From left to right: Kathleen Tesar, Associate Dean for Enrollment Management at The Juilliard School and Melissa Cocco, Associate Dean for Enrollment Management at The Tianjin Juilliard School
The search for Tianjin Juilliard’s inaugural graduate class in 2020 has commenced! This fall, the application for the Graduate Studies program in Tianjin opened. Based in two different cities across the world, Kathleen Tesar and Melissa Cocco, the Associate Deans for Enrollment Management at The Juilliard School and The Tianjin Juilliard School respectively, work tirelessly together across timezones to ensure that the application and audition processes run smoothly for prospective students at both Juilliard campuses. Last week, as Melissa Cocco was at the New York campus for a visit, they sat down for a delightful conversation to share insights on life in Tianjin, audition tips, and the opportunities for music studies at Juilliard’s campus in China.
Kathleen Tesar (KT): You joined The Tianjin Juilliard School in spring of 2018 and moved from the U.S. to China. What an exciting journey from San Francisco, California to Tianjin, China! Could you share what living in Tianjin is like?
Melissa Cocco (MC): Tianjin and nearby Beijing are cultural hubs of Northern China. In Tianjin, the past, the present and the future co-exist. This is reflected in architecture that places a Buddhist Temple, a Concession-era Victorian house, and a modern high-rise in the same neighborhood. The streets of Tianjin are fragrant with the food of street vendors selling sesame noodles, savory pancakes, spicy tofu, and grilled lamb. Inspired by the diverse cuisines in China, I am currently learning to master Chinese techniques in cooking! Now that our resident faculty have moved to Tianjin, I have taken them on a couple of food adventures. We are exploring all that the city has to offer. There is the beautiful Hai River that weaves through Tianjin. Further down the Hai River in Binhai, the state-of-the-art Tianjin Juilliard campus will be a community to some of the finest musicians from around the world.
KT: The cultural aspects and the food scene are exciting! Apart from an opportunity to grow and thrive in a new environment, what are some of the key highlights of pursuing a Juilliard degree in China?
MC: Students at Tianjin Juilliard will experience an incredibly resource-rich education, with access to a superb roster of faculty as well as visiting faculty from Juilliard in New York, a brand-new, stunning campus, and professional opportunities in the region. We are particularly eager to offer this opportunity to students from different countries in Asia who have gone abroad and now want to consider returning to Asia for a Juilliard education and degree. Tianjin Juilliard students will build a robust global network of peers and mentors and will be strongly positioned within the lineage of Juilliard alumni.
KT: Before moving into administration, my very first job out of college was as a violinist in the Orquesta Sinfonica Municipal in Caracas, Venezuela. Navigating the orchestral world requires a lot of preparation and a unique set of skills. Could you highlight a few key courses at Tianjin Juilliard that will help musicians prepare for a professional career in an orchestra?
MC: Orchestral and Ensemble Repertoire will prepare students for the professional orchestral world. The course is taught by our resident faculty and includes preparing for orchestra auditions by holding mock auditions and making recordings, and by studying orchestral repertoire and holding sectional rehearsals. Students will explore extra-musical information such as orchestral governance and being a productive member of a professional orchestra, as well as looking at injury prevention and performance anxiety.
Introduction to Entrepreneurship will empower students to create their career paths. It will include projects that focus on building a concert series, forming musical groups or collectives, building teaching studios, and applying for grants. This course will explore these themes in a global context, with an emphasis on creating employment paths for our graduates within China and beyond.
Chamber Music Forum will create an inspired and collaborative environment for exploring chamber music repertoire; students will actively provide feedback for each other as they work under our faculty mentorship. They will explore repertoire, and how to lead, teach and listen. Frequent work with guest artists will enrich the experience.
KT: In the last year, you have met many Juilliard alumni in Asia through faculty master classes, performances, and events in many countries. Juilliard has such a global footprint and an ever-expanding international community! What should students consider when applying to Juilliard’s campus in China?
KT: The Tianjin Juilliard School is a branch campus of Juilliard and embodies the same qualities of excellence, artistry and social leadership. At the same time, Tianjin Juilliard launches programs providing the highest level of professional mentorship in areas that complement music education in China. All majors at Tianjin Juilliard are collaborative, and this is reflected in a collaborative model of faculty mentorship: a resident faculty drawn from around the world will closely mentor students, and this mentorship will be enriched by frequent visits from Juilliard faculty in New York, and inspiring collaborations with faculty from peer institutions in Asia and beyond.
MC: You have gone through thousands of applications from students at Juilliard over the years. Any audition advice to offer?
KT: Audition advice is the same, no matter where one is auditioning. The point of the audition is to show off your current level of technical and artistic skills. The job of the audition panel is to determine if your current level is appropriate for the program to which you are applying. Since you cannot control the level and preparation of the other applicants, you should focus on your own preparation, practicing both the audition repertoire and the audition itself.
MC: All our prescreening, audition and repertoire requirements for both campuses are available online. Just for an insider peek for our prospective students - how do auditions differ between the two campuses?
KT: The main difference in the audition structure of the two campuses is that applicants to New York-based majors must audition in person from February to March in New York. The audition panels in New York consist of the faculty of your instrument. From January to March, the Juilliard campus in Tianjin will hold auditions in Tianjin and also at a number of sites around the world, including New York. Faculty and admissions staff are also present. Auditions are recorded and reviewed by multiple faculty members as part of Tianjin Juilliard’s decision making process.
MC: Any final words of advice to offer musicians interested in pursuing a career in the arts?
KT: My advice is, go for it! Get the best training possible, re-dedicate yourself to your art every day, and be alert and open to paths that you can’t imagine now. When you are looking for a master’s level program, you should consider the skills you wish to develop, and choose a program that will provide you with the training you need. In the future, you may run a music school, or create a new chamber music series, or become a renowned pedagogue. You may do all of this in a number of different cities and countries, meeting colleagues from around the world. School is only the beginning!