Monday, March 14, 2016

Photos from the 2016 trip!

Please visit our Facebook page to view photos from our fabulous week of service and engagement! Thank you to all who helped and supported the team!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Our performance at our Habitat for Humanity site

New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity has posted videos of our performance at our build site. Take a look!  Juilliard performance for Habitat for Humanity 

We'll also be posting more photos on our Facebook page soon!

Sunday, March 6, 2016

DAY 7 - Lusher

It's almost the end of our NOLA journey and what a glorious journey it's been!

Yesterday we got an early start – our earliest one yet – and loaded up the vans to head to the Lusher Charter School on the other side of town. The Lusher performance day is always one of my favorite days in NOLA because it's a chance for all of us to combine our talents to share a beloved children's tale. This year we presented an interactive production of The Jungle Book to kindergarten, 2nd, and 3rd graders and gave a special presentation featuring selections from our repertoire to the 5th graders. 

In our version of The Jungle Book we had our actors play various jungle friends: Jasminn narrated our interactive tale, Keshav was an amazing Mowgli, Jayme a brilliant black panther, Danny our beloved bear Baloo, JJ the swing singing orangutan King Louie, and I, the villainous bengal tiger Shere Kahn. Our resident soprano, Michelle, became a "Summertime" singing snake, our jazz musicians, Isaiah and Jeffery, riffed away during JJ’s "I Wanna Be Like You", Zack and Sebastian enlivened the journey with one of their beloved “dun dun dun” duets, and our incredible crew of dancers literally monkey-ed around as Natsuko and Yaegy played a Bach concerto for violin one moment and then defeated Shere Kahn in a dance-off showdown as Mowgli’s jungle friends moments later!

I found a perch in the wings where I got to watch both my mates perform and the kids in the audience receive the performance. My teammates are incredible. The Lusher performance day comes at the end of a long week of service, at which point everyone is still a bit sore from newfound muscles found during the Habitat build, though spiritually and artistically fueled from a week of engagement. Despite exhaustion, the level of enthusiasm and playfulness my mates shared with the dozens and dozens of kids yesterday is remarkable. They offered their talents and artistry in service of a story and let every child in that room into their world.

There is something so immensely joyful about watching a room of kids engage with a story; they squealed with glee as my dancer teammates kidnapped Mowgli and carried him through the audience; they fell to a hush as Michelle slithered and sang "Summertime" with Riley and Sean L dancing alongside her; they giggled uncontrollably as Jayme, playing the friendly black panther, Bagheera, coughed up a hairball, and gleefully writhed as Keshav, playing our protagonist, Mowgli, picked up the hairball and tossed it into the audience (one of the third grade boys throughly enjoyed eating the imaginary hairball, much to his peers' disgust!); they all helped Mowgli arrive to safety helping us sing a call and response version of “Lean on Me” led by Jasminn, our fearless narrator. Watching Jasminn quell a chorus of giggling, intrigued kids with “Lean on Me” will forever be one of my favorite memories in a theater.

The kids were intrigued and entertained. And immensely curious! Their arms shot right up during our post-performance Q & A session, bursting at the seams with inquiries:
- How did you make the script?
- Are you going to write it again next year?
- How do you know what your lines are?
- Where did you get the costumes from?
- How long did it take you to make this piece?
- Are you [Shere Kahn] that scary in real life?
- Why didn’t you have elephants?
- Why did it feel so short?
- If you’re a tiger, why does your mask look like a lion?
(Kids keep you honest, don’t they?)

But my favorite question of all was directed to JJ and I:
- You were the bunny in Alice in Wonderland, right? And you were Alice!
My heart skipped a beat as some eager third graders asked this, because we brought Alice in Wonderland to them with the NOLA 2014 team two years ago, and they still remember it!

