Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Monday, March 9, 2015

An Advisor's Perspective

The Juilliard ARTreach NOLA Service team arrived back in NYC on Saturday afternoon. I unpacked, took a long hot shower, and ordered in dinner. After uploading photos and catching up on some recorded TV shows, I went to bed early. I slept on Sunday, ran some errands, and again went to bed early. I thought I was rested from this last week of activity but I think Daylight Savings Time added a little wallop to my overall exhaustion. Even though I am physically tired, I am mentally and spiritually invigorated and I felt the need to write down some thoughts about my ninth service trip to New Orleans.

Many people have been surprised that we continue to go back to New Orleans almost ten years after Hurricane Katrina. While over the years this project has become less of a hurricane recovery effort and more of a revitalization and arts outreach effort, we still get asked, "Is there still a need to re-build in New Orleans? Is it still bad?" The answer is yes. Throughout the 7th and 8th wards, there are still rows of homes that have not been worked on or lived in since Katrina. A house on the street we were working on with Habitat for Humanity still had the notation from search and recovery on the front door. There were weeds growing out of the chimney.

18 students and two staff advisors travel down to New Orleans for one week and do whatever they can to help a community in whatever way they can. To some it doesn't make sense to return to New Orleans 9 1/2 years later; they think our efforts don't mean much. But they do. They mean quite a lot. To have students willing to give up part of their spring break to go to New Orleans to help build safe, affordable homes for hard working, low-income families demonstrates that there are generous young adults with good hearts and values despite some of the terrible things we are seeing in the news today.

This past week (and over the last nine years) I have been privileged to see wonderful young adults perform kind, considerate, and generous acts through this annual project, planned and unplanned. Early on in our trip this past week, the actors of the team were rehearsing on the balcony when an 87 year old woman walking on the street called out for help. Without hesitation the four students immediately went to her aid, called 911, and stayed with her until the paramedics arrived. Later in the week, while in traffic and after a long day of house building and teaching, the team saw a man struggling to push his car (which broke down in traffic) up an incline into a parking lot and out of traffic. The team asked me to pullover the van. I had barely gotten the car into park when they jumped out, helped the man move his car, and jumped back in the van. I was so filled with pride over both of these incidents. These students acted with only the thought of helping others. As an administrator at an institution of higher education, one can't ask for more than that.

This team was the epitome of flexibility. They worked through a delayed flight, a 30 degree temperature drop, van keys locked in the van (oops), the concrete truck taking the porch off one house, and strong winds and cold rain at the Habitat site. The cold weather caused their outdoor performance to move inside, but they went with it. We were fortunate that the future homeowners were able to be at the performance. Before we left the Habitat site to head to our teaching site, I went to say good-bye to the homeowner. She thanked the team for blessing her new home in so many ways. That one sentence made all the Sunday morning meetings, the pleading for donations, the selling of raffle tickets, and driving a 15-passenger van around New Orleans all worth it.

Working with New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity isn't the only project the team works on. Arts outreach and arts education are vital and important parts of this service week. Cultivating new artists and new lovers of the performing arts is an essential aspect of any young artist's life. Workshopping, teaching, coaching, and performing for students at all levels - from kindergarten to high school seniors - takes quite a bit of skill and most certainly patience. This team, like teams past, encountered short attention spans, cell phone distractions,  and some indifference. They persevered and worked through it with guidance from Rebecca, the staff advisor from the Office of Educational Outreach. The results were energetic performances from the middle school kids and a realization that the performing arts can break through all types of barriers. They also learned that no child is too young to appreciate the beauty of the arts. There is a special little 3 year old that we have gotten to know who created a mini-orchestra with his stuffed animals after seeing the team perform.


