There’s free speech at Juilliard (if you want it)

The website, social media accounts, podcast mechanism and brand of The Citizen-Penguin is up for grabs. The Citizen-Penguin is a student and alumni–owned underground newspaper that covers events, ideas and news concerning The Juilliard School (see disclaimer). Current students can email editor AT citizenpenguin DOT com for more information. Before it gets re-activated, it would need: an editor-in-chief, a managing editor, and an informal faculty advisor (with zero veto power).

A Citizen-Penguin sampler:

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A few rules that govern the operation of this site per founding agreements with the School:

  1. Don’t speak for the school (or its student body). Articles and editorials should have enough clarity that they don’t give the impression that The Citizen-Penguin is a mouthpiece for the School, or powerful enough to speak for all students. Our disclaimer: “The views and opinions expressed in The Citizen-Penguin are solely those of its contributors and do not represent those of The Juilliard School or any of its employees. The Juilliard School is not responsible for any of the content found in The Citizen-Penguin or for the accuracy of any information it contains.” (Sometimes, if an employee submits a rebuttal editorial, this isn’t necessarily a true disclaimer, but in those cases, while those employees might be acting as spokespeople, they are still not speaking for the institution. See Hipes on Residence Hall Closure, and Polisi on James Levine .)
  2. Don’t lie or publish untrue things. The latter is a little more likely since Juilliard doesn’t have a journalism program. Just make sure that all facts have a clear and legitimate source. (Public records from governmental agencies or FOIA requests; quotes from individuals, preferably also recorded, with consent; information from peer-reviewed publications, would all be reasonably interpreted as “legitimate.” While ‘truth’ and ‘doing your research’ has been politicized, a general rubric for journalistic truth has been well-established and that rubric must be prioritized over a political wish to give ‘all sides’ a platform.)
  3. Be transparent. For example, when holding comments to rule 1 and 2 above, it’s a good idea to tell the reader that a comment was deleted and why. (See comments section on Four Concerns with the Kovner Fellowship.) On that note, don’t allow anonymous comments, and don’t allow comments with new information that you cannot confirm that could be libelous.
  4. No hate speech.

A Culture of Accountability

Oliver Neubauer and Gaby Pho (both BM ’22) delve into the nuances of social media culture and discuss how we can adopt a more productive model of accountability moving forward.

Several months ago, a student in our community (who will remain anonymous) posted a video of himself to his private Snapchat story. The content of the video was a misogynistic rant in which he called women “hypocrites” and expressed his belief that women lead easier lives than men. The video was not only offensive and demeaning but demonstrated a lack of awareness of gender discrimination and the reality of women’s experiences. The student displayed an ignorance of the history of sexist and oppressive gender roles that had led to the very stereotypes he was using to support his claims. 

Understandably outraged, one recipient of the student’s private story sent the video to a friend; that friend then sent it to a group chat with approximately 70 people, and within an hour the video was shared on Instagram by several people. The responses in the group chat and on social media were naturally expressions of anger and disgust. Many people who formerly saw the student as a friend or amicable colleague joined their peers in the din of condemnation. While the long-term consequences remain unclear, the potential damage is severe considering that relationships in the music world can be critical to one’s professional career.

When reflecting on an incident of this nature, we have to ask ourselves what the end goal is. Thankfully, the majority of our community seems to share similar views regarding this goal. At the end of the day, we all want a community of tolerance and acceptance, a place where everyone can feel safe and welcome regardless of their race, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, or any other characteristic. We all want a community free of any and all forms of hatred whether it manifests as racism, sexism, homophobia, or bigotry. Unfortunately, this incident and many others shine light on the fact that our community is not yet at this point and that hateful rhetoric is alive and well.

What is to be done about this? When addressing this scenario or others like it, we inevitably arrive at the word accountability. The idea is simple enough – as a community, we need to hold people responsible for their actions. But this is vague, as the term accountability is used in many ways and contexts. In order to determine an effective response to this specific case, we need to envision the ideal outcome. In an ideal world, the student would never have had or expressed these sentiments in the first place. To that end, working to educate ourselves and our community is one of the most powerful tools we have against hate. But since the action can’t be undone, the ideal outcome would be for the student to reform, educating himself and becoming an advocate for women in the future. Ideas rarely exist in a vacuum, and it would also be ideal if the student worked towards informing others who support and enable this kind of rhetoric. It is clear that if we want to hold this student accountable for his actions in a way that leads to progress as a community, then accountability has to leave room for growth. 

