Juilliard might get you a job at Starbucks

Juilliard might get you a job at Starbucks

Comment Of The Day

norman lebrecht

June 22, 2021

Most responses to our reports on Juilliard’s decision to raise tuition fees this year have ranged from hostile to furious. Many readers are questioning the value-for-money offered by a Juilliard degree.

Our Reader’s Comment of the Day comes from Gerry Feinsteen:

I don’t think Starbucks cares about Juilliard degrees.

The word means a lot in Asia, but probably not for much longer. This isn’t the 1960-1980 Juilliard, it’s 2021 and being led by a dancer.

Many students and parents and light co concertgoers will always have a soft spot for the romance of Juilliard and NYC, but consider the influential names today and we’ll find a wider range of education backgrounds.

Consider the numerous musicians who have made great careers over the past decade and also have something special in their playing. Few went through Juilliard or even the US system.

The biggest point of consternation about degrees is _how much did the schools actually help the students?_ If it is so difficult to enter Curtis or Juilliard, then clearly the most significant work was done pre-audition. This isn’t like Harvard or Cambridge where one settles on a major focus and then gets his/her work underway; the kids arrive at a top performing level.

Countless times someone does not get accepted to Juilliard or Curtis, attends a school like New England or Cleveland and then for graduate degree does get accepted for Juilliard or Curtis. —so which institution (more specifically teacher-student) deserves the credit?

Again, Starbucks probably doesn’t care too much about a degree from Juilliard.


  • Anon says:

    2019-2020 Tuition:
    Juilliard School- $47,370
    New England Conservatory- $50,460
    Cleveland Institute of Music- $42,006
    San Francisco Conservatory- $47,560
    Oberlin Conservatory- $42,842
    Manhattan School of Music- $49,130
    University of Southern Cal- $58,195
    (source- Google)
    Juilliard doesn’t look bad, in comparison.

    • Erasmus says:

      Bill Maher this month on the education “racket”:


    • Petros Linardos says:

      You are making good sense. Bashing shouldn’t be taken seriously.

    • NotToneDeaf says:

      Thanks, Anon – And compare these with Ivy League schools and it really becomes clear that Juilliard’s tuition rates aren’t at all out of line. But this site is populated almost exclusively by know-it-alls who seem incredibly bitter – and don’t seem to have any in-depth knowledge of the classical music world.

      • Gerry Feinsteen says:

        might want to check the return on investment for a Harvard degree vs, say, Juilliard. …not to mention cost of instruments and their maintenance

        • NotToneDeaf says:

          So you’re thinking that a Doctorate in Philosophy from Harvard brings in the big bucks? I want to live in your world.

    • Patricia says:

      Univ of Southern Cal is not a performance school. It is part of the California State system. It doesn’t belong in that list.

      • Anon says:

        No Patricia. You are wrong.
        USC is a private university and it has a top music performance program, at The Thornton School of Music.

  • A Professional Musician says:

    It’s MUCH harder to get into the Mew England Conservatory of Music, and it has been for at least 20 years, if not more… This is true for most instruments, and especially for violin and piano.

    • Paula Kahn says:

      That is ridiculous. Juilliard has a much higher rate of selectivity than NEC and has for a very long time. Juilliard’s acceptance rate for music is under 7 percent. NEC is almost heading towards 40 percent. Discount rate at Juilliard is nearly 70%. NEC is about 45%.

      • Raro says:

        In certain departments (violin, piano, viola), NEC has emerged as the leader in U.S. music schools. The change over the last 10 years is dramatic. (Juilliard calculates its acceptance rates with a different system, by the way.)

    • Anon says:

      It really depends on the department. For mine specifically, NEC is actually quite a bit easier to get into.

    • NotToneDeaf says:

      What a stupid and baseless comment. Do you have ANY proof whatsoever to back up your absurd assertion? I didn’t think so . . .

  • Kman says:

    “If it is so difficult to enter Curtis or Juilliard, then clearly the most significant work was done pre-audition.”

    I’ve been thinking about this general idea lately. Fine arts is a field where you already have to be good at your craft before you can study it in college. That’s true not just Curtis or Juilliard, but any institution awarding fine arts degrees.

    Engineering majors might be expected to know some math or enjoy problem solving, but we don’t expect them to know anything in advance about engineering. We teach them engineering at the university. Same with most any other major except those in the fine arts.

    I’m not devaluing the fine arts major – that students don’t learn anything while at the university – just an observation about the heavier burden of pre-requisite skills.