It was a moment where I recognized that our work does have an impact, because it lives on in memory. The impact may seem invisible or unmeasurable in terms of statistics and figures, but the fact that several students remember our performances and look forward to them year after year, and asked JJ for an encore of his silly bunny hop from two years prior, proves that that which lives on in memory is just as real and impactful as that which we experience in the present; it has a positive impact. This idea seems particularly important within the context of our trip because we encountered the ever-present memory of Katrina in New Orleans – in developing neighborhoods, local artwork, and even Frenchmen Street art market bracelets with the dates and latitudinal/longitudinal coordinates of where it hit ten years ago. It gives me hope to think that our work has the potential to positively influence those around us.

As for all things “invisible”, Antoine de Saint-Exupery said it best in The Little Prince

“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

I’d like to think that our pursuit, as artists, is to honor those invisible essentials and our duty is to share them. I’m so proud of and inspired by my teammates who embody this mission. And I’m truly honored to contribute to the ongoing legacy of the Juilliard ARTreacg NOLA Service Project which proves that art matters.

Victoria Pollack
MFA Drama '17
3rd year NOLA team member

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Day 6 - NOCCA

Today was a day of breakthroughs. 

After waking up so early the previous two days, the team was able to catch up on some much needed sleep. Since we had more time, we made a hearty breakfast complete with eggs, bacon, and in true southern style: grits. Afterwards, the team convened in the main living room at YRNO to rehearse our production of “The Jungle Book”, in preparation for our performances at Lusher Elementary School. Victoria led the way, complete with cue cards that mapped out the show. We had a limited amount of time but we were able to get through a rough sketch of our show. One quick team meeting later, and we were off to NOCCA! 

We arrived at NOCCA (New Orleans Center for Creative Arts) at 11:30 a.m. Brian Hammell, NOCCA’s Director of Communications & Campus Activities, welcomed us with open arms and his personal southern twang. He must have said “y’all” every other sentence as he toured us around the astounding campus at NOCCA. We then split up into our individual teaching teams with the students for the next two hours. In the dance room, we led the students through a series of improvisational exercises. After the class, one student mentioned how improvisation had always terrified her, but today she felt liberated to dance without fear of judgement. To end our time at NOCCA, we put on a small performance for the students. Jeffery triumphantly performed for his old classmates. Victoria brought the heat with her own rendition of “Steam Heat”. Malik stunned us all with a self-choreographed solo. The students at NOCCA showed such earnest enthusiasm for art, something that was refreshing to see. 

Later, we had our annual dinner with a group of friends and supporters of the NOLA team. In exchange for our meal, the team performed for the families, a small price to pay for the delicious food (which included gumbo, my personal favorite). Victoria performed a monologue which prompted Wiley, a four year old boy, to ask: “Is she just talking or is she telling a story?” We were able to witness Isaiah on the piano in all his glory. Even Mother Nature was on our side. Angela and Keshav performed a collaborative piece on the patio outside. It was raining, and we all huddled underneath an overhang. When the piece was finished, the rain thundered down upon the overhang, as if to applaud their beautiful work. At the end of the night I heard someone lean over and mutter, “These kids are so talented”. Of course I agree with this statement, but it is more than the talent of my fellow teammates that takes my breath away. The willingness to let go of any form of ego, to share their art, and bare their souls was humbling to watch. At the end of our night, I was more in awe of my teammates than ever before. Nights like these are what makes our trip in New Orleans so special. I was more inspired from this showcase of incredible artistry after a home cooked meal in a cozy home, than I ever am from any professional show back in New York. I talked about this with Natsuko during our car ride home. She told me that she had never performed in a better mindset in her entire life than she had tonight. It is nearing the end of the week, and we are all exhausted from a lack of sleep and our massive output of energy, yet I think that we can all agree, we are all in our best mindset. I hope with everything in me that I will not lose this state of mind. 

