It’s that time again 8212; the pre-jury stress zone. In this week before juries, Gibbs Street is packed with instrumentalists frantically trying to track down their missing accompanists, and poring over their scores in last-ditch memorization efforts. And no, Eastman undergrads haven’t been selected to partake in a jury pool at the courthouse down the street.

While most River Campus students begin their exam-cramming in the period between D-Day festivities and finals week, Eastman students are subjected to an additional examination known as a jury.

Juries can be thought of as the final exams in our primary instruments. And, instead of cramming in dark corners of the Management Library or the stacks of Rush Rhees, preparation for juries is a continual process. We spend countless hours in hard-to-find, grungy and smelly practice rooms working to pass this final examination.

Some students are less fretful than others when confronted with their upcoming juries. Sarah McCaffrey, a freshman flutist from the studio of Bonita Boyd, is confident in her preparation.

“I’m not nervous for mine,” McCaffrey said. “I think it’s just the school’s way of separating the people who are working hard from the ones who obviously don’t care about succeeding in music.”

“It’s just an evaluation of a year’s worth of progress,” said senior bassoon performance major Eric Goldman.

While juries are in fact the culmination of a year’s worth of hard work, James Undercofler, Eastman’s dean and director, understands that a 15-minute slot is not always wholly representative of a student’s accomplishments.

“Juries provide a time for students and faculty to take a snapshot of musical growth,” Undercofler said.”That’s about all that can be gleaned from such a short performance.”

“Recitals, studio classes, ensemble performances, etc. fill out the larger picture of musical growth,” he said.

This is why the grade students that receive for their lessons overall is a composite 8212; not just a grade from a jury.

Juries are also a great learning experience, as they provide an opportunity for a mock audition.

“Those students who will audition for professional ensembles will have to perform at their peak on-demand in 10 to 15 minute slots 8212; under extreme pressure. The jury matches these conditions,” Undercofler said.

Instrumentalists are required to partake in juries every spring for their first three years, with a senior recital replacing the final jury in their senior year. The sophomore jury is considered to be the most important of the three.

A typical violinist’s program would include a movement from a standard concerto, two movements from an unaccompanied solo Bach partita or sonata, a classical sonata, as well as two etudes (which can be replaced with a 20th century composition).

When asked about seemingly unfair differences in requirements for different instruments, Undercofler acknowledged the existence of those rifts.

“As to the question of inconsistency, I believe this discussion comes from an ongoing faculty conversation about what criteria each department 8212; strings, winds/brass/percussion, voice, keyboard 8212; uses for the Performer’s Certificate.Each department has the authority to set its own criteria,” Undercofler said.

“However, it’s important that there be a large degree of consistency across departments.To get to this consistency, we talk about it and compare criteria.This could be construed as disagreement, but it’s not 8212; it’s a typical faculty thing,” he said.

Eastman juniors Michael Jorgensen, violinist, and Marissa Arciola, bassist, advise freshmen not to be too scared about their juries. “Get lots of sleep and don’t stress. The best thing is not to psych yourself out,” Arciola said. “If you just go in there and play the best you can you’ll do fine 8212; the faculty panel isn’t out there to kick you out of school.”

“With juries, it’s more about learning all the music and having a whole bunch of stuff under your belt. When you get in there, you are just showing off how much you’ve worked,” Jorgensen said.

While we may not have a reading period prior to our exams here at Eastman, classes are cancelled during jury week.

However prepared you may be, regardless of how long it took to get that lick sounding just right, when you walk into Howard Hanson Hall for your sophomore jury and look out into the seats at the entire faculty of teachers of your instrument, odd things can happen. Keep in mind that Eastman’s faculty has some of the most sought-after teachers and soloists in Western classical music. However, many of the professors try to help students feel at ease, chatting or cracking jokes before playing begins.

“Basically, you bitch, moan and pull your hair out,” Jorgensen explained. “Then, you drink a lot afterwards. It’s a really fun time.”

No matter how you plan to celebrate after juries, try not to stress out during this final week of preparation.

Bhatnagar can be reached at rbhatnagar@campustimes.org.



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