Social media has become a very complicated platform for accountability. It is an unquestionably powerful tool, one that can cause widespread positive change but can also lead to considerable damage. One factor that contributes to this negative potential is the permanency and the breadth of the exposure. With a couple of taps on a screen, any post can be shared with thousands of followers within a matter of seconds. The immediacy of social media often fails to leave time and space for nuanced discussion, and the level of exposure can lead to very extreme real-life consequences. In many cases, widespread ostracism ensues, where those personally or professionally associated with the person condemn them publicly. If institutions punish someone because of a social media post without due process, that is another issue in itself. Regardless, we should be sensitive to the power social media holds in our current culture and recognize the potential consequences of any post as a reality. 

This kind of social media exposure can set an example that discourages people from voicing those opinions publicly. However, it fails to adequately address the root of the problem, often causing harmful rhetoric to continue more quietly behind closed doors. At worst, the negative attention is empowering, fueling even more hate-filled speech and in severe cases, destructive action. Ironically, in this case it also validates some of the student’s remarks. He admitted that people would probably attack him for his remarks, and the response likely affirmed his self-perceived victimhood.

The implication of many social media call-outs is a statement about someone’s inability to change. At moments like these, people often define the person in question by a single comment or action, reducing them to a symbol of misogyny or racism. The impersonal aspect of social media contributes to this tendency and makes it easy to condemn. Equating a comment or action with the totality of any person is neither useful nor accurate. And the truth is that anyone is capable of radical change, even as it pertains to the most extremist views. The idea that someone’s views are intrinsic to who they are is both unfounded and dangerous. It stifles potential progress, eliminating the possibility for growth as a society at large. To believe in societal change, we have to understand that people can change their views.

Take the example of Megan Phelps-Roper, a writer and activist who was born into the Westboro Baptist Church. Many will be familiar with the Church since members of the hate group paid a visit to Juilliard in 2016, an institution that they claim is destructive and sinful. Phelps-Roper was indoctrinated with deeply homophobic and anti-Semitic beliefs, picketing funerals of U.S. soldiers with her family from a young age. But in her memoir Unfollow, she explains how strangers on Twitter who were willing to discuss and even empathize planted seeds of doubt that ultimately led her to leave the Church in 2012. Her story is one of extreme transformation, but it is one of countless stories of people who reformed their views and became advocates for the people they had previously attacked. Clearly, the question is not whether people can change their views but how.

Often, the most powerful change starts on a personal level. In a scenario like this, a logical first step would be for those closest to the student to have a conversation with him, using their personal connection to explain the hurtful fallacies in his rhetoric. Discussions of this nature are most often taxing. It is easy to feel unequipped for a debate, or feel emotional strain from trying to refute viewpoints that are hurtful on a personal level. Confronting a friend in this way can be uncomfortable and often takes courage, but these conversations become easier and more productive the more we have them. They require a willingness to continually educate ourselves on the needs of our community and society at large. There are several online resources that can be valuable tools when navigating these waters, including the “Hollaback” bystander intervention technique (a resource that also offers free, online bystander intervention training), which is listed below. While all of these strategies require personal initiative, they are important tools for growing empathy, building a more accepting community, and becoming better equipped to handle conflict. This is an initiative worth taking as we are all likely to encounter difficult and offensive confrontations moving forward in life.

Self-care and protection should always be a first priority. If one person feels they aren’t emotionally capable of handling a conversation that could be hostile, it can be beneficial to enlist the help of a friend or acquaintance. When hurtful messages are directed at specific groups, those who are not part of that targeted group have as much of if not more of a responsibility to intervene or address the person directly. Sometimes, it is too difficult for students to have personal discussions, particularly when they feel unsafe or personally hurt, and this kind of delegation can be necessary for self-protection. 

While the administrative system may have its flaws, there are a variety of valuable resources at our disposal. People can also always reach out to Camille Pajor, the Title IX director and bias response officer, even when the grievance is not a policy violation. Title IX and Bias Response welcome any conversation with community members, including discussing hypothetical situations, rights, resources, response options, and preferences. It is also worth noting that individuals and groups can request customized training from Title IX and Bias Response, as well as other offices like EDIB, on topics such as equity and conflict management. The faculty and administration are certainly not exempt from accountability and have mishandled situations in the past. Normalizing conversations about accountability and including faculty and administrations in these discussions could be key in ensuring lasting improvement as a community.

It cannot be overstated that personal discussion is not a replacement for consequences, particularly when there are policy violations involved. When there is harassment, violence, or a violation of school policy or the law, it is not up to students to deal with the matter on a personal level. In these situations, students should consider reporting the issue by whatever means they feel comfortable. Juilliard has an array of report forms that can be submitted anonymously (see link in resources). The administration has a responsibility to take all grievances seriously and investigate and follow through with all parties involved. Its main goals are to stop, prevent, and remedy misconduct, and to do so, they aim to apply policies fairly and in a trauma-informed way. If they don’t achieve these goals, students should continue to keep the administration accountable; these instances are complex and the process of holding administration accountable should be a topic of further discussion.