Riley O’Flynn
BFA Dance ’17
3rd year NOLA team member

Friday, March 4, 2016

Day 5 - Habitat for Humanity & Team Dinner

Waking up with the sounds of shuffling mattresses echoing beneath rested snores. 6:30 am. Somewhere in the reservoirs of my muscle sound memory (not sure if that's a thing) we wait for Jasminn's sunrise time check.

After a quick-fire breakfast and group check in, we make our way to The Habitat Site for the last time this trip. Though we're tired and our muscles still feel the strain from yesterday's incredible work, the energy in the air to finish what we started is as palpable as ever. We split up into our respective groups again and begin the day's work. It's very difficult to do justice to the determination shown by everyone. I like to think of it as a little musical arrangement of sweat, laughter and frustration. Be it Natsuko and Vicky P hammering away 20 feet above the ground while a graveyard of nails piles up below them. Or the ever persistent walk of Jayme Lawson as she hauls the next storm board with the sunlight reflecting off her sunglasses and into everyone's spirits around her. JJ's infectious smile rippling across the yard, Daniel walking like James Bond with 7 different types of power tools on him at all times, Sean oozing a whole lot of Marlon Brando AND Sabrina painting the post of the front yard just like a mother would take care of her child. A shoutout to Alyson, Sarah, Teague, Julie, John and everyone else who helped guide and assist us every step of the way. 

At lunch we witnessed a little bit of magic. We set up a small space in the front yard of the house across us and put up a short performance for the neighbourhood. I could go on for hours about what happened but I'll cut it short and pick out a moment that will stay with me for a while. It was the coming together of Michelle singing Summertime with Isaiah on the piano while Sean Jr and Riley danced to it. Pianist on the porch, singer poised on the steps and dancers moving through gravel and dirt. Time stood still - even the dust in the air paused to witness what was taking place. The sounds of Riley's feet brushing against stone, Sean Jr making leaps of faith on unkind surfaces - but they all had each other. They leaned on one another; it was that moment when you understand for a brief second how art can be just a little bit more about us, and less about 'me'. 

We left the site with exhausted limbs but fulfilled smiles. Our work is far from complete, but we're a few nails closer to another window to another life, and a couple of paint brush strokes away from a room for four children to play in. One more family is closer to calling a house a home. 

Cafe Pontabla is where we had a well deserved dinner of crawfish, gator and company. Chuckles and smiles were served all around. Later on we had the privilege of watching team member and native New Orleanian Jeffrey Miller play with the Uptown Jazz Orchestra at Snug Harbor. Watching him at home playing with musicians who loved and appreciated him as much as we did was overwhelming in all the best ways. 

Two hours later we found ourselves starting a flash mob-like dance on the street a block away from Snug Harbor. Grooving to a local jazz band, tourists, vendors, children, senior citizens all joined a bunch of happy Juilliard students enjoying the New Orleans night. 

The night ended with beignets and hot chocolate at Cafe Du Monde. Before we knew it, we were in bed, ready for NOCCA the following morning.

My acting teacher told me, "We don't have enough time, so live slowly." Today that began to make a little bit of sense. #EndofDay5 

Keshav Moodliar
MFA Drama '19
1st year NOLA team member

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Day 4 - Habitat for Humanity & KCCA

Today we had an eeeearrrrlyyyyy morning. Early as in most people were up by 6:30 am and we were all (well, most of us) in the vans and ready to go at 7:30 am. This was all because today was our first day on the Habitat for Humanity site! Habitat for Humanity is an organization that I was vaguely familiar with before the trip, but that I learned so much more about today. You can read about this amazing organization on their website. As we drove down the Habitat street we ran across many houses that had already been completed, and even another team working on a house a little further up the street from where we were. Seeing all of this helped me wake up much more, and made me so excited for the day ahead.

