceral experience of just going, oh, I am talented, you know. And it’s not and I’m not slamming Juilliard by saying, hey, you know, made me feel horrible about myself. And they, you know, I mean, because that’s the conservatory structure. That’s what not make you feel horrible, horrible about yourself. But they’re supposed to work on what’s wrong with you and get it, you know, right in in the field. And I think.

Speaker Yes, you do lose sense of self. You just start to lose perspective on who you are. And so you start to not trust your instincts. You start to start to you just don’t trust anything that comes from you. I guess whether it be an idea or a. An instinct about, you know, what you want to do or anything like that. And I think maybe that is what sort of caused my big meltdown, too.

Speaker But I really remember feeling that sort of sense of, oh, there are people out there who do think I’m talented. I, I do have some worth as a performer. Maybe it’s just those struggling, maybe. I think we do it.

Speaker Back after this success. And, you know, some downtime, some some work that made you feel better about yourself. Did you go back? Was it easy for you? Harder for you? Did you draw more out of it by returning? Or were you.

Speaker Sperm banks swell. Think about that.

Speaker Or were you just thinking, I want that degree and I’ll go in and out? But it because it’s a lot of work to go back to.

Speaker I mean, you still have to go sit in your lesson. You say have somebody screaming your face squeeze. I think what started to happen.

Speaker I mean, what is all about finding that cultivated lined up sound? When I. Went back.

Speaker After my time off.

Speaker I felt like I had more of an idea of who I was and what I wanted to do, and I think that helped some of my teachers.

Speaker I had a great teacher, their name Thomas Grubb. I think he’s probably still there. Tom Greb is still there. He’s the French diction teacher and the French folk literature teacher there. And he. Really picked up on the fact that I liked. Really to sort of inhabit a song and perform a song, and he started picking things for me to do that. We’re more suited to my personality instead of a song that, you know, a proper 21 year old lyric soprano should sing. He he thought this is a good one for Audra, for her spirit. And that’s when I finally started to find. Subsetting me, find some success.

Speaker Or find myself.

Speaker An opera.

Speaker And I know I owe it all to him, really?

Speaker He found a goodness excuse me so well. And I read recently that you’ve been thinking about going back to. Yeah. Which I is touching because, you know, because it it because you were saying it is in you.

Speaker And yet I couldn’t get to it. I didn’t know how to get to it. And he found the way to it by by looking at me.

Speaker And my personality. And then.

Speaker Marrying me to the right piece. It was a great piece called Love Why You Mean by Poulenc?

Speaker It’s a very dramatic piece of one woman opera and she’s on the phone with her lover and they’re breaking up.

Speaker And so was it. It was an acting piece. And when I approached it as an acting piece, the voice came and he was like, there you are. There you are. You know?

Speaker And that’s finally what I. Started to.

Speaker Feel like, OK, maybe someday I could do something like this, but so I mean. And it’s not that none of these other teachers were. Helpful, they were all wonderful teachers. It’s just that no one can sort of figure out the key to getting to my sound and getting to me without me fighting it, you know, or finding a group finding or a meeting point. And and so then the rest of my time at Juilliard was great. I know we all knew that I wasn’t gonna rush out and audition for the Mets young artist program. No, no. We all knew that wasn’t going to happen. But.

Speaker Pieces were picked after that. Sort of based on.

Speaker Always is something she’d have a good time acting. Let’s let her work on this. You know.

Speaker My most encouraging thing that I can say in a funny way that I feel like it’s.

Speaker It’s not any card and it’s not the Juilliard.

Speaker The hard part of the road is this if the search of your own self is Navis, that’s the hard part of the road.

Speaker Just providing me too nice to them. But a very I mean it. I mean, do you agree?

Speaker Yes, absolutely. And it’s Juilliard. Just anyway, maybe just sort of maybe it does represent just sort of that sort of self discovery. But you go so far away from yourself in a way. With what you have to do there in terms of, you know, just listen to what everybody else is saying and and seeing this, because you’re you sure this is the proper thing to do? This is the this is the proper diction. This is the proper. Expression with this piece, whatever. I feel like sometimes you just start to go too far away from yourself in that sort of conservatory atmosphere. Even though the one thing you’re trying to do. There is find your artistic self, you know, sort of circuitous route towards getting to it. I guess know.

