Arash Noori

For the Office of International Advisement’s May edition of Eye-on-Culture, Arash Noori (www.arashnoorimusic.com/) was interviewed. A graduate student in the historical performance program, Arash is a lutist/guitarist born in Tehran, Iran, who is now a Canadian citizen. Read on to learn more about Arash’s love of Monteverdi, his experience with Juilliard415, and the steps he is taking to be more health-conscious.

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Arash Noori with guitar

You are an accomplished guitarist/lutist. What are some of your first memories of these instruments?

My older brother of 5 years had begun taking piano lessons, when I was about two and a half/three years old, and it was at his teacher’s house that I had my first conscious encounter with the guitar. We had gone by to drop off (or pick up…I don’t remember) my brother for a lesson and there was guitar just laying around this teacher’s studio…and I just couldn’t help but to go over for a closer look. It was like a magnet; I went on over picked it and started strumming away. Luckily no one yelled at me to stop…I wonder if I would have become a musician if they had!

You have won many international competitions, and have been described as “the compelling guitarist” by the New York Times. What do you believe makes your music compelling? Can you tell us your secrets?

Hah. Well, the New York Times quote (https://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/14/arts/music/review-cantanta-profana-revives-a-henze-cycle-inspired-by-german-poems.html) comes from a review of a performance of Hans Werner Henze’s Kammermusik, a work that I had been wanting to perform for years. It’s a difficult piece to put together; difficult for all instruments of the chamber orchestra, nearly an hour long, with a devilishly difficult tenor part…it’s almost impossible to manage to put together within the confines of the “chamber music program” of even the finest music schools. I finally had a chance to perform the work with some of my closest friends and favorite musicians, the Cantata Profana Ensemble (www.cantataprofana.com/) and the remarked tenor Tom Cooley (www.thomascooley.com). So how is this for a recipe for a successful performance: find a work that you feel strongly about (kind of work that makes your creative and performance impulses fire on all cylinders), add years of anticipation and ruminating until you finally get a chance to perform it, and surround yourself with dear friends and amazing musicians to do so…and I think the odds are that the resulting performance will be pretty darn “compelling.”

You have completed degrees at Yale, and the University of Toronto. Can you tell about your shift from these institutions to Juilliard? Have you noticed any differences? My training at Juilliard has been by far the most focused—accumulating a ton of professional-level performance experience with world-class directors. By the time we’re through with hours of rehearsals, coachings and performances, gosh, there isn’t much time for anything else. My undergraduate experience at University of Toronto was a reasonably well-rounded liberal arts education with a concentration on music; I was a classical guitarist at Yale which meant a lot of independent practice time and a chance to take in as much as one can on the very special and lively campus. The Historical Performance program at Juilliard has definitely been the most intense training I’ve received.

Can you tell us more about why you decided to pursue a graduate degree in historical performance? I simply fell in love with lutes and early guitars…I mean obsessive. As well as the music that goes along with the instruments; particularly the music of Claudio Monteverdi is very close to my heart. He’s my desert-island composer for sure. I just had to pursue further my training in the field given my love for the music and the instruments and the HP program at Juilliard is the gold standard.

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Arash Noori performing on lute.

 

I’ve seen photos of Juilliard415 online, and it seems like everyone has a lot of fun traveling! What are some of your best experiences being part of this group?

Gosh, at the risk of sounding corny, I will say that every project we do is special; this is a special ensemble and an incredibly special program. But I must say that the “Genius of Monteverdi” program that we did under the direction of William Christie in October of 2017 will be the one that I’ll carry with me with vivid memories for a long time. Everything about the project was seemingly tailor-made for me to have an experience of lifetime: I’ve already mentioned my love for the music of Claudio Monteverdi, the repertoire selection—mainly from the 8th book of madrigals “Madrigals of War and Love”—and working with one of my favorite musicians on the planet, William Christie…this was just a dream come true. And to top it all off, Maestro Christie didn’t conduct the project but rather led from harpsichord, playing basso continuo. And as a basso continuo player on lute-family instruments , I got to play along with him. Without getting too technical about the process, it’s analogous to being in a “band”; it’s that kind of improvisatory music making where you have to be very aware of each other—being reactive and supportive to one another as well as whomever you’re accompanying (in this case, our wonderful singers from the vocal arts program)…when you get it right and are playing with expressive and communicative musicians, there is nothing quite like it. It’s fun, spontaneous, creative and exciting and I still really can’t believe that I got to do it with one of the best, ever, William Christie…you know, we were in a “continuo band” together 🙂

What are some things that many people may not know about you?