Social media, like any other tool, can be used effectively or ineffectively, and the difference can be difficult to determine. Social media call-outs are part of a precarious gray area where one word or share could be life altering. This is not to say that social media call-outs have no purpose or value. In more extreme situations, often involving discrimination, harassment, or assault, social media can be a tool for garnering support when the existing infrastructure for justice has failed to address the issue. It can be a way of letting victims know that they are not alone. Beyond that, it has potential to bring down dangerous people in positions of power that are otherwise untouchable and who have not been held accountable for their crimes. The #metoo movement, for example, not only brought down powerful sex offenders, but contributed to a global movement against sexual harassment and rape. In cases like that of Harvey Weinstein, the framework for accountability failed on every account, or never truly existed. However imperfect it may be, we do have structures of accountability in place at Juilliard, and as a student body, we have the power to build on this existing framework.

If we’re reflecting critically on our community, it seems that we lack a strong, productive culture of accountability. People tend to turn a blind eye to offensive comments made by friends or laugh off jokes that are offensive to the point of being damaging. Often, people don’t want to alienate themselves from colleagues they may be working with for the rest of their lives. Sometimes people just don’t know how to respond or how to call someone out for a hurtful statement. There are exceptions, but on the whole, accountability in in-person interactions is a rare thing to see.

Changing this culture could be a powerful tool in ensuring meaningful progress as a community. Each time someone ignores or laughs off a misogynistic comment, they enable and validate that rhetoric, adding fuel to a fire that could really hurt certain members of our community. In this sense, we need to hold ourselves and each other accountable for the way we approach accountability. This web of accountability could create a framework that protects those who are most vulnerable in our community and ensure that everyone feels more safe and welcome. 

Nothing in this article is said to discount the harm caused by this particular incident to members of our community. Working to repair that harm is just as essential as properly addressing the issue of the student. The question is how to repair that harm. One idea that is common in the rhetoric in favor of social media call-outs is that it does justice to the victims by exposing wrongdoing. This is a purely retaliatory idea of justice and one that has no real foundation. The true way of honoring those hurt most is to ensure that real progress is made and work towards this rhetoric not happening in the future. Another idea is that call-outs of this nature are important since they show people that something is wrong; in this case, posting the video could be seen as a way of demonstrating that these ideas are misogynistic and hurtful, thus empowering victims. But we have to recognize that there are many other ways to make this statement that don’t involve potentially destructive consequences.

This recent incident is neither the first nor the last of its kind. Our discussion of it is not meant to harp on the past or personally attack those who shared on social media. We are using this incident to comment on a larger cultural trend and highlight the complexity of the issue. In this instance, it can easily be argued that the social media response was justified since the video was posted to social media in the first place. But what is “deserved” is beside the point, and the important question is what response is most productive and beneficial for the community as a whole. While incidents like these are disheartening in the sense that they bring to light sentiments that shouldn’t exist in our community, they also provide us with opportunities to make real, positive change and progress. In the midst of a pandemic, it is understandable that people tend to turn to social media as a tool for accountability. But as we gradually venture towards a post-Covid world, we can use this as an opportunity to reflect and define ourselves as a community. Together, we can create a stronger, more empathetic, and more robust culture of accountability moving forward.

Resources

  • Bystander Intervention Techniques:

Hollaback! Bystander Resources

Hollaback! Free Training

  • Megan Phelps-Roper TED Talk:

I grew up in the Westboro Baptist Church. Here’s why I left

  • Juilliard Resources:

Report Forms

Policies

Health and Counseling

Title IX webpage

EDIB webpage 

  • NYC Well: 

24/7 mental health support/referrals via talk/text/chat

“do you see us // do you see me?”

Whenever another black or brown body is senselessly murdered it always feels like the final straw that will break the camel‘s back. In our case, we’ve sadly grown accustomed to this feeling, carrying this unbearable load on our own backs for generations. The feeling of being hunted is the norm where I’m from. Sometimes it’s easier to keep your head down and keep moving and not speak up — God forbid we do, we’ll hear, “why are you so angry? why are you so loud? you should calm down.” Sometimes we don’t speak up out of fear. Fear of what, you ask? Fear of not belonging. Fear of not being included. Fear of not being considered an equal peer despite however many accomplishments a black or brown body has achieved in their lifetime. It is always never enough. 

When George Floyd was initially murdered, I had no idea. I had decided weeks ago to spiritually take a break from the socials (fb, ig) with all that was going on in the world — hoping to filter in the bad news on my own accord. It wasn’t until my father texted me, “be careful with the protests in LA,” when I realized that the last straw has finally broken our backs. 
This poem (“DO YOU SEE US // DO YOU SEE ME?”) is my offering to the peaceful and forthright protest which I endlessly support.