    • BigSir says:

      So true, the audition should be a mini-recital where the teacher picks a finished product or at least a student who won’t need much. Like coaching a baseball team.

      • BRUCEB says:

        Teachers differ. Some prefer to accept students who barely need any further training but just some polish here & there. Those students would usually be great no matter who their teacher in college is. Others like to find students with potential and work to unlock it.

        Fortunately for me, I found the second kind.

    • Petros Linardos says:

      Very true. Chidrens’ fine arts and music teachers are often the unsung heroes.

  • phf655 says:

    An earlier post indicates that Juilliard tuition is on a sliding scale, based on family income. Elsewhere I have heard that Juilliard has a vast endowment – as much as $1 billion. While some of that must be restricted – designated for certain projects – the income from a good deal of that must go to direct financial aid to students. Does anyone know how many students at Juilliard pay the full tuition? And didn’t the students, forced to take lessons by zoom, save money on room and board during almost a year and a half of pandemic closure?

  • Old joke: If you’re good enough to get into Curtis… you don’t need to go to Curtis.

    I’m sure the students at these A-list schools actually learn quite a bit on top of what they knew when they walked in but the real disconnect is how dim their prospects are upon leaving.

    Music schools are cranking out many times more degreed performers than can ever be hired in the music world.

  • teacher says:

    Yes — taking it back another step, to be accepted into any of these undergraduate programs, the pre-college teachers are the often unmentioned but critical component of anyone’s final success. Bios typically begin with undergrad institutions and teachers. It’s rare to see any acknowledgement of any K-12 experience.

    • Bill says:

      I rarely see the high school listed on an engineering resume. I think it is more a matter of people not listing the preparatory work unless they did it with a teacher or institution of some renown. And I see roughly an equal number of violinists who either list pre-college experience or don’t mention their educational credentials at all. It’s a sales document, one where you emphasize the things you think will appeal to your audience…

  • Fliszt says:

    Having gotten accepted at Juilliard in the 1970’s, i already played at a high level, and was assigned to an egomaniac piano teacher who couldn’t teach me anything and whose students were all studying outside the school with other teachers (“moonlighting” as it was called). Meanwhile, this “teacher” exploited us mercilessly in competitions. No need to identify the teacher – they were all the same.
    What a farce!

  • Andy says:

    In the United States the issue is simple IMHO. During this pandemic we shut everything down but made sure that we had professional baseball and the NFL. European countries specifically targeted artists and musicians with stimulus. We even allowed the Met to be shut down. In America 2021, consider another field

  • freddynyc says:

    Based on the “talent” I’ve been seeing lately at Curtis one would never have though it was a selective school. It seems being a young attractive female with a sizable following on YT is a prerequisite these days. Yes, not much has really changed over there in terms of the “criteria” used……

    • ViolaGoddess says:

      Can you name some of there “young attractive females with a sizable following on YT” please? Just curious who the “talented” ones are!

    • Anon says:

      As a recent Curtis grad, I can’t think of anyone who fits the criteria you just described. I’m also curious as to whom you are referring.

      • Fliszt says:

        I guess yu’ja’st can’t figure it out…

      • ViolaGoddess says:

        Anon, that’s exactly what I was thinking! I’m a current Curtis student and I don’t know anyone who fits that description. I know a few Juilliard students/grads who could be referred to that way, like Sumina Studer and Tiffany Poon, but no Curtis students or recent grads come to mind…

  • ViolinsAreSharp says:

    It bugs me how much whining I hear on here from all these softies. I hear people complain that you have to already be really competent at your instrument even to get into a music school. No S@*t Sherlock! No one would expect to show up at college as an out-of-shape string bean and say, “Make me into a professional baseball player in 4 years, and if you can’t then your program is the problem!”
    The truth is, life is hard, and getting a ‘job’ in an orchestra is really hard. Just getting into a conservatory is hard. Getting a job in a, let’s say top 20 orchestra is even harder. Getting a job in a top 5 orchestra is near impossible, in terms of statistics.
    Going to music school has ALWAYS been a ‘bad idea’ in terms of stats, and having gone through it myself I can say, no one I went to school with is surprised by who got a job and who didn’t. The top players, who worked their asses off around the clock, and did everything they possibly could, every day, for years and years, got the big jobs. The kids who practiced a few hours a day and bemoaned how it’s ‘impossible to get a job, and auditions aren’t fair, and it’s stacked against you, blah blah blah, didn’t get jobs, and now they do something else.
    To any college kids reading this: Don’t get caught up in the self-pity and whining of these older people who didn’t have the work ethic it takes to make it. Don’t pay attention to your classmates who are going to be complaining about how auditions aren’t fair. Practice your butts off, all day, every day. Devote your lives to your craft. Be unrelatable to your friends because when they go out for a beer after a concert, you go to the practice room for one more session. Someone is going to win the next audition, it might as well be you!