That I was raised in Iran until the age of 12. My Iranian/Canadian background is no secret but even some of my close friends forget that I was raised in in Iran until I was almost a teenager. I’m not quite sure why; I suspect it’s because of the absence of an accent, or rather the presence of a strong Canadian accent which people detect more readily than a Persian accent…I sound like I was born and raised in Saskatoon and only left yesterday, so people forget that I went through all of elementary school in Iran. I used to think that the Canadian accent is myth; I didn’t hear much of a difference in the way that I and my American friends talked, but having discovered the field of Historical Performance entirely in the United States as a graduate student, and having encountered certain words for the first time with an American accent, when I go home and I hear a Canadian HP colleague say “viola da gamba,” I say to myself “oh boy…there is a Canadian accent… and it’s strong!”

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Performing and teaching primarily the music of the 17th and 18th century; sharing the joy of everything that I think is so incredibly special about this repertoire.

I have heard that you have some strong opinions in regards to probiotics, can you share more with us?

Well, let me start by saying that I love being an instrumentalist—and that I love practicing as much as I do—but one realizes sooner or later that it’s not necessarily the healthiest lifestyle. And I was getting to a point where I was beginning feel the negative the health effects of being an instrumentalist at a high level and I made a choice to start being more health-conscious. And the only way that I could do this was to actually treat the matter as a hobby, rather than some thing that I “should do.” Chores are not sustainable with me, so I tried to have fun with it. And it’s an easy thing to do with all the good material that is now available online, from accomplished, accredited experts who choose to share a wealth of information on blogs and podcasts etc.; it’s really incredible. So it’s not that I’m following health “fads”; the people that I that I read and listen to are noted, published experts. It’s become very much so fun; I like keeping an eye out for information, “super foods” and recipes. Recently I’ve become interested in probiotics—simply put, beneficial bacteria that you carry in your gut that can help regulate and strengthen the immune system along with many other health benefits— and realizing that fermented foods are the best source of getting more of these probiotics inside you, I bought a fermentation kit and started making my own sauerkraut! I haven’t been brave enough to attempt kimchi yet but I’ll get there. It’s taken me a while to get any good at making sauerkraut itself; the first couple of batches were, well, not good! In any case, sauerkraut the side I’ve become so fond of this new passion/hobby and I genuinely enjoy doing it; it’s a nice break away from the profession of playing and practicing and it’s an enjoyable way of remedying some of the negative health effects of being a professional musician.

 

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Katarzyna Kluczykowska

For the August edition of Eye on Culture, the Office of International Advisement interviewed Katarzyna Kluczykowska, a second year graduate student in Juilliard’s Historical Performance program. Born in Krakow, Poland, and raised in Warsaw, Katarzyna studied music in Poland and Germany before receiving a Fulbright Scholarship (https://foreign.fulbrightonline.org/) to continue studying the harpsichord at Juilliard.  Read on to learn more about Katarzyna’s experience as an early music musician, world traveler, and Juilliard student.

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You began studying piano at six years old. When did you begin to play the harpsichord and what made you decide to focus on the harpsichord rather than the piano?

I began to play the harpsichord when I was 19 years old. I decided to focus on the harpsichord because I simply fell in love in its sound and its touch and also it opened up a new world of the early music repertoire for me. I was totally amazed and enchanted by its charm.

For those readers less familiar with the Historical Performance program, can you explain how it compares to programs focused on contemporary classical music?