DO YOU SEE US // DO YOU SEE ME?

A PUERTO RICAN = TAÍNO-INDIAN (BROWN) SPANISH-EUROPEAN (WHITE) AFRICAN-AMERICAN (BLACK)

do you see us? do you see me?
i was always told by the irish kids
“yeah, but you’re one of us…”

do you see us? do you see me?
casting breakdown:
jorge, jose, jesus, javi.

do you see us? do you see me?
when we cry:
same clear. same wet. same dry.

have you seen me lately?
do i fit into your mind?
do you feel more comfortable when my truth is a lie?

i said have you seen me lately and have you even tried?
you are not black enough // you are not white enough
you are not brown enough was their reply.

i think i love me. i think i always have?
why do you make me question what’s behind
black brown white mask?

3 colors on a palette
bob ross and i really mixed them all together
crazy –– it was the color of me.

and all i ever wanted was to paint beautiful brown trees

do you see us? do you see me?
why do you only see us
when our bodies are in the street?

Orlando Rivera is a third-year drama student at the Juilliard School. He is also an experienced Intensive-Care Unit Registered Nurse currently working on the frontlines this summer as a COVID-19 first-line responder at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. A proud native of the Bronx, NY. He is a recipient of the Jerome L. Greene Fellowship. 

Charles Ives Concert Series Comes to New York

The Charles Ives Concert Series, featuring recent Juilliard graduates, will make its New York debut at Symphony Space’s Leonard Nimoy Thalia on Monday, May 13th at 7:30 PM.

New York, NY – The Charles Ives Concert Series will make its New York debut at Symphony Space’s Leonard Nimoy Thalia on Monday, May 13th at 7:30 PM.

The Series is presented by the Danbury Music Centre, an 84-year old community music organization based in Ives’s hometown of Danbury, CT. Founded in 2015, the Series brings some of the most exciting emerging solo and chamber musicians in the United States to the greater Danbury area to perform the music of Ives and related works of others, American composers, and music that transcends the traditional boundaries of classical music. The Series is led by artistic director Paul Frucht and associate artistic director, Jon Cziner, both of whom are composers and Juilliard graduates.

On May 13th, the Ives Series will, for the first time, present a concert in New York City, in an effort to bring Danbury’s iconic composer’s legacy further out into the tri-state area. The program, entitled ‘The Ives Series in NY: Charles Ives and His Living Legacy,’ will feature Ives Series Artist-Faculty performing works by Ives, the series two artistic directors – Frucht and Cziner, 2019 Composer-in-Residence Robert Paterson, and Nina C. Young and Justin Dello Joio, two previous composers-in-residence. The goal of the concert is to tell his incredible story from Danbury’s perspective to a broader audience, outside of the greater Danbury area. Artists featured on the program include pianist Marika Bournaki, violist Molly Goldman, cellist Mitch Lyon, violinist George Meyer, pianist Mika Sasaki, violist Jacob Shack, cellist Julian Schwarz, and violinist Chelsea Starbuck Smith.

Tickets to the concert can be purchased and more information can be found here: https://www.symphonyspace.org/events/charles-ives-concert-series

Funding for the Charles Ives Concert Series is generously provided in part by Connecticut Family Orthopedics and Orthoprompt, the Anna Maria and Stephen M. Kellen Foundation, Maron Hotel and Suites, Hotel Zero Degrees Danbury, Associated Chamber Music Players, a Juilliard School Project Grant, William Frucht and Candace Ovesey, Peg Heetmann, and Joan and Steve Howard – a donor-advised fund of the U.S. Charitable Gift Trust.

Breathe. Just Breathe.

Frequent Citizen-Penguin contributor Joseph Peterson writes an open letter to anyone who has been labeled “weak” or “lazy.” CONTENT WARNING: This student-submitted editorial contains serious subject matter regarding mental health, as well as profanity.

Photo by Fiona Robberson.

CONTENT WARNING: The following student-submitted editorial contains serious subject matter regarding mental health, as well as profanity. We at The Citizen-Penguin are not mental health professionals, and the advice herein is that of the author, not of The Citizen-Penguin or The Juilliard School. If you’re in need of help, please contact the Student Health Center, text “home” to the Crisis Text Line at 741741, or if in immediate danger, call 911.

____________________

An open letter to those who have been labeled weak and lazy:

It’s easy to pretend that you are ok.

That you don’t hurt. That you aren’t overwhelmed. That you don’t ache in all of the places that you imagine it’s possible to ache.

