Juilliard Returns to Aiken

Juilliard in Aiken is an early springtime festival (this year running from March 8 through 12) featuring public performances, chamber concerts, master classes, and outreach workshops at schools and community centers in and around Aiken, S.C. This festival’s true uniqueness and excitement is the community-building that occurs with the residents of Aiken, led by Juilliard student ensembles and faculty performances. The reflections below encapsulate how the Juilliard in Aiken experience enriches the lives of all involved.

Vocal Arts master’s student Meredith Lustig performed during the Aiken festival.

(Photo by Brent Cline (clinedsgn.com))


Francesca Anderegg, Doctoral Violin Student (Massachusetts) 

The week of Juilliard in Aiken was an intense and diverse experience. From Juilliard, there were 20 musicians: a piano trio, a jazz quintet, four singers, a collaborative pianist, the American Brass Quintet, two musicians from Juilliard’s Pre-College Division, and a piano duo. We performed approximately 16 events within five days in a town of 25,000. Throughout the week, the sense of community was paramount. The Juilliard artists and staff, as well as the Aiken audiences and the host families all came together as a community to produce a successful array of concerts and events. The residents of Aiken seemed excited with the intensity that only a new experience can bring.

Having the opportunity to work with different artists from Juilliard was a surprising asset to our own performances. As a piano trio, cellist Claire Bryant, pianist Liza Stepanova, and I played Primavera Portena by Astor Piazzolla. As we played the piece and taught the rhythms to different audiences, we began to understand the tango-influenced rhythms better. At one point, we sought advice from the jazz quintet about how to perform the rhythm. In the final concert, the piece came alive.

In each new concert and venue, we introduced ourselves and talked about our repertoire. I performed Handel-Halvorsen’s Passacaglia for violin and cello throughout the week, and each time, I mentioned to the audience that the piece was especially important to me because I had played it many times with my brother. When I said this to audiences, they became visibly more engaged. They listened more attentively to the performance itself and responded more enthusiastically. This experience emphasized for me that each new audience and each new performance is an opportunity to connect to listeners on a personal level.

Preeti Nath, Juilliard Intern Program, 2009-10 (Illinois)

My experience working Juilliard in Aiken will forever be one of my fondest memories. Going into this project I was unaware of the artistically rich culture I was going to be exposed to, as well as all the open loving hands ready to help make it all run smoothly. The people of Aiken were so generous and made us feel very welcome. It was a breath of fresh air to join with the Juilliard in Aiken team to help create a festival full of amazing artists doing what we all love. I made so many wonderful new friends and acquaintances in Aiken that I will cherish forever. It was such a great chance to meet and really get to know the artists and management team. This experience has helped me grow as a stage manager and learn new ways of coordinating and thinking on my feet. But most of all, what made the whole week possible was working with such an amazing team of managers. Juilliard in Aiken allowed me to be exposed to so many new qualities of managing and life in general that I have grown so much because of it.

Claire Bryant, Juilliard Cello Faculty Assistant (South Carolina)

Juilliard in Aiken was truly an incredible musical experience, and, on top of that such an amazing personal experience! This was the second year that I had the opportunity to attend, and it was wonderful to play so much fantastic repertoire for multiple communities. Our performance at the Brandon Wilde Senior Center with a Juilliard vocal quartet made a meaningful connection to a community where some members remain homebound. It was delightful to see a community invested in the arts and further soaking in musical experiences that were planted last year. The diverse performances in Aiken, especially working with the Aiken County Youth Orchestra and the “Twinklers” at Meade Hall, reaffirmed my passion for community impact and artistry.


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