The Historical Performance program focuses on the early music repertoire, mainly on the 17th and 18th century. It is very intense and extremely fascinating- we have the opportunity to participate in very interesting projects with the biggest experts in the early music world, for instance Masaaki Suzuki, Jordi Savall or William Christie, just to name a few. We play a lot of chamber music, much more than solo repertoire. Nevertheless, as a harpsichordist I have the opportunity and pleasure to work with three great teachers- Peter Sykes, Béatrice Martin and Richard Egarr. It is a big honor to have lessons with such amazing musicians who have very strong opinions about historical performance practice. We also have many symposiums with both performing musicians and musicologists which are inspiring and helpful. Not to mention history of 17th and 18th century music lessons which give us a lot of important information, but also serve as a platform for us to share questions and doubts.  All of HP students learn how to deal with basso continuo practice which is essential for baroque chamber music. We play on copies of periodic instruments what enables us to sound lighter and livelier and more authentic.

Do you feel there are any misconceptions about early music? If so, please describe.13528060_934978609944143_8936552780574506240_o

I think for some people the early music might be hard to interpret. Most of the time the pieces have no dynamic markings, they are filled with a lot of ornaments, and this is only the beginning of all troubles. Obviously we do not have recordings of musicians from that era so unfortunately we can’t hear how they played then, how they sounded. We can copy their instruments, but it is hard to copy their performance practice. But with help of numerous sources, we can try to imagine how they worked and how they understood their music. I think that nowadays there is more and more musicians interested in the whole context of music-making, not only from renaissance and baroque, but also from classic and romantic period. It is important not to just look at the score and play all the notes, but try to understand deeper layers of the piece and the cultural and historical influences. What I like about playing early music is that sometimes we can perform totally forgotten pieces which beauty and style can transport us a view centuries back.

Even though your studies at Juilliard are focused on early music, you have said that you are also “fascinated” by contemporary music. Can you elaborate?

14114929_978404512268219_8650807268655422190_oI started to play harpsichord mainly because I truly love this instrument. After my huge obsession for early music there came a time for the contemporary music. It was my need to discover and play the whole repertoire written for harpsichord in its entirety– contemporary music is very varied and colorful and gives one opportunity to learn contemporary musical language. Musicians in the baroque era only played contemporary music, they didn’t perform early music. To understand their attitude I consider playing pieces written today as a must. We always dream to have the chance to ask composers who died a long time ago about their pieces and style. But very often we miss the opportunity to work with living composers which can be a huge adventure. There are around 10,000 pieces written for harpsichord in the 20th and 21st century. I don’t see any reason why we should not play them and focus only on the early repertoire. We can support with all our heart the forgotten music and give its justified place, but still participate in creating new pieces. When I was studying in Hamburg, Germany I organized a concert and workshops focused on modern harpsichord music. It was truly an amazing experience for me. We had the chance to work with our colleague composers and meet Gośka Isphording who is a prominent modern harpsichordist.

You are at Juilliard on a Fulbright scholarship. What is Fulbright and can you tell our readers about the application process for this prestigious scholarship?fb_img_1475965948962.jpg

The Fulbright Program is a scholarship program of grants for international exchange between Americans and the citizens of other countries. The main goal of it is to increase a mutual understanding between them. It focuses on the educational exchange, but through it the cultural and social exchange is possible as well. The application process takes some time- first one has to do some paperwork and send needed documents, the second step is an interview with the Fulbright commission. Once ready all the documents are sent to Washington DC where the final decision is made.

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What is your favorite aspect of being a Juilliard student? What is the most challenging?

Being a Juilliard student is like participating in a special mission. It is very intense and demanding, but also very adventurous and rewarding. People studying and working here are fascinating and the kind of energy one experiences here is very specific. Juilliard is like New York – diverse, charismatic, but not always easy to be in.

 

Juilliard students are very busy. What do you like to do or where do you like to go to relax and de-stress?

I love discovering New York every free moment I’m given. I take long walks simply wandering around. I like to observe people and birds in Central Park. I go to Polish restaurants in Brooklyn. I write songs. And I try spend as much time as I can with my beloved boyfriend.

You recently went on a tour in India with Juilliard415 (https://www.juilliard.edu/music/historical-performance/performance-opportunities). Can you describe your experience? What were your impressions of India?

