On Being a Tour Guide

Second-year composer Zachary Green leads a Juilliard tour group. (Photo by Juilliard Journal)

 (Photo by Juilliard Journal)

Each year at least 5,000 people file through the halls of Juilliard learning about the School’s programs, the classes, the dorm, the performances. Most are potential students and their families, but many are also just interested bystanders—tourists, arts-lovers, passers-by. The tours are given by a rotating team of 25 students who study a script and shadow tours as training before going out on their own. In the spirit of admissions season, The Journal got the lowdown from two of this year’s tour guides, second-year composer Zachary Green and fourth-year violist Marie Daniels.


 Zachary Green
Most embarrassing tour
I gave a tour to a prospective euphonium major and told her I didn’t know any euphonium majors myself, but I answered all her questions as best I could, even instructing her on how to set up a sample lesson. I brought her back up to the Admissions Office at the conclusion of the tour so that she could ask more questions—and found out there is no euphonium program at Juilliard.

Most memorable tour
One day the only people who showed up were a 9-year-old and her aunt. They had no immediate interest in applying—they just thought taking a tour of Juilliard would be a fun way to spend an afternoon. Needless to say it was a tour that challenged me to present the information from a different angle. They ended up asking a lot of questions about how a composer makes a living, what the current trends are in composition, and how a dancer might make it in the world. I enjoyed myself so much that we all lost track of time, and I ended up spending nearly two hours with them on what would have ordinarily been a one-hour tour.

 The most challenging part of giving tours
Staying within a reasonable timeframe (an hour and 15 minutes). It’s a challenge to try and judge what the visitors would be most interested to hear and limit myself to providing the essentials, but, like everything, it gets better with practice.

Another most memorable tour
My first one. I was nervous enough to begin with, and then, not long after we’d started, the fire alarm went off, and I had to lead my tour group down the stairs and wait outside for around 15 minutes. It was a blessing in disguise, though. Having to immediately do something for which none of us had been trained somehow loosened me up and made me feel more in-the-moment for the rest of the tour. And at the end of it, the tour group thanked me and applauded. I felt like I’d accomplished some sort of civic duty—and I still get that feeling every time I give a tour. 

Marie Daniels 
Most embarrassing tour
I had a diverse group of prospective students and was answering many questions about each of the divisions. Then one young man asked, “How many do you accept each year in boys?” Taken aback, I replied, “I’m sorry, what was your question?” He repeated it, I heard it the same way, so I said, “Oh, well, it’s about 50 percent.” “No, no,” he said. “How many do you accept each year in voice?” Me: “Ohhh.”

Why I love giving tours
One reason is also what makes giving them  difficult: not all tours are created equal. Sometimes the group is very quiet and they seem actually not interested in what you have to say. In these instances, it’s very difficult to keep the energy alive. I’m always excited to tell people all the wonderful things about our school, and so when I do have a group that’s really excited to be at Juilliard, it’s a very fun environment. Giving tours is rewarding because you have the opportunity to inspire and encourage prospective students from all over the world. I also find that it’s a kind of self-therapy, reminding myself weekly of all the wonderful things that Juilliard has to offer. It’s like a “freshening-up” each week, when I get to walk through the halls with a group of people who are seeing everything for the first time. Their energy rubs off on me and, as I rattle off all the facts and details, I get a little excited, too. Yeah, this school is pretty amazing!

Interested in taking a Juilliard tour? Click here

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