That you don’t sign out a practice room just to be alone and cry. That you don’t put in 16 hour days just so that you don’t have to be alone with your thoughts your thoughts your thoughts. That you don’t self-medicate, because going to a doctor only makes it real.

Because your problems are safe in your head. Because dreams are scary when they come true, so you keep them inside.

It’s easy to pretend that you’re ok because that’s what is expected of you.  

We learn early on that we’re worthless without the right kind of work. Well, worse than worthless: We’re actively harmful. The lazy are destructive, abolishing meaning for the productive. The lazy are an STD, a virus, a plague…

Something doesn’t feel right? Just work it off, it’ll go away.

We’re a burden on society when we don’t work, whether this is due to the limitations of our bodies or because of a conscious refusal of undoubtable self-harm. It doesn’t matter the work, and it doesn’t matter whether we like it or not. Work exists to keep us busy and give us value, rather than for our own personal betterment.

It’s all just in your head anyway. A complicit frame of mind. A choice. You are choosing to feel bad. You have no reason to feel bad.

We work to exist. To earn our air, not just our bread.

Stop feeling bad. You’re fine. Everything is fine.

And so, since our humanity being tied with our productivity gives us existential dread, or at very least mild nausea, we convince ourselves that we work better under pressure. You see, diamonds are made under pressure, and diamonds have value. Pressure gives us value. Illness is a fantastic form of pressure, it turns us into diamonds…

Or something.

We value mental illness as a sign of artistic truth, fetishizing the struggle instead of fighting it. Comfort is an artistic inconvenience and the gravedigger of truth. This is a thought we internalize. The struggle itself is the value, so the more we struggle, the more we succeed.

Alone.

We are alone because our success only exists at the expense of our peers. Our work is in a constant state of comparison. So-and-so just got this job, they’re sooo good. They’re doing better than you…

They are better than you.

It’s a moral thing. If someone does better than us, no matter how close we are with them, then we’re less good. If we win, then we are the good-est. If we don’t do anything at all, then we are the worst. We’re in last place, then.  

Labor is a competition. It is undoubtedly.

Maybe my resume wasn’t laid out quite right, or maybe they just didn’t like the sound of my instrument, or maybe they didn’t like my body, how I look, who I am.

Darwin wrote that, naturally, the weak have extinction coming to them. Natural selection, or something. Only the strong are useful. The weak just take up space. Useful space occupied by useless bodies. Maybe we are just a burden, we who refuse to be weighed down by labor.

Famous last words: More weight.

We struggle alone. Against each other. The best work always comes after one loses their mind, never before. Struggle gives us value. Our empathy is commodified. Even death gives us value. The greats die young and alone.

Always Alone.

Nobody but you knows what goes on between your ears, so it’s convenient to lie and say you’re fine.

My weekend was fine. Home was fine. I’m fine. I promise I’m fine. I don’t need your goddamn concern, ok?

I’m fucking fine.

Though, you know that this isn’t true. Only you know that your thoughts feel like death. That you feel like shit and you don’t know why. That you feel hopelessly numb, tired, and, worst of all, lazy.

You’re not fine.

You do hurt. Your body does ache. You are overwhelmed. That’s the true true.

We feel isolated and alienated. Ironically, these are the most universal feelings we have. We are alone, this isolation is truth. Everyone feels this way.

But that doesn’t affect our real value. We are not our labor alone. We are not productive machines. We are human beings. We bruise and we get sick. We have ups and downs. We are our surroundings personified.

We are more than our labor. We are, We are, We are!

We are not heroes for pretending we are ok. Lying only kills us faster. It is an act of violence to value our labor above us, so those who do are not our friends, in fact they are our mortal enemies.

It is a radical act to own our unwellness.

Sometimes we need help.

Sometimes just talking to a friend will do, but other times it’s more serious. A lot of us need medication and most of us need therapy. This is our humanity.

We are not machines.

Sometimes we just need to vent. Other times we need to go to the hospital so that we don’t become another isolated, tragic casualty.

We are human beings. And, just so you know…

We need You.

We need you for your humor and your empathy. We need you for your bad jokes and your awkward laughs, your uncomfortable silences and the mistakes that keep you up at night. We need your weaknesses more than your strengths.

And we really need your anger. It is real, earned, and there’s a lot that can be done collectively about it.

We need you because you are an essential part of our world, no matter what personal lows and social values tell you.

And most importantly, we need you so that we can make this world, not the bullshit idealizations we manufacture in our minds, a better place.

You are still you when you don’t do anything. So too when you actively do nothing.

Fuck value and the isolating violence it impresses on us.

Breathe. Just breathe.

Only then can we begin to loosen our chains.

