From our diarist Anthea Kreston:
There is the old joke, a person stops someone on the street in New York City, and asks “How do I get to Carnegie Hall?” – the answer, of course, is “Practice, Practice, Practice”. This week, I ask myself a similar question – “How do I get to Juilliard?“ The answer is the same, “Practice, Practice, Practice”, but that is just the tip of the iceberg – 99% of the weight – the financial burden – looms dangerously below the surface. Between that sweet moment when the acceptance letter is received, and the scholarship (or lack thereof) is announced there is a tense waiting period. Hopes are up – the butterflies in your stomach when you realize “I got in!” are mixed with a deep pit in your stomach “what will this do financially to my family, to my own future – will the benefits outweigh the sacrifice to us all?“
The cost of attending Juilliard is astronomical. We all know this, and know that there are good, solid reasons that this is the case. A large, state-of-the-arts campus in the heart of Manhattan, faculty whose names roll off the tongue with familiarity, the chance to make connections which will lay the foundation for the future, the name itself – which, in certain parts of the world at least – carry their weight in diamonds. It’s the price we pay – all students who have worked hard enough their entire lives to be admitted to Stanford, Harvard, Juilliard. The next decision, however – the financial decision – creates a point of no return – it will be the moment, whether the decision is “yes“ or “no“, which a person will refer to for their entire lives, when traveling forward in their careers and lives. Yes or No.
When the young Macedonian violinist, Aleksandar Ivanov, was preparing so diligently for his Curtis audition a couple of months ago, it seemed clear that his family, teachers, and the whole of Macedonia was rooting for him. He worked himself to the bone, and although he didn’t get in, he told me he had never felt better – he felt supported, encouraged, and more comfortable than he could have every hoped for during the audition. It was the experience he had hoped for. And he is smart. He didn’t put all of his eggs in an impossible basket – that gleaming row of mansions in central Philadelphia – free for those accepted. He auditioned at a variety of other schools. Weeks later, he messaged me – great news – he had been accepted into Juilliard! Now the wait – if this had been Curtis, the answer would have been clear, but for a school like Juilliard, with a price tag rivaling the Ivy Leagues, scholarship could mean the difference between a dream come true and a dream forever obscured.
His initial scholarship was very good – over half of the tuition. Two more rounds of appeals, with supporting letters and documents, proved fruitful. A 4 year, nearly 75% scholarship. That’s fantastic. $35,000 of $47,000. On top of that, a required $17,900 for room/board (first year), and no scholarship can be offered for that. So – $29,900 per year. For those of us from wealthy countries, or countries which offer loans or scholarships, which have an infrastructure for future musical employment, this is doable. For a person from Macedonia – it’s almost as doable as single-handedly defeating the Night King in combat (thank you, Arya Stark).
As you may know, Macedonia is an incredibly poor country. It is at the bottom of the wage scale for former Yugoslavia – the average wage for a full-time employee is 439 dollars per month. Both of his parents work, and their combined wage does not reach $1,000. His entire city of Skopje, and in fact the country, views Alek as one of their hopes for the future, the hopes for their country. He is loved and supported. But, unfortunately, with such a poor country, the support they can offer is only their time, talent, and hope.
Without more support, Alek has no hopes of being able to reach so far outside of his world. His country can help with $1,000 per year, an enormous amount for them. He has been scraping together bits of financial support, to chip away at this iceberg.
Why would a person decide to go to Juilliard when they could go to other, less expensive but excellent institutions? Because he would be the first Macedonian violinist to attend. Because the name speaks to everyone, and this will open opportunities for him unlike other schools. More often than not, after concerts, audience members will ask me if I went to Juilliard. I say – no – I went to Curtis. Blank stare. It’s in Philadelphia. Blank. It’s a small music school where Lang Lang went. Oh – that’s interesting. Why didn’t you go to Juilliard?
Here is my question to you, the reader. I ask you to consider this special person, and the special place he is destined to hold in the musical world – for his country, the Balkan states, for himself as an inspiration to other to show what hard work under difficult situations can result in. Alek is one of those individuals destined to make a mark in this world. He is effervescent and hard-working, creative and passionate. He is also in between a rock and a hard place.
Would you like to help to chip away at his iceberg? Help him with dorm costs, food, tuition? I am going to, as are some of my friends. I talked to him about the American way – how he can invite his sponsors to concerts, special events and to lunch in the cafeteria. He will create a little club – something where he tells us of his progress, his journey.
He is, now, submitting paperwork for a possible government scholarship. If this goes through (very unlikely), he would have to sign a contract that he would have to work in Macedonia for eight years after school. In addition, it would put his parents in a difficult political situation, as they would be forced to become spokespeople for the government. I don’t want to see him go in this dangerous direction.
Nmazzurco@juilliard.edu is the contact if you want to be involved. Or write to m e direct: Geigeberlin@yahoo.com. Or help Alek here.