Arkansan Barrett Hipes recently celebrated his seventh year at Juilliard and his third in Career Services, where he provides career consulting for students and alums, manages off-campus concerts and performances, does public speaking and job-prep coaching, and oversees and promotes the private teacher directory along with numerous other chores. A percussionist, he got his bachelor’s from the University of Arkansas, his master’s from Rutgers, and is working on his D.M.A. at CUNY.
How did you end up with your Juilliard job?
After finishing my master’s at Rutgers, I got a full-time job managing a residence hall at St. John’s University in Queens, where I was also an adjunct associate professor of fine arts. It was a tough job, overseeing a crowded building with more than 600 freshmen, but I enjoyed it. After a year there, a similar residence life position opened at Juilliard and because of my background in music, it seemed like a more natural fit. I was in that position for a little over four years before shifting over to Career Services.
What’s the craziest day at work you’ve had?
There are a lot of “crazy” days, usually involving complicated performances or projects overlapping, but usually nothing too wild (we have a great team in this office). However, I did have a crazy six weeks back in 2010. I was assigned to be the on-site administrator for a youth summer performing arts camp serving students of the metro-D.C. area. The camp was in the middle of nowhere in rural Maryland at a very bare-bones site. I had the privilege of supervising 14 Juilliard students and alums who served as teaching artists at the camp. It was the first time the School had done something exactly like this, so we started from scratch to build a curriculum, create a schedule, brainstorm activities, etc. We usually didn’t have A/C, I did a lot of the cooking, the camp’s pool was closed, it was 1,000 degrees, we had very few days off; the experience was interesting, to say the least. When all was said and done, I think the entire team had a great experience.
What job at Juilliard would you like to try out for a day and why?
Could I be a student? I’m always astounded by the incredible teachers, conductors, and guest artists that our students get to work with. If not, I would want to do something really interactive, like conduct the orchestra, choreograph something, or direct a play. At least two of those would likely end in disaster. I also think Dean [Ara] Guzelimian’s job would be a great one to experience. I would enjoy the combination of working closely with students and faculty each day, while also getting to look at big-picture issues and long-term academic planning.
What is the most memorable job you’ve ever had?
I worked in a fireworks stand one summer to support our high school band. We were basically selling cheap explosives out of a plywood trailer in 90-degree heat. I’m lucky I didn’t blow up. Funny how I never really thought about that at the time.
If out of the blue you could take the day off, what would you do?
I have a hard time wrapping my head around that concept! I’m not very good with free time. If I could keep myself from sleeping too much, I would probably try to spend the day running around town and hanging out with friends, eating a lot, and seeing a lot more of the city than I get to on a daily basis.
What was the best vacation you’ve had and what made it so special?
I have been going on the same vacation every summer since I was born, to a lake in north-central Arkansas. I love being there and spending time with family and friends. Nothing fancy, just floating. There are a lot of places I would still love to visit: Paris, Barcelona, Ghana, Peru, and more.
What advice do you have for incoming students?
I would first say to relax. Get your bearings and try to go with the flow. Juilliard will give you plenty of opportunities to shine and be successful, so don’t panic. Second would be to get to know everyone. The people that surround you during your time here will become some of your most important colleagues and supporters for the rest of your career. (Bonus: Don’t forget that you are in N.Y.C. Get out and enjoy it once in a while!)
What might people be surprised to know about you?
I knew almost nothing about Juilliard growing up. I had probably heard the name on movies and TV, but I didn’t really know what it was. I lived about 15 minutes from the University of Arkansas campus, so that’s pretty much the only school I wanted to attend. I learned about Juilliard when I was in college. I remember thinking that it would probably be an interesting place to work.
What are you reading?
The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance by Steven Kotler, which is about athletes involved with “extreme” sports. There are some great psychological parallels between how they achieve their insane feats and the ways musicians achieve a similar state of “flow” in performance.
How do you balance your job and your artistic endeavors?
I used to perform a lot, but I’m currently writing my dissertation in addition to working full-time, so I don’t play much anymore. I’m sure once the dissertation is out of the way I’ll get back into it. I also teach a course at St. John’s University called The Creative Process, so that keeps me thinking about art and music.
What other pursuits are you passionate about?
I’m passionate about teaching, for sure. I feel energized when standing in front of a classroom or auditorium full of students and engaging them in active discussion. Also, though I don’t think I could endure the process of running for office, I am pretty passionate about politics. I probably rant about it to friends on Facebook more than I should. When I was in the sixth grade, I was positive that I was going to run for president someday. I guess I still have a couple of years to decide.
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