From left to right: Yilun Xu and Duanduan Hao representing the Juilliard CSSA at a campus event. Photo credit: Yilun Xu
Yujie Molly He and Yilun Xu
Yujie Molly He, violinist and Juilliard alumna, has come full circle. Born in Sichuan, China, Molly earned her Master of Music degree at Juilliard and moved back to China last year to join the Tianjin Juilliard Admissions department to help launch Juilliard’s new campus in Tianjin. The Tianjin Juilliard School’s Graduate Studies program offers a fully accredited Master of Music degree from Juilliard in New York. She is often in touch with Yilun Xu, pianist and current student at Juilliard, as they actively engage with members of the Chinese Students & Scholars Association (CSSA) on campus. Yilun is also the president of the CSSA at Juilliard, a student group that promotes cultural exchange and builds ties with the Juilliard community as well as other schools. The Juilliard Chinese community is far reaching, with over 200 Chinese students and alumni connecting fluidly across countries through WeChat, the popular social media app. Through this network, Molly and Yilun share ideas, music, and resources to cultivate Juilliard’s community spirit. In this conversation, they share their personal experiences and thoughts about being part of the larger Juilliard community.
Yujie Molly He (YMH): There were a lot of wonderful experiences during my time with CSSA at Juilliard. My most memorable experience in CSSA was interviewing the guest conductor Chen Lin during the 2018 Focus! Festival for a story we posted on our CSSA WeChat account. The festival was a celebration of Chinese composition that year and I felt really lucky to be involved in the special occasion. What has been your most memorable experience so far?
Yilun Xu (YX): The event that left the deepest impression on me was the 2019 Lunar New Year celebration with The Tianjin Juilliard School and the Office of International Advisement. This was the first time that I got to know the Tianjin Juilliard New York-based staff and it was a lovely community celebration for the entire student body, faculty, and staff on campus in New York. For many current students, the coming together of the community for cultural celebrations, provides a sense of ‘home’ away from home. We were very honored to be a part of this festive event with Dr. Joseph W. Polisi and the Tianjin Juilliard staff.
Juilliard students with Dr. Joseph W. Polisi at the 2019 Lunar New Year Celebration on campus in New York. Photo credit: Rachel Papo
YX: The establishment of The Tianjin Juilliard School is a remarkable milestone. As a child, I lived in Hebei, China, and then started my music education in Beijing. I think that it will be extremely inspiring and humbling to return home and witness the extension of our education in the United States and this special moment in Juilliard’s history. You trained as a violinist at Juilliard in New York before returning to China, and now you are working for Juilliard’s new campus in Tianjin. What has this homecoming experience been like for you?
YMH: Studying at Juilliard really shaped my vision and values as a musician. After graduating from Juilliard last year, I decided to go back to China and explore my career both as a violinist and administrator. As a Chinese student who went abroad for six years, it took me some time to reconnect back home. The first few months of homecoming were often filled with challenges and uncertainty. To reconnect, I performed concerts, got to know many professional musicians, participated in planning many events, and visited many cities. After several months of exploration, I was amazed by the diversity and vitality of the classical music field in China. Apart from concerts, there are chamber music series, music salons, community concerts, lectures and talks everywhere. These events provide young musicians with a lot of professional opportunities and career options. My first year back in China turned out to be very exciting!
YX: It’s also a wonderful opportunity to be making music and playing a role in music administration. What are your current responsibilities in the Tianjin Juilliard’s Admissions department and what do you find most fulfilling in this role?
YMH: As Graduate Division Admission coordinator, my responsibilities include communicating with prospective students, coordinating recruitment events and auditions, connecting with educators and administrators, and more. What I find most fulfilling about this job is supporting the next generation of young musicians, including my peers, as they build their careers and fulfill their professional goals. I sincerely hope to bring my personal experiences as a Juilliard alumna, a performer, and as a former student to help the prospective students identify their strengths, and apply to Tianjin Juilliard to launch their careers. I’m fulfilling my dream to develop myself as a young musician and a global citizen, while working for Juilliard’s new campus in China.