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The tour in India was a very interesting experience for me. I always dreamed about going there so I couldn’t believe my luck. We visited Delhi, Mumbai, Agra and Chennai- cities very different from each other which gave us a wider picture of this country.  It is colorful and rich in tradition and monuments. We had the chance to see a world miracle – Taj Mahal which is breathtaking and hard to describe with words. Indian people are very open and warm – we had the opportunity to participate in “Holi” which is a spring festival also called “festival of colors” where people smear each other with colours and celebrate on the streets.  The moments I enjoyed the most was our short cooperation with the Songbound children choir (https://www.songbound.com/) and our concerts which were very warmly welcomed. I also have to admit that Reena Esmail’s (http://www.reenaesmail.com/) piece “This Love Between Us” which was a newly commissioned piece performed during that tour, will stay in my ears forever.

You were born and raised in Poland, studied music in Hamburg, Germany and New York City, and recently toured in India. Have you had the chance to travel to any other countries for professional or personal reasons? If so, do you have a favorite destination? IMG_2032

When I was younger I used to travel with my family during summer vacation, mainly to Italy and France. I adored all the little cities full of sun and cicadas, the landscape with olive trees and vineyards. My favourite were two islands – French Corsica and Italian Sicily, the cultural mix and temperament of the native people there intrigued me a lot.  My family and I spent also some time in Austria and the Czech Republic.

Can you tell our readers a little bit about your home city of Krakow, Poland?

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I was born in Krakow, but my parents and I moved to Warsaw shortly after my birth. So my heart belongs to Warsaw more although Krakow is a very important place for me too.  It is a cozy city with an amazing Old Town, many nice cafes and bars, little cinemas and theaters. It was formally the capital of Poland so there is a beautiful royal castle called Wawel. As a young girl I was very much influenced of Krakow’s legends. Warsaw was totally destroyed by the Germans during World War II, its reconstruction was almost a miracle. Warsaw has a very charming Old Town, but its more modern places are very nice too. My favourite spot is Lazienki Park – a royal, big park where I spent many sunny afternoons of my childhood. I love my district too – Stary Mokotow which is very calm, green and picturesque. Near the place I live there is a little cinema “Iluzjon” where I saw my first movie-  “The Lion King”.

Do you feel there are significant cultural differences between Polish and American culture? In your opinion, what are some of these differences? What are some of the similarities?

Both Polish and American people are very warm and spontaneous. We are also both courageous and ready to defend our opinions. The only difference I noticed is that Polish people are much more openly critical towards themselves and others than Americans. We usually don’t hide our emotions, no matter if they are positive or negative, which makes us very easy to understand.

Other than family and friends, what do you miss most about Poland?

I have the ability to visit places I love mentally, so I don’t miss Poland because I spend there a lot of my “inner” time there. I’m under the impression that I never really left it and it is always with me. There is some poetic charm about Poland that is much more spiritual then physical.

Where do you see yourself this time next year after you graduate from Juilliard?

It think I will be in Poland attending doctoral studies, developing my performing skills and travelling around the world looking for inspiration and people to make music with.

Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?

I would like to express my gratitude to all the people who helped me throughout my education – my family, my boyfriend, my friends, my dear teachers. Without them I would never achieve my goals and probably would never have the chance to study at Juilliard. I would like to thank also the Fulbright Program – it is a big honor for me to be a Fulbright Scholar and I will never forget their support. And finally I would like to express my gratitude to Bruce and Suzie Kovner who sponsor Historical Performance studies at Juilliard. I would like also to highly recommend to everyone who is eager to gain more knowledge and skill in early music performance to join the Historical Performance program, which is very unique and valuable.

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Fiona Last

For May 2016’s Eye on Culture, the Office of International Advisement interviewed Fiona Last, a first year oboist in the Historical Performance program (http://www.juilliard.edu/degrees-programs/music/historical-performance) and OIA work-study student. Originally from Dibden Purlieu, a village outside of Southampton, England, Fiona earned a degree in Arabic and Ethnomusicology from the School of Oriental and African Studies (https://www.soas.ac.uk/) in London.  During her undergraduate studies, Fiona studied abroad at the University of Damascus in Syria for a year.

Fiona has been studying music in the United States since 2009; first at the Boyer College of Music and Dance at Temple University (https://www.temple.edu/boyer/), followed by the Yale School of Music (http://music.yale.edu/), and now at The Juilliard School.

Fiona Last HeadshotEye on Culture has not featured a Historical Performance student before.  Can you tell our readers a bit about the HP program at Juilliard?  How would you say it differs from other programs?