I am really quite honored to have been able to advise and work with these students on this wonderful service project for nine years. I love watching the team develop over eight weeks and then completely bond in seven days over four minute showers, group cooking, teaching frustrations, my pre-caffeine morning monster, cold fingers, sore muscles, quotes of the day, and a lot of fun memories. I am in awe of their ability to perform in a diverse array of venues, to maintain their patience in challenging environments, and to be generous with the community (New York City and New Orleans) and with each other, not only as artists, but as human beings. The amazing thing is that they don't realize how much they are contributing to the arts or how much they are affecting change. They remain humble and continue to give of themselves.

Thank you to all the families, friends, and supporters who provided me with this honor and privilege to see Juilliard students at their best. Your support of this project and these students make a difference in this world.

Sabrina Tanbara
Assistant Dean of Student Affairs

P.S. I am also in awe of their cooking skills, especially with a limited budget, minimal cookware, and appliances that don't always work. Despite these challenges, these students know how to make a good meal!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Visit our Facebook page!

Our week of service is over and we hope you enjoyed reading our blog. Unfortunately, we had some technical difficulties with the wi-fi at the bunkhouse so we weren't able to post photos here. We were lucky to be able to get our posts up! We were able to post photos through our cell phones to our Facebook page, Check it out to see pictures of what our team did all week!

We'll get some photos posted here soon! Thank you everyone for your support!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Last project of the week...

Today, Friday, March 6, we woke up a little later then the past couple of days. We were out of the house by 8:15am and on our way to go work with the children at Lusher Charter School. I didn’t know what to expect here because it's my first trip. We were greeted with warm, open arms from the drama teacher, who I later found out has the best control over children that I’ve ever seen. We got there an hour early to rehearse our version of Peter Pan. It was a little frustrating because people were tired and had little patience. But we found out that this was the best performance that we have done all week, by far. Seeing Jasminn control the audiences of six to ten year olds and coordinate the performance was inspiring to all of us. She knew how to keep all of us going forward; without her and Victoria guiding us, I don’t know were we would be. As soon as we saw the bright smiles of the kids all of us knew the significant impact we were giving them. They were laughing and smiling, and for a moment I never wanted to move on from that specific moment. Getting to our final song and seeing the little kids dance like they didn’t have a care in their lives was inspiring to me because as actors, that's why we train - to achieve a sense of impulsive freedom. The freedom in their bodies and the wonder in their eyes are what all humans try to hold on to. The kids taught me more than I could even begin to teach myself. The team could not stop grinning from ear to ear and a lot of the kids wanted to pursue an art form. Victoria said that “we just received another 200 applicants [to Juilliard].” I want to thank this team for not holding back their love and passion for the arts. I learned how real it is to say that art builds a community. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of this trip.

Daniel Davila

Friday, March 6, 2015

A Day of Culminations

Today (Thursday, March 5) was our last day on the Habitat for Humanity site and boy was it cold! We spent most of the morning cleaning the inside of the houses and finishing work on the concrete we laid yesterday. All of our work culminated in a performance inside one of the houses for some of the neighbors, another group from a nearby site, and the future owners of the house. We are so grateful that we got to welcome the new owners into their home with what was surely a memorable afternoon of singing, dancing, and fun.

After our performance, we packed up and headed over to KCCA for our last day of teaching. In the last hour, each of our respective groups (dance, music, drama, and Shalom Zone) gave performances for each other. Laughter, enthusiasm, and positive energy filled the room as each group performed, and I couldn't help but smile when I saw how much the kids were enjoying themselves. My group of kids in particular (musicians) had been working on a drumline cadence for the past two days, and I was so proud to see them perform it on stage for their peers.

Three days of work on the Habitat site and with KCCA was exhausting to say the least, but I came home today with inspiration and a warm heart. Seeing the smiles on everyone's faces today - teammates, students, and audience members alike - was the greatest gift I could have asked for.

Tomorrow we perform for Lusher Charter School. Stay tuned!