Truly yours,

Joe

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before – The Valentine’s Day Concert

Composition major Matthew Liu is BACK with a special Valentine’s Day salon recital!

This Valentine’s Day, Matthew Liu will be giving a story salon inspired by the Netflix original movie “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.” An assortment of stories with some songs and scenes will be played out for all to enjoy on Thursday, February 14th at 7:30PM in Lounge 11. Refreshments will be provided by Juilliard Christian Fellowship. Check out the link below to see how you can be in on the salon!

https://www.facebook.com/events/275614310029161/?ti=icl

Finding Peace in a New Juilliard Yoga Collective

Nedra Snipes is a 2nd year M.F.A. actor in the Juilliard Drama Division and founder of J-Tribe Flow Yoga, a new wellness-based yoga collective for black women, women of color, and their allies. Fiona Robberson, co-editor in chief of the Citizen-Penguin, sat down with Nedra on Tuesday to discuss the origins of J-Tribe Flow Yoga in advance of their first official yoga session, which begins Wednesday morning, February 6th.

Photo by Chris Silvestri

Nedra Snipes is a 2nd year M.F.A. actor in the Juilliard Drama Division and founder of J-Tribe Flow Yoga, a new wellness-based yoga collective for black women, women of color, and their allies. Fiona Robberson, co-editor in chief of the Citizen-Penguin, sat down with Nedra on Tuesday to discuss the origins of J-Tribe Flow Yoga in advance of their first official yoga session, which begins Wednesday morning, February 6th.

What is the origin story of J-Tribe Flow Yoga?

It’s really new! We’re starting officially in the first week of February. The collective started in the fall of last semester, when Rosie Yates, a 2nd year drama student, was asked to do an event as an RA for the Juilliard Residence Hall. Melissa Golliday, a 3rd year drama student and fellow RA, decided to collaborate with Rosie – together they created a wellness event that became the first iteration of J-Tribe Flow Yoga. It’s specifically for black women, women of color, and OUR allies, which includes and extends to persons who identify with the male pronoun.

 

What was your journey to yoga?

After 1st year of my drama training, I was feeling outside of my body and outside of my yoga practice. I went to Core Power Yoga, saw a posting for teacher training and went before I knew what it was going to be about. I wanted to go deeper into my own personal practice. I studied Power Vinyasa Yoga, which in a nutshell, is about constantly activating your core. You’re building strength and breath, both of which increase throughout the flow. We start slowly, move through the series again, and move into one breath, one movement, which at that intensity, elevates your heart rate, your breath, your focus, and your strength. It’s a transformative experience when I get to share that transformation with other people.

 

Why do you feel yoga practice is necessary for black women and women of color at Juilliard?

For me, coming to Juilliard and trying to find some semblance of self-care in the midst of this training schedule, especially as a person of color, creates a lot of weighty forces that cause you to take big pauses, and could impede your training overall. J-Tribe Flow Yoga is specifically for black women, women of color, and our allies – the motivation behind that is for us to see others like ourselves in a room, striving for the same level of greatness that we all desire in this building. I want others to take ownership of their own bodies, even if only for an hour. And there is something different that happens when you share the same breath with other people.

 

What happens when you share that breath?

I truly think we breathe for the first time when we’re together. I’m currently working on bringing my full self into a room and feel that when I’m in a room with women of color, with black women, and with our allies who I know are supporting us, there’s a release that happens. And that’s important.

 

For someone who has never done yoga before, what should they expect from J-Tribe Flow Yoga?

They should expect peace and tranquility. They should not feel like they need to be a flexible person, or someone who has done sports all their lives, or anything like that. They just need to be someone who wants to commit an hour to themselves. In my teacher training, they said that if you want to stay in a single pose for a whole hour, maybe a resting position like child’s pose, that is your practice. That is yoga. It’s not a flexibility contest, or a social contest. For me, it’s more of a deeper, spiritual experience. I say come with your heart open and breath flowing. And bring a yoga mat, towel, and water!

 

How many times do you plan to meet?

We hope to meet 9-10 times over the course of this semester, starting this Friday. We anticipate having two sessions per month, depending on holiday and break schedules. I want for us to bond, not just by doing physical activity together, but to also have us grow mentally and spiritually together. It’s my goal that we can have conversations about what it means to be a person of color, or an ally.

 

Is it going to open up to elements of self care and wellness beyond yoga?

Yes! I’m excited about our upcoming BE Series in March – BE Powerful, BE Grounded, and BE Restored. The BE Powerful series will involve more of the core element of yoga through power vinyasa flow, to teach us about inner will and how to tap into our core strength at any point. BE Grounded will focus on sustaining fundamental poses for 4-6 minutes at a time. In this series, the yogi principle of Dhristi breath will lead us through each pose as heat is built within the body. BE Restored will finish out the year with a restorative yoga flow to our favorite records.