I imagine one of the main differences between the HP program and others at Juilliard is that we function as one studio despite comprising many different instruments, and we are all graduate students. There are only 24 of us, and so we form a sense of ensemble very quickly. We still have to pass or take the Juilliard history, theory, and ear training prerequisites, but we also have our own history classes and a symposium with guest lecturers, as well as a continuo class (where the non-keyboard instruments learn to realize figured bass). We have incredibly high-level guest conductors such as Masaaki Suzuki and Jordi Savall leading each concert, and we play music and instruments from various time periods – for example, this semester I played concerts on alto shawm, baroque oboe, and classical oboe in the space of two months. It’s a very intense and immersive program, but it’s great preparation for what (hopefully!) awaits us outside of Juilliard.

What are the benefits and challenges to playing a baroque oboe compared to a modern oboe?

I think the answer is the same for the challenges as it is for the benefits – you are playing a much more fundamental instrument. Baroque and modern oboe aren’t separate beasts – they’re just at different stages in their evolution. Unfortunately a lot of discussions about historical performance or historical instruments involve questions of superiority, and I don’t think that should have anything to do with it. We’re all trying to mine as much as possible from the music we play, however we choose to do that.  I still love playing and listening to the modern oboe, and far from it being the choice between the two that some people imagine, learning the baroque oboe actually made me a much better modern oboe player, because you have to focus so much on the fundamentals. There’s no automation to the instrument, so your air and the evenness of your fingers are all you have. It’s extremely different from playing the modern oboe where if your set up is functioning well, a nice even scale comes out over multiple octaves, no questions asked. That’s the starting point for your practice and music making. On baroque oboe though, the starting line is a few steps back from that. Nothing is in tune without work, high notes don’t speak without work – obviously you get to the point where these things are second nature and the instrument feels as natural as the modern version, but an awareness of that scarier bottom line is always there, and that’s definitely the challenge! But, there are great musical benefits. You can shade the intonation of notes based on any given harmony, the reed accepts articulation in much more varied ways, the incredible amount of air needed can give amazing color palette. It’s a really tough instrument but it can teach you so much about the music you’re playing, and bring a special kind of life to it.

When did you begin playing music? Have you always played the oboe or did you start studying a different instrument? If so, what made you change?

I changed schools when I was 7, and my new school offered a year of free lessons on the violin, the piano, or the flute, and I chose violin. When the year was up I decided I wanted to play something more unusual, and I walked past a room where a girl (I still remember her name was Melanie Clegg) was practicing the oboe. My parents tried very hard to convince me that what I’d seen was in fact a clarinet but I was determined!

Performing at Yale's Center for British Art in New Haven, Connecticut

You are currently a work study student in the Office of International Advisement and will continue to be for part of the summer. What do you like most about working in OIA? What is your least favorite (you can be honest)?

We share a space with the Office of Community Engagement and the Dean of Student Affairs, and it’s a very fun and collegial environment. This isn’t really a tough downside to have but Cory’s unending stash of candy is very dangerous…

When you are not playing music or working one of your many on-campus jobs, what do you like to do for fun?Halloween concert

I’ve actually been feeling really bad about my lack of answer to questions like that! I enjoy walking, cooking (and eating), and I used to do a lot of Bikram yoga…I really should find a hobby! I would like to spend more time outdoors, and rediscover reading, which I used to do voraciously but don’t seem to any more. Check back with me when I’m out of school!

Do you have a hidden talent or a cool party trick? If so, what is it?

I can’t think of anything! I can do an impression of the lady squirrel from the movie The Sword in the Stone…the party would have to be going pretty slowly for that to be needed.

What is you biggest pet peeve?

People saying “I could care less…” – that really bugs me! The point is the double negative….that you in fact couldn’t care less! Pretty much anything grammatical, I’m a big language nerd. It makes me very popular…

This series is called Eye on Culture, so let’s talk about the culture in which you were raised. How would you describe your hometown and its culture?

I grew up in a village called Dibden Purlieu (I usually just tell people I’m from London, where I used to live, or Southampton, which is the nearest city, to save American giggles at the name). It’s on the south coast of the UK and on the edge of a big national park called the New Forest. It wasn’t quite as idyllic-country-village as some of the places actually in the forest and I’m not sure I can identify any major cultural traits but as somewhere to grow up it was pretty well placed between city and country.