    • Tim says:

      You’re so emotional, calm down and get back to the practice room.

    • Ory Shihor says:

      Yes, practice all day, give up your entire childhood, resent your parents, and end up in therapy. Sounds awesome. You clearly sound like someone who knows a lot about how to raise mentally sound and balanced children. How come only a few folks here post under their real name btw? Easy to say all this under a fake identity.

    • Kurt Kaufman says:

      No, that’s not really how it works. IF you have a combination of determination bordering on obsession, AND you have exceptional musical talent, AND you have near-Olympics-grade athletic abilities and stamina, THEN you certainly have a chance at a high-level position in an American symphony orchestra. This assumes a flawless audition and a basic level of social skills. Oh, and political connections in the business helps, like in most fields.

    • Sharon says:

      Part of any college experience should be the ability to socialize with those from different backgrounds–it is training for life. Why should someone have to practice 18 hours a day?

  • M.Arnold says:

    Wasn’t it Birgit Nilsson who said “there are no great teachers, only great students”?

    • Petros LInardos says:

      That’s brilliant, though a bit of overstatement. How much you get out of your teacher depends on your interest.
      Another important factor is a good match between the needs of the student and the skills of the teacher.

    • Ludwig's Van says:

      It was Mme. Nilsson who told students “Sing less, think more!”

  • debuschubertussy says:

    Let’s face it, the conservatory model is outdated and going the way of the dinosaur. Any music professor or student could tell you that the most secure/guaranteed route to a stable music job is to major in music education, which neither Juilliard or NEC offers (or Curtis, or Yale School of Music, or Oberlin, etc.). I tell my students all the time to consider music education instead of music performance as a degree route, pursuing the performance degree is pretty much similar to a basketball player hoping to make a living in the NBA.

    • Patricia says:

      America has many schools of education, where they train students how to teach music in public schools. The conservatories are a different model altogether.

    • Sharon says:

      I know I’ve already discussed this a couple of times but another field which is pretty open is music therapy or even occupational therapy, a lot of which involves reteaching people how to control their hands.

      As a nurse I can tell you that helping/teaching people to make music who can really use music as therapy can be very rewarding.

  • Anon! A Moose! says:

    ” If it is so difficult to enter Curtis or Juilliard, then clearly the most significant work was done pre-audition. ”

    This rings true. By the time I graduated into professional life, it was apparent that there were certain teachers whose teaching didn’t necessarily live up to their reputation. Their reputation did all the heavy lifting, getting them the students who were among the best and were going to succeed anyway no matter who they studied with.

    The *real* good teachers were the ones who could take a mediocre student and get them to a level where they stood a decent chance of “making it”.

  • Anon says:

    I’m fairly confident that the teacher(s) with whom a student studies at a particular school are more responsible for career outcomes than anything else. As a Curtis grad who went on to pursue graduate study at what most people would consider to be a much less “prestigious” American conservatory, I improved more there than I did in twice as long at Curtis. My teacher at Curtis (a Philly principal) was wonderful, but my teacher in grad school (also principal of a major orchestra) was better by far. Teaching styles and abilities vary greatly among conservatory teachers, and certain departments within a school will always be stronger than others. I’m not sure it’s fair to compare the schools themselves.

  • M.Arnold says:

    Another quote I heard about was by the tenor Beniamino Gigli who chiding his teacher Rosati who became in demand because of Gigli, allegedly jokingly said, “so you’re the teacher of the great Gigli. Tell me, where are all the other Giglis?”

  • Andy says:

    Fyi, I am conservatory trained and the biggest nugget of truth I can offer is that the biggest key to a successful music career is who knows you. You will get nowhere spending your life in a practice room. If nobody knows you, then you do not get the audition invites.

    • MM says:

      This point is so often overlooked. A Curtis or Juilliard degree, along with all the connections you make there, are what opens doors. You still need to deliver the goods at audition time, but if you don’t stand out at the application phase to be called, nothing matters. It’s true that your degree isn’t the final determination of your talent, but you’d be lying if a Juilliard or Curtis degree doesn’t stand out among a stack of resumes from anywhere else.