Speaker But it’s that it is that journey because it is. And you have to do it. Because otherwise, you know, I mean, if you look where you are now, you know. And, you know, I mean, I guess knock on wood to be there because it’s so, so hard to get.

Speaker To get acknowledged for what’s inside of you. I mean, it just seems to me. I mean, I don’t I would not dare to do what you what you know, how you were actors have to open himself up on a stage every night.

Speaker Even Kevin Spacey, as he was saying earlier, I’d like you to do it once. Do it seven times a week. Right. For.

Speaker Years. And so, you know, when you look back, do you feel like.

Speaker I mean, when you walk in now, how do you feel when you when you sing there, when you I mean, you know, certainly I’m sure they’re embracing your lead.

Speaker I mean, what how does that come full circle for you?

Speaker When I go to Juilliard now and I sing at a benefit there last year and.

Speaker I feel like.

Speaker I know who I am when I walk in there now, not.

Speaker Oh, I’m Audra McDonald, b performer of the Broadway performer. But. I know.

Speaker I don’t feel like that’s being taken away from me, that I have something to hold on to when I go in there and I have something to offer.

Speaker To the school and to to my art. I just feel more worthy, I guess, than I did as a student.

Speaker Not.

Speaker No. Yeah. I just feel worth it.

Speaker I think that it takes the audience, it takes performing to get that worthiness. I mean, you know, there’s never the performing arts or about performing that eventual connection or stay home and do it, right?

Speaker Yeah, absolutely. And you and that, you know, performers are addicts. They need that. You know, I think you do need that applause. You need that sort of appreciation. You’re out there sort of pouring your heart and soul out for. For. Yes. For the art and everything. But maybe that’s what you miss it when you’re in a conservatory setting that no one’s there applauding you. They’re going, okay, this was wrong. This was wrong. This was wrong. We need to work on this, that and the other. You know, so when you do finally start to get. Sort of the benefit of performing that is the applause and the appreciation that communion with the audience and whatnot, not just being judged, but, you know, having sort of an, you know, an experience. The audience is having an experience with you, not just saying, how can I fix what is wrong up there? That that that helps. You know, I think that does sort of help bring some months of performers sort of worth to, you know, a level that registers.

Speaker And what do you think would have happened to your work if you go in there? They’ve said, that’s great. That was just great.

Speaker You know, I’ve mean.

Speaker We’ve certainly had both schools in here. Parents Althea’s. That was great. Combined with.

Speaker You know, the Michael Kahn says this is this would be better if you did, I mean, king of the drama division. Right. But they’re certainly the tough love and the and the and the sweethearts. But also in a voice, you really also are talking about people who are profoundly concerned about technique.

Speaker They’re not really. That’s got to it’s all about technique. I guess I understand what you’re saying. I mean, is it I mean, is it is it. What do you think would have happened if you hadn’t had.

Speaker Some of that.

Speaker You know, that criticism is a criticism necessary moving forward. I guess this is my basic thought. If you look back and you said the criticism really hurts.

Speaker But the alternative would have what we had. Yeah. Well, I think there’s. You absolutely need the criticism, you absolutely need someone there sort of judging you and telling you what. How to make this better? I think there is a balance. I think if it’s all criticism and all just. Judging and never any sort of. Sort of like positive reinforcement that you’re on the right track here. Now I’m going to sort of go back to kicking your butt about this. But just so you know, you’re you’re on the right track then. That’s that’s bad. You know, and conversely, if you just like art. Great, great, great, great. It’s great.

Speaker Just, you know, that’s that’s no good either. I think you just need to needs to be at a balance of both. Maybe conservatories tend to be, you know, tend to lean too much on the. But just the sort of critical, judgmental side and I don’t know.

Speaker But when you got this word, when someone looked at what with you, I blossomed.