I’m also planning on an Abundant Gratitude Brunch at the end of the year to celebrate, break bread, and be together outside of this building. We’ll have guest instructors as well – friends from the area, local yoga teachers who are women of color within New York, teachers from the Harlem area and Brooklyn, where there’s another organization specifically for women of color, and more. It’s important that we’re showing leaders of wellness who are outside of the societal norm.

 

When I attended your first yoga/wellness session last semester, there were a lot of instances where in the midst of poses, you were encouraging students with affirmations and power phrases. Where does that come from?

Part of my teacher training includes setting an intention from the class that is close to you, that you can share with your students and those who are working with you. It has to be specific to you, and something that you can all work on universally. I have this thing about light – my first song in church was “This Little Light of Mine!” – and I believe light is something we all have within us. A quote from Marianne Williamson that has always resonated with me, goes: “We are all meant to shine as children do. It’s not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”

I just want to hone and cultivate a world like that, where everyone is shining their own individual lights, that you can shine yours in whatever way you can. It should shine big, which is why I reiterate it – at a certain point in the poses of the flow, at the challenging points, you can shift your focus to a higher power or a higher light which will help to lead you forward. This is also an important part of your life flow – when you take focus away from the negativity and stresses of your life and instead focus on what you’re learning in this moment, even if you’re feeling uncomfortable, you can share that sentiment with someone else in your space. We’re all so talented here – we’re inspired by others, but don’t compare yourself to others. You have your own light.

 

What do you anticipate being the future of J-Tribe Flow Yoga?

Nedra Snipes of J-Tribe Flow Yoga

Right now, we’re scheduled up until the end of 2019. I’m looking for us to have a wellness retreat that will happen before the start of the new school year which will help us to become grounded and centered before we start back up at school. I love that J-Tribe is starting here at Juilliard, but I do want it to extend beyond these walls. This is our first way that we’re connecting and communicating with one another, but it should spread like a spider web in how many women we reach through this. I’m hoping that after this summer, the women of this school will know that they have a support system – they will feel like they belong and that they have people to reach for in their times of need. I’m hoping that this tribe will continue beyond Juilliard to performances on Broadway, movie sets, composing endeavors, musical performances, dancers in their first company overseas, and that even in high-stress situations, these women will know they can call on these people to love and support them.

 

Finally, where does the name “J-Tribe Flow Yoga” come from?

Of course, the J comes from Juilliard. Tribe is ancestral for me and my cultural history. A tribe is something that cannot be broken, it is made up of a vast majority of people who have their own individual role in the tribe, whose job or role cannot be compromised or taken. We’re all doing that here at Juilliard, right now – if we were to switch or fulfill another purpose in this world, it wouldn’t work. In order for us to work as a tribe, we need to work together. Yoga speaks for itself – I wanted to start with that. In J-Tribe Flow Yoga, we’ll always start with a physicalizing of release to let go of the armor we all carry every day to protect ourselves from the world. Even the act of getting on the subway to come to school requires a bit of armor. By letting go of our basic survival instincts, we become aware of our thoughts and breath, which connects us to our mindful wellness practice and develop a sense of flow. I’d like for our collective to flow through this wellness program, flow through our lives, flow through this world.

And flow through this program at Juilliard! I feel sometimes through this training that I’m driving a stick shift car, and I’d like it to be more of a seamless flow. Things are coming at me. I’m learning new things, letting go of habitual patterns, gaining a stronger sense of consciousness of my craft, and all of that can happen with a flow. It doesn’t have to be a violent undoing. If I had flow while going through this program, I think I would feel like I’m on my first day of kindergarten. I would be curious, knowing no difference between learning and failing, having no physical or mental response that would make me want to hide. I would let my light shine. All the time.

 

J-Tribe Flow Yoga will have their first official session on the morning of Wednesday, February 6th. Time and location TBD. Please RSVP to reserve a spot. 

If you’d like to sign-up to attend J-Tribe Flow Yoga’s first official yoga session, have questions, or would like to send in song requests, please email Nedra Snipes at nrs4@juilliard.com.

Versoi Ensemble: Cultural Diplomacy through Chamber Music

Formed in 2018 with select Juilliard students, Versoi Ensemble debuts on Tuesday, November 13th at the Kaufman Center’s Merkin Hall.

Formed in 2018, Versoi Ensemble debuts on Tuesday, November 13th at Merkin Hall at Kaufman Center (129 West 67th Street, between Broadway and Amsterdam).

Versoi Ensemble features musicians from Helsinki and New York, who previously collaborated in 2017 for the Juilliard Orchestra x Sibelius Academy tour in celebration of the Finnish Centennial.