YX: That’s really inspiring! Over here in New York, we are looking forward to the official opening of the campus and getting to know the inaugural class of graduate students. What aspects of Juilliard’s training would help future Tianjin Juilliard graduates to be successful in building a career in China?
YMH: Students in Tianjin will be surrounded by the most talented young musicians, and mentored by world-class faculty. Juilliard’s excellence is embedded in daily routines, including a comprehensive curriculum, rehearsals, and performances. All these elements will motivate them to be better musicians. This is also why Juilliard graduates have the mental strength and energy to build their careers. Tianjin Juilliard focuses on the art of collaboration, which is crucial for 21st century musicians. The practice of ensemble playing will enhance one’s ability to listen and interact, and bring much joy into one’s professional life. There is a huge demand for musicians with excellent collaborative skills in China. Other than professional training, Tianjin Juilliard will equip students with communication and leadership skills, as well as professional connections, helping them launch their careers in China and Asia.
YMH: You studied in Beijing in an elementary school before attending Juilliard Pre-College and undergraduate studies. On a personal level, what is exciting about The Tianjin Juilliard School? Are your fellow schoolmates also looking forward to learning more about Juilliard’s new campus in China?
YX: I am most excited about the fact that many Chinese students will now have access to a Western style musical education without having to move abroad. As a pianist, I feel that at times the methods for learning in China can get boring for children during the process of practicing the piano. After attending Juilliard's Pre-College in New York, I found the learning process rather delightful and enriching as people surrounding me paid more attention to communication, personal taste, and ideas!We are all excited and very proud of The Tianjin Juilliard School because we feel that Juilliard will gain broader recognition through its public programs as well. Furthermore, the presence of Juilliard's new campus will allow many in Asia to experience Juilliard in many new ways.
Yujie Molly He and Yilun Xu at a 2018 CSSA salon with renowned artist Danqing Chen in New York. Photo credit: Yujie Molly He
YX: As an ‘admissions insider’, what are some important things to know if current undergraduate students are considering applying to Tianjin Juilliard?
YMH: Tianjin Juilliard Graduate Studies offers programs in Orchestral Studies, Chamber Music, and Collaborative Piano. They all focus on collaborative skills, and will prepare young musicians for professional careers. As a string player, I am extremely excited about the Orchestral Studies and Chamber Music programs due to the emphasis on ensemble playing, which is still underdeveloped in Asia. My one suggestion to applicants is to prepare all the pieces for the audition as early as possible, and pursue every opportunity to learn. When I graduated from college, I was not sure if I would get into Juilliard. The acceptance rate is low and the repertoire requirement is challenging, but I learned so much from the preparation before the Juilliard audition. You will never know your potential until you strive for it! I would suggest that prospective students start their application for Tianjin Juilliard without any hesitation. Your life might change from this point onward!
Yujie Molly He giving an talk before a concert in Beijing, 2019. Photo credit: Yujie Molly He
YMH: Having experienced the best of Chinese and American cultures, I have also been motivated by many great artists that I have met through music. There are so many new opportunities I’ve learnt to embrace, such as introducing Chinese folk music to audiences. Last year, I launched a year-long project, Stories Behind Folk Music, and performed in New York public libraries and cities including Beijing, Tianjin, and Sichuan. What type of opportunities do you hope the new campus in China can bring to students and Juilliard alumni?
YX: I hope that there will be an extensive and connected system developed between the two campuses in the U.S. and China which will provide many more opportunities for present and future students, Juilliard alumni, and faculty to communicate and learn from each other through performances, potential jobs, and unique teaching experiences. When I gave concerts or recitals in China and the U.S., parents would bring their children to meet and talk with me, often commenting on how inspired they felt watching the performances. If Juilliard alumni could give regular performances for young music students in China, I believe that the young musicians would be inspired to pursue their dreams.