After meeting our supervisors and fellow volunteers, going over ground rules, divvying up jobs, and gathering tools, it was time to get to work. The house that we had been assigned was built in the simple sense, but was still a shell in many areas. We were all spread out over the entire house and I had the opportunity to watch my team, and the rest of the volunteers, work selflessly and passionately to get as much done as possible. From a volunteer named Jonathan who insisted on taking pictures of ALL of us, to the woman that I worked very closely with in cutting up pieces of soffit (very difficult task), to my amazing fellow team members, I was flabbergasted by how easily these people worked, talked, and laughed, in the 77 degree sunny heat without so much as a whisper of a complaint. We worked from about 8:00 am until 11:30 am, took an hour lunch break, and then worked until about 3:20 pm before we started cleaning up to leave for day two at KCCA at 3:30 pm. Right before we left we were encouraged to go inside the door of the house and read about the woman we were building for. This was big for me because it made it all so much more human. There was a story, and a family, and multiple lives that we were now inextricably linked to through our work, and for the umpteenth time that day I was amazed by how blessed I was to be able to take part in this experience.

On our way to KCCA my team members and I were all desperately trying to find our "second wind" and prepare for the eager students who were excited for day two of our workshops. I was on the "Shalom Zone" team and we were all surprised today to find that we had almost double the amount of students that we had yesterday! This didn't further my exhaustion, but made me feel like I had taken a 5-Hour Energy drink! The kids were so rambunctious, funny, and smart, and I honestly couldn't stop smiling as we played team building games and talked about what mattered to us most.

We finished off our time at KCCA with each division giving us a snippet of what they had been working on. The Shalom Zone students shared some of what mattered most to them, the music students did some jazz and then a percussion piece, the drama students did an exercise that is meant to warm up the voice and body, and the dancers were taught a simplified version of our team dance that they performed with their own twist! It was overall a magnificent time and the kids were so responsive and excited to be there it made all the little bumps and blips that happened seem miniscule.

Overall today was jam-packed but so incredibly rewarding. My heart is full.

Zoe Hollinshead
BFA Dance '19
1st year NOLA team member

Day 3 - Magazine Street & KCCA

Today, in a word, was magical!

We started the day in the kitchen cooking, singing, laughing, and grooving to different styles of music. Sebastian made these killin' cheesy eggs with spinach and peppers that were to die for. We prepared our lunches and snacks and departed the house for Magazine Street.

We started from the end of Magazine and walked down. Being the local, I made it a point to bring the team to District Doughnuts. I knew it would change people's lives. ;)

We stopped at Smoothie King (primarily to treat Sebastian's obsession for Smoothie King). Quite a few people got smoothies. Even though my favorite is Muscle Punch, I decided to save my appetite for District Doughnuts.

After getting impatient, a group of us leave for District, with the rest to follow. We arrive at a rather crowded District, but that didn't stop us from getting what we came for! A couple of people got sliders and others got doughnuts. I got a very delicious Cereal n Milk doughnut. I should've gotten 400 more (for myself). Long story short, everyone enjoyed their District Doughnuts experience.

After our Magazine Street excursion, we all went to KIPP Central City Academy to teach kids more about our art. We really had a moment when we performed the team song. It was that unnameable thing... And some kids came up and started singing and dancing...what a beautiful moment...

Then, we split up and taught in our respective areas. Actors taught kids interested in drama, dancers with dancers, and the musicians taught some band kids. A few Juilliard team members from all three areas taught kids from the Shalom Zone as well. It's always a good feeling when at the end of the day, you teach some kids that WANT to learn what you have for them. And I personally learned as well. I can't wait to go back tomorrow!

After a full day, we prepared our minds, hearts and stomachs for the New Orleans feast that my grandmother prepared for the team. I am so glad the team got the chance to experience the culture and love I grew up with. For anyone who is curious, we had baked mac and cheese, potato salad, salad, and gumbo and rice. Dessert was my grandma's famous bread pudding! Trust me, if I could capture the looks on the faces of my team members, I would post them right here in this blog.

After the meal, Michelle sang, Natsuko, Zack and Yaegy performed a piece, and the actors did a scene. They truly blessed the house. Our belts were loosened and our souls and bellies were filled.