PROGRAM:
SIBELIUS – Romance in C Major for String Orchestra, Op. 42
DVORAK – String Quintet No. 3 in E-flat Major, Op. 97
SALONEN – “Homunculus” for String Quartet
ELGAR – Introduction and Allegro for String Quartet and String Orchestra, Op. 47

Purchase tickets here: https://www.kaufmanmusiccenter.org/mch/event/versoi-ensemble-debut-concert/

Student tickets: $10 (limit 2 with ID)
General admission: $30

For more info, please visit www.versoiensemble.org

Photo credit: Antonia Stoyanovich

Matt Liu’s Big Blue Couch Concert!

Composition major Matt Liu is back for another Juilliard concert on Sunday, November 4th at 5 pm!

Just me, my voice, a piano, and a big blue couch – plus some friends to help me out! I’ve always LOVED sharing my stories and with this easy, breezy concert on an easy, breezy Sunday afternoon I’ll get to do just that. Join me for an (early) evening of my songs, anything from beloved Liu compositions to never-released treasures, to even sneak-peeks of my infant musicals (“Plush: A New Musical,” “Faun,” “Love That Happens,” “Two Boys on a Bus”). If you’re reading this – YOU ARE INVITED! Please feel free to join me and invite all you’d like. This is a family event! Doesn’t get any more “big blue couch” than that!

Big Blue Couch: The Songs and Stylings of Matt Liu
The Juilliard School, Room 309
Sunday, 11/4/18 at 5PM
Free admission

Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging: A Call for Gender-Inclusive Toilets

Lee Cyphers and Joseph Peterson tackle the problem of Juilliard’s lack of gender-inclusive bathrooms, and offer a call to action.

At this year’s Convocation, new Juilliard President Damian Woetzel spoke a lot about making the school more collaborative and inclusive. “We must be intentional and proactive in fostering a robust representation of experiences and perspectives within our community,” Woetzel said. “I believe deeply in Juilliard as a community where each of us ‘belongs,’ and that education cannot be its best without being fully inclusive.”

Well said, Mr. President.

Now let’s talk about toilets.

Everybody needs one, and it’s impossible to make it through the day without using one. At Juilliard, that usually means entering either a “male-only”or “female-only” space. While many people may not even think twice about where to go, choosing between and physically being in these spaces produces unnecessary anxiety and fear for some trans, non-binary, and/or gender nonconforming people.

There is another option: they can go to a secluded corner near the Kaufman Dance Studio on the second floor, behind double doors and far from where most classes and rehearsals take place, and use one of the two single stall restrooms available there. While these are technically inclusive restrooms, in practice they only serve to further alienate those who may already feel alone.

Bathrooms have often been a battleground for larger social struggles. For example, in the classical music world, a space traditionally dominated by men, it wasn’t too long ago when women either weren’t allowed or were just not hired to play in orchestras. Even after those first trailblazing women started winning orchestral jobs, many concert halls didn’t have adequate space for women’s restrooms and changing rooms. Inequality was literally built in to the workplace.

Trans (especially non-passing) and/or non-binary people today find themselves in a similar position – part of a marginalized group whose needs are only recently being considered in these spaces. The fact that Juilliard does not yet have gender-inclusive bathrooms sends a few implicit messages to any individual in the building whose gender identity or expression adds diversity to our community: “Your needs are not important,” “You are not welcome,” and, possibly worst of all, “There is not space for you to exist here.” Experiencing this type of indifferent denial of identity day in and day out is arguably a form of violence, and at the very least, is not conducive to a healthy learning environment.

As artists, we need to be able to take up space, grow, and explore different ways of being in the world. We need to feel safe enough to try new things, to be vulnerable. We need the freedom to be ourselves unapologetically in order to find our voice. We also need to listen to all sorts of people who are different from us. We need to soak up as much of humanity as we can in order to broaden our reach and relevance, and our understanding of the world. Our arts need diversity, and this includes trans voices.

To this effect, President Woetzel’s Convocation address rings true. We, as students, just need to hold him to it.

How do we do this?

We the Student Body must actively fight for better inclusivity at Juilliard, beginning with bathrooms. Two hidden single-stalls in the entire building is not enough. We need at least one gender-neutral option on every floor. Until then, we will be labeling every restroom in the school as all-inclusive, so all students can feel safe. If you want to help us on this mission, we will be holding a meeting to finalize the designs for the bathroom signs. We’ll meet on Wednesday, October 10 at 1pm, location TBD (stay tuned!) If you’d like to be involved but cannot make the meeting, send your sign ideas or write to lc4@juilliard.edu.

We all have a voice and we cannot be silenced.