Jacob Wellman

Wednesday, March 4, 2015


Today was an amazing day! Because we worked so very hard yesterday, we were allowed to sleep in an extra 15 minutes! (Thank you Sa-Boo-Boo!) On the way to the house we were working on for our stay in NOLA, I could feel the adrenaline pumping inside me. Today was a very eventful day because we were pouring concrete at 1:00pm. So up until that point we had to prep the areas that needed the concrete. This included shoveling out dirt, breaking old concrete to even out the areas, as well as putting in iron stakes and wooden planks to contain the concrete. It was a lot of work, but we were ready for the concrete! Then we had lunch, and Sa-Boo-Boo and Rebecca got everyone popsicles!! They were sugar free and only 20 calories, so of course I had six. :) Then the exciting part happened, THE CONCRETE TRUCK CAME...DUN DUN DUUUUUUUUUUUNNNN!!!! It was very exciting, and I couldn't help but jump for joy as the concrete rushed out of the truck onto the ground. Then came lots of work, where we were shoveling, raking, and smoothing the concrete to make a perfectly smooth sidewalk. But then it happened - when we were putting the concrete on the ground for the second house - the truck almost ripped the porch off the house. It was DISASTROUS!!!! But because we, and the Habitat for Humanity staff, are so flexible, we were able to think on our feet and mend the situation as best we could. I am so proud of us!

After our work at the Habitat site, we went to KCCA and to our surprise, the kids were excited to see us! They were so receptive of our material, and that made me so happy! It was a blast to see the eagerness to learn in their eyes. It actually refueled my energy that I used that morning on the house. It was refreshing and lovely. Today was a great day. I can't wait to see how we have made a difference, no matter how small, tomorrow!

Thank you for reading!
Malik Williams :)

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Inhabiting the Habitat, Sprinkle of Education

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

What an incredible day we have had! We started today bright and early, just as the sun was rising, to gobble some good food down and head over to the Habitat for Humanity site. All of the group members participated in helping out at the site with jobs from screwing in door knobs, painting the houses, sandpapering the steps, mortaring the structure, all the way to Beyonce back-up dancing and singing provided by yours truly. We worked on two blue houses. I am looking forward to seeing the finished product of these structures...and our coworkers are such sweet and informative people! It must be something in the jambalaya down here...

The sun was blazing at 80 degrees today, which was the best bonus to the Habitat site! During lunch we had a fight with the weather, which wanted to rain (and did give us some sprinkles); however, the iPhone weather report prevailed in saying that the sun was going to burn regardless of droplets! I didn't mind getting my skin burnt or painted on because the reward was all in the communal effort that was being put forward. It's so fulfilling to work as a team to build a house together, but I know the effort and love put forth now will pay off later for the families that get to live in these homes. No matter the part played in building this house, it was done with love. What more could you want?

As we finished up for the day at the Habitat site, it came to our attention that we were locked out of one of the vans! Sabrina!!! After her coming to the rescue and being the cunning, esteemed professional that she is, we got into our van and headed over to KIPP Central City Academy to give workshops in dance, drama, and music, and to students in the Shalom Zone. I was with a few of my dancing buddies, and we got to work with 15 young and passionate students! We played a lot of movement games, mimicked our names with our bodies, and discovered all sorts of ways to be creative and move in space.

These past few days have been the most gratifying. Being surrounded by people with the biggest hearts, in a courageous city, and all with the passion and love to strive and succeed is the most invigorating of all. Art invigorates!!! Definitely looking forward to more fun, food, and fulfillment in these next few days!

With gratitude and sincerity,

P.S. We are having some technical difficulties with our internet! To stay connected and see photos, please follow our Facebook page!


Oh what a day, what a day! Everyone woke up this Monday morning to get ready to visit the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts. I was particularly excited about today because NOCCA is my alma mater! Less than a year ago, I was a student there. It's so funny that I'm coming back to my old stomping grounds to "teach" the students, some of whom I took class with.