Now we are back at the house, and there is always an energy among the team that keeps it alive. All I have to say is...WHAT a good team this is. :)

Jeffery Miller
BM Jazz Trombone '18
2nd year NOLA team member

See some photo highlights!

Visit our Facebook page to see some photos from the first couple of days of out 2016 trip.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Day 2 - Benefit Performance for Shalom Zone at Trinity Episcopal Church

Day two of our service project began with a nice and peaceful morning at the YRNO house. People used this time to catch up on sleep, wash up from all the traveling the day before, and eat a full breakfast to start their day. Some people also took this chance to take a nice run around town to City Park. Additionally, our time off in the morning allowed all of the members to start warming up for our performance at Trinity Episcopal Church, a benefit for the Shalom Zone Community, later that day. The YRNO house was filled with energy from the dancers working on their group dance, musicians working on their pieces, and actors rehearsing their lines. After a relaxing morning, everyone boarded the vans to head for the church.

Our concert at Trinity was not only amazing in terms of all the individual acts but also moving as a whole. We put together a program that was comprised of different types of performances not only from all the divisions of music, dance and drama but also a fusion of the three. Each act flowed perfectly into the next, as if the acts were supposed to be grouped in such a way. By the end of our concert, when we had all of our members on stage for the group song, we saw that our art and passion had reached the audience as they were dancing in their seats and singing along with us. Art matters.

Natsuko Takashima
BM Violin '18
2nd year NOLA team member

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Day 1 - Travel

"Now join your hands, and with your hands your hearts." - William Shakespeare

Day 1 of our ARTreach journey began with a group supershuttle to LaGuardia Airport bright and early Saturday morning -- 4:25 am to be exact. In the midst of rubbing the sleepy sand out of our eyes, we grabbed our bags and each other from the Meredith Willson Residence Hall and hauled into the van. Upon arriving at the airport, we made our way through security and snatched some warm breakfasts within the terminal. At 6:45 am, we were on our way to our short layover location: Dallas, Texas. In Dallas, we found no shortage of Chick-fil-A, cowboy hats, and southern ladies en route to the Rock n' Roll marathon in New Orleans. A few hours later, and we were flying directly to NOLA! Sabrina and Rebecca picked up the rental vans, and treated us all to beignets, cafe au lait and tea at Morning Call cafe by New Orleans' City Park. Our bodies a little less sore, our tummies a little more full, we drove to our new YRNO home base for the week, assembled our belongings, and took stock of supplies in the house. We split into three groups each lead by a team leader, and determined the groceries we would need for our dinner nights, breakfasts, and lunches for the upcoming week. Having known little of the macrocosm that is New Orleans's Walmart, the team newcomers mustered up the strength needed to conquer the many aisles of produce, clothing, furniture, TVs, and quite literally every other tangible item of the 21st century before 5:00 pm. Team 1 (Team Angela!), decided Night 1 would be Taco Night, and despite some unexpected obstacles -- glass shattering *shudder* -- a delicious dinner of homemade guacamole, salsa, chips, salad, pizzas, and Sebastian's famous PB bowl + ice cream dessert was accomplished. We ended the day on a reflective note by Team Leader Jasminn's prompting, gathered for a team meeting, and shared our highs and lows, peaks and pits, roses and thorns of the day. Cheers to our Very First Day in NOLA! Stay tuned for more.

Michelle Geffner
BM Vocal Performance '19
1st year NOLA team member

NOLA 2016 - Meet Jeffery!

Our final team member is our native New Orleanian, Jeffery!

NOLA 2016 - Meet Malik!

Here's Malik, a 2nd year team member and 3rd year dancer! (His t-shirt says it all!)

NOLA 2016 - Meet Sean L.!

Here's our newest Sean, Sean L.!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

NOLA 2016 - Meet JJ!

And here's JJ! He is a 4th year drama student, 4 year team member and team leader this year!