Ruaridh Pattison

Our first Jazz Studies student to be interviewed is Ruaridh Pattison, a 2nd year graduate student from the United Kingdom.  His interview with the Office of International Advisement reflects both his love of jazz as well as his great sense of humor.

How were you first introduced to jazz music? What specifically attracted you to jazz?
I think the story goes that I saw a saxophonist on Blue Peter (a British kid’s TV show) and got kind of obsessed with it from that point onward. My aunt was a saxophonist and a clarinettist and she gave me her alto because she had stopped playing. I should also mention that my great-grandfather played alto saxophone and clarinet in dance bands in the North-East of Scotland and I recently acquired his alto saxophone. It’s a beauty from 1926. You could almost say saxophone runs in the family but my aunt and great-grandfather are from different sides.
I think jazz and the saxophone go hand in hand (sorry classical saxophonists). I first came across jazz and the concept of improvisation when I played in the local big band. After that I was heavily drawn to the freedom of expression that jazz offers. Michael Brecker (like many a saxophonist) was my first hero. 

Jazz originated in the U.S. Is jazz popular in your country?
I wouldn’t say jazz is popular but there’s definitely a scene. Last week I was reading an article in The Scotsman (Scottish newspaper) about some recently unearthed recordings from the forgotten Black Bull Jazz Club in Milngavie from the 70’s and early 80’s. The article states that American jazz musicians who were on tour in the UK loved finishing up in Scotland because the audiences were ‘less reticent’ than in England. They enjoyed playing music with the Scots because the musicians apparently had a strong rhythmic vocabulary from playing in Scottish dance bands. A strathspey is a popular traditional dance back home and the accompanying music often is phrased in a manner similar to the swing feel of jazz! You could very, very tenuously say that ‘swinging’ is in my blood. 

pic5You are a master’s student at Juilliard–where did you do your undergraduate degree? In what ways was that experience different from your grad degree at Juilliard?
I did my undergraduate degree at The Guildhall School ( in London. I have many, many dear friends that I met whilst studying there and I would have to say the main difference is that there isn’t a pub that everyone goes to after (sometimes between) classes. There was even a fully operating bar on campus. Imagine. 

What was your reaction when you found out you were admitted to Juilliard?
I remember very vividly! I was in a pub (a different pub) with some close friends and when I read the email we all started cheering and jumping around and being generally celebratory. I bought everyone a round a drinks and then we went for burgers (poetic).

Tell us about the city where you grew up? Have you lived anywhere else prior to moving to New York City?
I was born and initially raised in Kirkcaldy which is a typical Scottish town, not very exciting and a bit dreary. When I was eight years old my family and I moved to rural Australia for a year and half which was a completely different experience. We returned to Balado which is a tiny hamlet in the middle of the Kinross-shire countryside. There wasn’t much to do apart from practice which, upon reflection, explains a lot. 

When you are not in class or practicing, what do you like to do in 11402723_10155700027810305_6393440783356443669_oNew York?
Seeing live music (of all sorts), drinking, cooking and eating. I live in Greenpoint in Brooklyn, quite close to the East River. There’s a lovely little park with a stunning view of Manhattan and I go there to read quite frequently. It’s very relaxing.

To what part of Juilliard culture was the hardest to adapt.
Everyone is really good and amazingly dedicated to what they do. I had to reassess how serious I was and I realised how badly I want to succeed. I upped my game pretty quick. 

What about US culture?
That people are actually seriously entertaining the idea of Donald Trump being president.

What part of your culture do you most like to share with your American classmates?
Unabashed swearing and an extensive knowledge of Scotch.

You have a first name that is not common in the U.S. Where does it come from? Does it have a specific significance (cultural, linguistically, familial)? How would you write it phonetically?

It’s a traditional Gaelic name. I wish I could speak Gaelic. Maybe in the future I’ll move to the north of Scotland and learn it properly. It means red-haired king although I, unlike many Scots, don’t have red hair, and I am the king of nowhere. So not only is it inappropriate, it’s a nightmare to spell to people. Thanks Mum and Dad. I often say you should pronounce it like brewery without the b. 

This is our first Eye on Culture for the 2015-2016 academic year. What advice do you have for new international students starting at Juilliard this fall?
Don’t forget why you fell in love with music (or dance and drama) in the first place, the best pizza near school is at Little Italy at 2047 Broadway and the best coffee is at Boxkite on 72nd between Broadway and Columbus.


Hannes Otto

I was thrilled to feature Hannes in our very first interview. As a third year actor in Juilliard’s Drama Division, Hannes graces these questions with his unmistakable charm, wit, and unique personal story.

Hannes 3Tell us about your hometown.
I was born in Pretoria, the Capital of South Africa, although I culturally consider myself from Cape Town. Cape Town must be one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It’s at the southernmost tip of Africa with a strong European influence in terms of the vibrant art, theatre and fashion industries. The city is on one side surrounded by the spectacular Table Mountain, with the Atlantic Ocean on another side and a massive stretch of wine lands on the other. This, in my opinion, makes for a pretty spectacular vista all around.

Why did you choose drama?
I knew I wanted to be an actor when I saw The Sound of Music when I was 6 years old and fell in love with the character of Leisl. After two days of being ‘love sick’ and refusing to eat, my grandmother, trying to help, called up the producer of the show, who she happened to know and organized for me to meet the actress who played Leisl for tea- hoping that this would cure my condition. When finally meeting her, I was so overwhelmed by her presence and beauty that I wet my pants. That’s when I knew… I want to have what she has. The ability to change peoples lives (and make them wet their pants).

Hannes Headshot

Photo: Gregory Costanzo

Who inspires you?
I have so many idols and influences and inspirations. My dad is a huge influence in my life. His determination is unapologetic. My mother’s quiet understanding and interest in the human psyche and in classical music has influenced greatly the way I look at art. Nelson Mandela inspires me to forgive and seek forgiveness. Charlize Theron inspires me to become the first great South African male in the American film industry. Ed Norton, Michael Fassbender, Joaquin Phoenix, Christoph Waltz, Niell Blomkamp, Die Antwoord, Alexander McQueen, Elon Musk, David Fincher, Pedro Almodovar, Malcolm Gladwell… The list is long.

What other endeavors do you feel passionately about?
I’m an avid marathon runner. I ran the NYC Marathon in 2014. My advice to anyone thinking of doing it would be to wear warm clothes even if you think you won’t need it. I also have a strong interest in architecture and fashion.

What languages do you speak?
My mother tongue is Afrikaans. It’s the youngest language in the world and is derived from Dutch, German and western African languages.

Describe your transition to U.S. culture.
Moving to New York was just as difficult as it was thrilling. I think it’s important to be actively involved in your community. It’s the easiest and quickest way to create community for yourself.

What aspect of U.S. culture most surprised you?
How polite and politically correct everyone is. Us Africans are more direct and to the point.

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What are the challenges of being an international student?
The costs.

What aspect of your home country do you miss the most?
The sense of humor.

How were you made to feel welcome at Juilliard?
I was struck by how my class and department has fully embraced me and my culture from the beginning. They were excited and interested in my differences and what we could learn from each other.

Hannes 2In thinking about your experience in the U.S., what are the first three words that come to mind?
Work. Play. Work.

What is the most common misconception of your home country?
That everyone in Africa is black. 😜

What are the main differences between your home culture and U.S. culture?
Bureaucracy, size, politics.