Before coming to the U.S., you earned a degree from the School of African and Oriental Studies which included year abroad in Syria.  Can you tell us a little about the school and your experience in the Middle East?

My first degree was a BA in Arabic and Ethnomusicology at the School of African and Oriental Studies in London. It’s a really small Syria -- Aphameastudent population, and the school is on the corner of Russell Square in London, where the British Museum is. As the name suggests, it’s a pretty niche institution, and one I’m really glad I went to at a formative age because it’s so diverse. The university system in the UK is a little different, you mainly take classes for the whole year instead of by the semester, and you only take maybe three or four, all specific to your degree. My core curriculum was intensive Arabic language classes but I also got to study classical Arabic literature, and I took a year of Mandarin Chinese in addition to core studies in ethnomusicology. We were also required to spend a year abroad – mine was in Syria studying at the University of Damascus, where we wrote our dissertations in Arabic (mine was on music in Sufism and how that fits into the larger body of Islamic thinking on music).

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As you know, the situation in Syria is dire.  By studying abroad in Syria, the conflict hits closer to home than for the average Westerner.  What are your thoughts?

It’s a little strange talking about Syria now, especially to say what a great year I had. I also would never want to sound like I was trying to insert myself into the drama of that situation in any way. It sounds ridiculous to say, given what is currently happening, but when I was there, there was a sense of cautious optimism. It still wasn’t what you would call an open political climate, but people were I think quietly hopeful that Bashar al-Assad would prove a better leader than his father, Hafez had been.

For us as students it was wonderful. Damascus seemed an open and religiously tolerant city, and it has such an incredible and rich history, the layers of which were openly visible. Syria has (tragically now had, in most cases) mosques, cities, and archaeological monuments and ruins to rival any other Middle Eastern country, but for various reasons it was only just beginning to be on the tourist trail. That meant you had full access to these sites for next to nothing, and with barely anyone there compared to somewhere like Giza or Petra. Cheap buses meant so many travel opportunities; we could spend weekends in Latakia, Aleppo, Beirut, or take trips to Jordan and Egypt.  I spent a week in an 11th-century monastery that is built into the mountains outside Damascus, and where anyone can stay if they help with the daily chores – you can show up and leave when you wish. Syrian people are so incredibly hospitable, and the food is amazing. Oh, and it snows in the winter, a lot! I hope none of that sounds reductive – it’s hard to capture the nuances of a country like that without sounding like you’re trying to make political or cultural statements, which I’m anxious not to try and do in this forum!

You have been living in the US for a while now. What do you miss most about the UK? Is there anything you don’t miss?

What I miss most is definitely my family. My brother and I were very lucky in that our parents travelled a lot with us, and we were raised to want to do interesting things in different places – between us we’ve lived in Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Tanzania and Uganda (and the US of course), and my brother currently studies in Sweden and is about to go to Ghana for six months. None of us would have it any other way, but of course it is hard being so far away from family sometimes. That said, it does keep things fresh and I’m always glad and excited to go home! I don’t know that I want to single out anything I don’t miss, but I will say there is a sense of space and breathing room in this country that I didn’t feel so much in the UK.

When you first came to the US to study, what part of US culture most surprised you? What took you awhile to get used to? Is there anything that you still struggle with?

What’s interesting about US culture is that even being from a country with its own sizeable [English-language] film and television output, I still knew pretty much what to expect here from what I’d seen in movies and on TV. Because for me there were no massive language or cultural shifts, things that seemed stranger were the little details – street signs or license plates for instance. Everything is essentially the same but just a little bit different – and what’s funny is that that now works in reverse when I go home. Also size – US cities are big in a way that UK cities aren’t. I first lived in Philadelphia, the center city of which isn’t huge compared to NYC or Chicago, but everything is still so much higher and wider. I also wasn’t aware until I got here quite how much politics is tied up with religion, culture, and intellectualism in a way that it just isn’t at home.

And I still struggle with the fact that you guys don’t understand the appeal of Marmite.

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What do you think you want to do after you graduate? Do you have a “dream job” in mind?