When we got to NOCCA, we were greeted by the ever-so-spirited Brian Hammell. He treated us to a wonderful lunch and showed us around NOCCA's campus. I had never actually been inside the new building, so it was cool to see how NOCCA is expanding. Then Mr. Wedberg and his tasteful handlebar mustache talked to us and got us pumped to start working with the students.

It was rewarding to see the marked growth of all of the jazz musicians that Zach, Sebastian, Jacob and I worked with. They played with a bit more conviction than when I last heard them. However, the four of us talked to them about embracing their sounds and owning their mistakes whenever they hit a "wrong" note. By doing that, it was really interesting to see how creative they could be given that liberating constriction.

Now for the group performance in the dance studio! Usually, the Juilliard students perform in Lupin Auditorium, but for some reason NOCCA decided to change it up. Luckily, us being artists, we could work with anything! Tiffany started us off with a soulful spiritual that gave me chills. Then it was time for Casey and me to improvise. It was so heartwarming to feel all the love that I was shown by the NOCCA students and faculty. It made me a proud alum. Casey killed it, as usual. This was probably our best yet! The students were mesmerized by JJ's monologue. Everyone got caught in the rain during Angela and Riley's duet. Natsuko and Allison skillfully executed some Bach, after which Jasminn performed an awesome monologue. All seven dancers boogied down to the ground during "Come On Eileen". The team song brought the house down as all the students eventually joined us for "Dancing in the Street."

It was so interesting being on the other side of the whole Juilliard/NOCCA exchange. It's actually pretty funny because a few years ago, I met Braxton (alto saxophone) and Enrique (trumpet) when they were participating in the project, and now we are in the same jazz ensemble at Juilliard. It's funny how things work out...

It was nice to end the day with a delicious dinner hosted by the Guariscos, Shreves and Schrenks. The home in which we dined was gorgeous as well. It felt so great to be amongst people who support the difference we Juilliard students are trying to make. Today, I really felt the spirit of the Crescent City. Boy, it's good to be home.

Jeffery Miller

Sunday, March 1, 2015


LOOK OUT, NEW ORLEANS! Juilliard has arrived!

We're here and ready to take the town!

I felt like a child at Disneyland upon landing here in the south yesterday -- just so full of happiness! 

Considering we had a 4:15am departure to the airport, the group was chipper and made it onto the plane and into the bayou without a problem. We rented two maxi vans and put our tetris-playing skills to use when packing 20 people AND their luggage into them. And then, we were off to Morning Call for beignets and cafe au lait because PRIORITIES, right?!? Cannot delay in the true NOLA experience. We then had to rent some instrument equipment and started an impromptu dance party on the sidewalk outside of the store. Already love this team. We arrived at the good ol' HONO House (the bunkhouse operated by Hands On New Orleans -- a wonderful nonprofit organization) and unpacked, before we were off to stock up on food and supplies for the week. It was Dinner Team 1's night to cook and they started us off well. YUM.

The walls of the house started to shake as we broke out into our respective divisions to rehearse for our performance at Trinity Church -- dancers stomping away in the kitchen, musicians sawing away at their violins in the bedroom, and actors singing love songs in the hallway. 

Because of our early morning wake up today, people hit the hay pretty early and slept hard. 

Luckily, we had Sunday morning free to explore the French Quarter -- and what an amazing town this is! We loved shopping in the market, dancing to the street performers, and looking out into the fog over the river (it was a misty, magical, Pirates-of-the-Caribbean kind of foggy day). So wonderful to have some time with the team to enjoy all that the city has to offer!

We then were off to Trinity Church for our first performance of the trip. And a smashing success it was! We all performed in different permutations of solos, duets, trios, and groups, everything from a rousing rendition of "Come on Eileen" by the dancers, to a lovely Bach double duet by Allison and Natsuko. We obviously closed the performance with our team song, "Dancing in the Streets", which had audience members dancing through the aisles of the church.

What a day! And we are looking forward to the next week. I feel so lucky to be part of this fantastic group of people.