  • Joseph T Anderer says:

    When I was at Juilliard I had teachers like Hall Overton, Jake Druckman, Roger Sessions, Vincent Persichetti, Albert Fuller, Arthur Weisberg, James Chambers, and I haven’t even mentioned my major teacher, Ranier DeIntinis of the NY Phil or my great English lit teacher, Frederick Ewen (look up his story- it’s VERY interesting, especially the part involving Senator McCarthy!) . I couldn’t begin to compare them to the current faculty- to be a responsible citizen I’d have to leave that to others. I had a great experience, and learned so much from those teachers (more and less than) 50 years ago.

  • Audit Kaplinski says:

    These top schools are just a way to launder Chinese money, let’s face it. And the majority of the people getting these degrees don’t need to worry about jobs and job placement, they have more money than they can ever earn going into music. It’s some sort of “prestige” thing, for most.

  • Reparte says:

    Having graduated Curtis I can tell you the most important aspects:
    …and why it doesn’t compare to an education at any other musical institution….

    #1. Your student colleagues are the people you forge your most important musical and social relationships with. Your career is based on these relationships. These are the foundation of your career. You share with them and the other graduates something very, very, unique. The graduating classes were never over 40-50 people in the 20th century.
    #2. The teachers treat you like you already are or will be imminently a professional musical colleague…because at this school it is true.
    3. MOST importantly, Curtis has (or had) a distinct style of playing. The wind players and string players all had the same teachers for orch rep class every week.
    Orchestra was treated by the vast majority of the students and teachers as the most important aspect of the education.
    And it is free.

  • Larry W says:

    “Countless times someone does not get accepted to Juilliard or Curtis, attends a school like New England or Cleveland and then for graduate degree does get accepted for Juilliard or Curtis.”
    Half right. Curtis accepts younger students, ages 12-18. It is far more common for students to leave Curtis after 4 years and go to undergraduate and graduate schools for continuing studies.
    With the exception of a PhD, graduate music schools are mostly place-holders for getting a job.

    • ViolaGoddess says:

      Current Curtis student here. Actually, you can’t start academic classes at Curtis anymore until you’re in your senior year of high school (or if you graduate early, age 16). Therefore, even if people come early, they end up staying way longer because otherwise all they get are lessons, chamber, and possibly orchestra (also depends on age). I know several people who were/are there for 5-9 years. If you come young, the earliest you’re gonna leave is after you complete all the required classes to graduate, which usually takes at LEAST 3 years in the bachelor program.

      • MM says:

        Do you still get a lot of pre-college level students? In older days, they were common, and the goal was less a college degree, and more about time with a particular teacher. There was a time when there was hardly any structure to the academic side, with barely any hard requirements. A true conservatory.

  • Composition student in the U.S. says:

    It is an open secret in the composition community that the Juilliard faculty members don’t examine the works submitted to the school by soon-to-be bachelor degree students, but the composition master’s and doctoral students do. Not only does this show for a major lack of professionalism and integrity in Juilliard’s composition department (the faculty is too busy with their own careers to really care about their future students), but it means that everything becomes much more competitive. The outcome of this is that if a potential composition student seems to be very promising or talented, chances are s/he won’t get into Juilliard, because s/he proposes a threat to the already enrolled students.
    This is an extremely toxic system, and it shows itself: there hasn’t been many composers at all who went through Juilliard in the past 30 years, or even since Reich and Glass’ time as students (1960’s) who put their mark on the classical music scene; and all of the current faculty members at Juilliard, most of them notable composers, did not study in Juilliard themselves.
    As far as composition studies and students success’s go, it seems like the Yale School of Music has been the school from which today’s most prominent American composers came from (Norman, Mazzoli); it is a prestigious school, but it does not rely only on its name like Juilliard – it is indeed a quality school in what it actually gives to the students.
    If looking at the scene today at-large, there are much more prominent composers in today’s new-music scene who came from or studied in Europe or the UK than the U.S. Not that there aren’t talented, worth-to-listen-to American composers; but it is an interesting point to think about.

  • Ludwig's Van says:

    At the end of the day, nobody hires a musician because of where they went to school. How well you play is all that matters.

  • Been there, done that says:

    Maybe as a good will gesture after having raised tuition fees, Juilliard could offer a guaranteed position as Starbucks in case “things don’t work out as planned”. The study could set up a Starbucks where the cafeteria is now, and offer specialized training to the students. It would be a win-win situation for everybody, and Starbucks would be happy to hire the already trained applicant for a position. Pilot programs are already in the works for NY’s leading conservatories. Manhattan School is having talks with MacD’s, and Mannes , leader of the pack, is offering manager training right away! Juilliard, don’t be left behind!