Speaker I did. You know, for that time, I. You know, and the thing is, too, once I got that support and I was able to then hold onto that little gem of, OK, I do have some worth here and I do have something to offer as a performer and maybe I can be an opera singer. It’s not to say that Mr. Grubbed then became this real, you know. Oh, that’s great. He was still tough as nails. But we finally. Had we finally had. Some successor, even though it was that little, there was finally a breakthrough, there was something to take, we could take that and then run with it, you know, whereas before I just sort of felt I just was sort of.

Speaker Just sort of waiting in this sort of pool of what the hell am I doing here?

Speaker You know?

Speaker Well, many people referred to talking about Juilliard just like a total therapy session, because it’s so you know, it’s talking about critical times when people are really, really young. That’s another combination. But I mean, now you walk away.

Speaker I mean, how does Juilliard stick out in your mind? I mean, when you talk about I mean, you tell your parents what it was like at the end of the day when you.

Speaker When you went for those first auditions and people said, oh, you wanted to hear me? Where did it? Where did it fall? In the.

Speaker Fabric of your life.

Speaker When I look back on my time at Juilliard, it sort of feels. Like. Not boot camp, but it sort of feels like this really, really difficult time in my life. When I was going in and out of being Audra. And just the sort of shadow of a of a person as I was trying to figure out who I was, you know, and I look back on it as absolutely necessary, because if I hadn’t gone through any of that, there’s no way I would be where I am today.

Speaker I mean, I do credit.

Speaker Juilliard with.

Speaker By not actually helping me to find myself. Does it make sense? And. It’s like Brussels sprouts. It was there was really nasty taste, but it’s good for you. You know, and I know that Juilliard in the end was a very good place for me to be.

Speaker As far as sort of. Setting my particular road.

Speaker Because now I’m somewhere in the middle between opera, musical theater, and I’m loving being there. And. I don’t think I would have ended up sort of living there if I hadn’t gone through Juilliard to see maybe the other side.

Speaker Kevin Kline said once that, you know, sometimes you find out who you are by. By being with what’s not right for you, you know, you you take an acting class and you think I don’t discuss what the hell is he talking about?

Speaker In that.

Speaker You tried something off the list, right? Right.

Speaker You know, it’s like there was like a form of, you know, trying to take something from that lesson. It sounds like that.

Speaker That’s, I think, what it was for me. And just because what I and maybe that’s why my time at Juilliard was sort of certain nebulous and sort of amoebic. I never was sort of one or the other, you know. And now that’s sort of what I am as a performer in in in in in the business. I, I have not sort of or I have made it a point to not sort of conform to any one particular idea or stay in one field and. I’m sort of just constantly sort of just trying to branch out and I think. Maybe we saw the beginnings of that of me being in a very sort of regimented in a box and me just the entire time I was at Juilliard, just trying to fight to get out of that box, even though I didn’t know what I wanted to get into, just to know that I wasn’t that one particular thing.

Speaker I know. So that sort of helped to. Helped me define myself as an artist. Does that make sense? Yeah.

Speaker It gave you the upper arm strength. Yeah. Just pushing. Yeah. And saying no boundaries. No.

Speaker No boundaries. I guess.

Speaker Anything critical, I think we haven’t actually raked over the coals, anything you can think of?

Speaker Were there great shows? Were there any great performances there that were that were meaningful to you?

Speaker That were the Martin Luther King celebrations at school, but those weren’t really a part of the program. But the you know, that was part of the curriculum. But we it was like the entire school would come together and people would dance and sing and read poetry or whatever just to celebrate. That was. Something that stuck out in my mind.

Speaker Were you an opposition woman? Were you our president? You’re in your last year. You never did.

Speaker No, I was in the chorus of few, the drover and you know, I would Casey at the bat, we were all on the court. We had to be in the course of that. But, you know, just in the chorus.

Speaker I never did a single one.

Audra McDonald
Found in: Juilliard
Interview Date:
American Archive of Public Broadcasting GUID:
"Audra McDonald , Juilliard" American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). May 18, 2000 ,
(1 , 1). Audra McDonald , Juilliard [Video]. American Masters Digital Archive (WNET).
"Audra McDonald , Juilliard" American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). May 18, 2000 . Accessed March 27, 2023


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