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Juilliard will now offer free online courses

Because auditions are overrated.
Juilliard will now offer free courses online
The prestigious performing arts school will offer free virtual classes that anyone can join. Credit: iStock

Who would have thought that one of the most prestigious performing arts schools in the world would now be offering part of its curriculum for free online? That is exactly what the Juilliard School is offering with their new JuilliardX program. In a collaboration with the popular online education service edX, Juilliard will now offer six different classes that are open to the public without having to be accepted through their notoriously competitive audition process. What would Miles Davis think if he were alive today?  

According to a press release from Juilliard President Joseph W. Polisi, this partnership was a logical no-brainer. "We at Juilliard believe that the development of artists at all levels and ages is an essential part of our responsibility within a global society” he said adding, “we are proud to collaborate with edX to present these online courses that share the discipline, intricacy, and subtlety of music-making straight from our world-class faculty. These courses are designed with an immersive experience in mind and will allow the learner to expand their artistic horizons using Juilliard's educational expertise."

Unsurprisingly, these classes don’t seem like they will be “easy A’s”. The six online courses for JulliardX are "Discovering the Instruments of the Orchestra", "Perform at Your Best: Foundations of Performance Psychology", "Piano Preludes", "How to Listen to Great Music for Orchestra", "Music Theory 101", and "Sharpen Your Piano Artistry". We spoke with Juilliard's managing director of operations, Courtney Blackwell Burton, to see why a school of such prestige would be willing to give away the goods for free while maintaining the highest quality possible. 

“We were looking for a way to expand the reach and the impact of our school… without changing our on-campus curriculum,” says Burton. She describes these courses as “beginner and intermediate level courses that people around the world can take,” but stresses that this curriculum will still stick to Juilliard’s high standards. “There are really robust visual ways of communicating music theory concepts,” she explains and is excited for the opportunity to “experiment with how technology can enhance performing arts education and how we can stretch technology to its limits in that way.” 

Burton hopes that these courses will act as a jumping off point for most students and that they will want to continue after they’ve completed these intermediate courses. For instance, the course "How to Listen to Great Music for Orchestra" is an interactive partnership with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra that Burton describes as “a basic course for free which gives you some firm entry points into great orchestral masterworks”. But if you choose to pay for the more advanced version of this course, you will certainly get your money’s worth. “If you want the full experience, where you’re actually seeing the Berlin Philharmonic perform some of these pieces with interviews with the musicians,” she says “then you can upgrade to get a verified certificate.” She believes that by offering these courses online, it will only strengthen Juilliard’s reputation by increasing their reach. “For us right now,” says Burton, “we feel it is more important than ever to reach as many people as we can and technology is now at a point that is enabling that.”