This is the fourth degree I will have graduated from, and the first one I won’t be following immediately with more school! My hope is to set myself up for an interesting and productive OPT year freelancing, during which I can spend some serious time thinking about what I derive motivation and enjoyment from, what my long-term priorities are, and how I can turn those into something approaching the “dream job.” A teacher at Yale used to talk about a ‘portfolio career,’ which is an idea that really appeals to me. I have degrees in Arabic, modern oboe and Historical Performance, I’ve studied I think 8 languages to varying levels, and I really enjoy writing and editing – somewhere in there is a really fulfilling career! I just need a little space to find it.

Marion Ravot

For November 2015’s Eye on Culture, the Office of International Advisement interviewed Marion Ravot, a first year Artist Diploma student and graduate of Juilliard’s Master of Music program. In her interview, Marion discusses her French culture and experiences as a harpist.

What made you decide to begin playing the harp? Did you play any other instruments first?scene-harpist
I used to play piano. I didn’t choose this instrument, we just had one at home. But that definitely wasn’t my instrument. When I was 11, I asked my parents to stop piano and start the harp. I had never seen or heard one before. I think it is its mystical nature that attracted me.

You studied at the Conservatoire de Paris (http://www.conservatoiredeparis.fr/) before coming to Juilliard. In your opinion, is the style of teaching different between conservatories in France and in the U.S?
In Paris the focus is mainly on solo playing. We don’t have that many classes outside of our lessons. Doing my undergrad at Paris with Ms. Moretti and Ms. Letang really taught me how to play the harp and the tradition. When I came to Juilliard for my Masters I was ready to make the most of the different classes. Studying with Ms. Allen was also the perfect continuation of what I had learned in Paris, really focused on figuring out what I wanted to do. We also worked a lot on performance and confidence.

You d2015_03_08_Marion_BHX_IMG_1763_LRid your undergraduate degree in France, and then a master’s degree at Juilliard. You are now in the artist diploma program. What are the main differences between being a Master’s student and an AD student studying harp at Juilliard?
The Artist Diploma is mainly focused on performance. We are not required to take any classes. We get support from Juilliard with our career, meetings with a great manager and a publicist. Juilliard is helping with artist projects.

Of the different performances you have done, which was your favorite and why?
There are two performances that left a great impression on me: playing with the Paris Opera Orchestra and playing the Gliere Concerto with the National Repertory Orchestra (http://www.nromusic.com/). I played Wagner’s Götterdämmerung with the Paris Opera. It was a really intense experience as we played eight shows, each show starting at 6pm and ending at midnight. We also recorded it for the CD ”Der Ring des Nibelungen”. The Glière Concerto was amazing as it was my first time playing a concerto with a (young) professional orchestra, and this concerto is so beautiful, romantic and fun to play.

I have to ask, what is it like moving a harp around the city for performances? Do you take it on the subway?
I think that is the question I get asked the most. It is horrible the first few times but you get used to it. I definitely don’t take it on the subway, that would be a nightmare. I use a car service.10172761_10152155154638121_5174632941164870371_n

If you were not a musician, what do you think you would pursue as a career? After high school I actually applied for both Music school and medical school (in France it starts right after high school). So on my first day of the academic year I had to make a decision of which one to go to. For now I don’t regret it at all but I would have also loved to be a doctor.

IMG_5287When you are not practicing or performing, what do you like to do for fun? What do you like to do to relax?
I like to read, cook, hike, hunt for the best NY wine bar.

You are from Paris, correct? In your opinion, what are the most prominent similarities and differences between Paris and New York?
I think the main similarity is the energy. Both Parisians and New Yorkers are quick people, always busy and running around. But definitely the architecture is different. And French people love to eat. Meals are sacred. They wouldn’t eat “on the go” like New Yorkers do, and take away food is not that popular there.

What part of your French culture do you like to share most with your classmates?
I am not really sure…I would say love for food? I love to have people over for a nice dinner. But even that is not really French as I am vegan (so no cheese, butter and charcuterie…)

What part of U.S. culture did/do you find the most confusing or difficult?
There is nothing really. New York is so multi-cultural, with people from all over the world, and it felt like home only a couple of days after I moved here.