10 Famous Musicians Who Went To Juilliard

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Some of the world’s greatest singers and musicians went to Juilliard. That’s no surprise, because Juilliard School is one of the most-respected music schools of all time. It’s renowned for producing some of the most talented and dedicated performers in the world.

The college is undoubtedly one of the leading conservatories for music education with an exceptional curriculum that develops students skills and abilities to the fullest extent. 

The school’s commitment to musical excellence ensures that its graduates are more likely to have successful careers in the music industry. This is reflected in the accomplishments of its famous alumni, with many students having gone on to become amongst the most celebrated performers and composers in the world of music.

Let’s find out about some of the most influential and famous musicians who went to Juilliard.

10. Audra McDonald

Award-winning singer and actress Audra McDonald has had a significant impact on Broadway where she initially made her debut in the musical The Secret Garden. McDonald proceeded to win six Tony Awards as she became the most decorated performer in the history of the Awards. Her other stage roles included performances in Ragtime, A Raisin In The Sun, and Porgy and Bess.

McDonald was born in Berlin but grew up in California where she began studying classical voice from a young age. She went on to attend the Juilliard School and received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in vocal performance.

Along with her work on stage, McDonald also released several albums that showcase her vocal talents, earning her numerous Grammy Awards throughout her career. She also made appearances on television shows such as Private Practice and The Good Fight.

9. Emanuel Ax

emanuel ax

Acclaimed pianist Emanuel Ax began studying his instrument during his childhood, going on to attend the Juilliard School, finally receiving a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Science in piano performance. Ax’s talent as a pianist quickly earned him huge recognition on the international stage and he has since become one the most respected musicians in classical music.

He has claimed numerous awards throughout his career including several Grammy Awards and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

As well as his soloist work, Ax is also involved in chamber music performances and often collaborates with other leading musicians. He has performed with some of the planet’s leading orchestras such as the New York Philharmonic, London Symphony Orchestra and the Berlin Philharmonic.

8. Itzhak Perlman

itzhak perlman

Itzhak Perlman is an exceptional violinist and conductor who is regarded as one of the greatest musicians of modern times. Originally from Israel, Perlman quickly developed his exceptional talent and made his debut at Carnegie Hall in 1963. He attended the Juilliard School until 1967, serving on the faculty whilst mentoring many young musicians during his stay and beyond.

Perlman is famed for his mastery of the violin, winning sixteen Grammy Awards whilst also being honoured with the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the National Medal of Arts. His contributions to the world of classical music have been almost immeasurable as he continues to inspire audiences and musicians around the world.

7. Yo-Yo Ma

Famous Cellist Yo-Yo Ma is undoubtedly one of the most celebrated classical musicians of recent times. Raised in 1950s Paris to Chinese parents, Ma began playing the cello at the age of four and impressively gave his first public performance just a year later. He attended the Juilliard School during the 1970s.

Yo-Yo Ma has performed with many leading orchestras across the globe, recorded numerous successful albums including Classic Yo-Yo and won multiple Grammy Awards. Ma has collaborated with other musicians from a variety of genres including pop, jazz and a selection of world music.

He is a dedicated humanitarian, a United Nations Messenger of Peace since 2006, involved in various charitable organisations such as the Silk Road Project which strives for a cross-cultural understanding through the arts.

6. Tony Scott

tony scott

Tony Scott was a celebrated American jazz clarinettist and composer, best known for his innovative playing style inspired by jazz, classical and world music. He attended Juilliard School from 1940 to 1942.

Scott’s career spanned across six decades in which he released over fifty albums, collaborating with many prominent artists such as Jimmy Knepper and Jaki Byard.

Scott was also an astute composer who created both traditional music pieces and works from various cultures including Japan and India. He played a key role in introducing jazz to new audiences through his work in both film and television. Scott composed scores for The Twilight Zone and The Day the Earth Stood Still along with tracks for popular video games.

5. Wynton Marsalis

wynton marsalis

American trumpet player, composer and bandleader Wynton Marsalis is largely known for his incredible contributions to jazz music. From New Orleans he was raised in a family of musicians and took to the trumpet as a young boy. Marsalis later attended the Juilliard School during the 1970s where he developed his signature style. He has been the director of Juilliard Jazz at the school since 2014.

Marsalis has recorded an estimated century of albums including the fantastic Black Codes (From The Underground) ,and has received numerous accolades including nine Grammy Awards. He is also a music educator who has founded several programs, including the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, which aims to preserve the legacy of jazz music.

4. Philip Glass

minimalist composers

American composer and pianist Philip Glass is renowned for his contributions to the minimalist music movement, which involves employing limited or minimal musical materials in composition, characterised by repetitive structures and simple harmonic progressions. 

Glass studied at the University of Chicago and then the Juilliard School before finally beginning his career as a composer. He has been responsible for composing a wide range of different works including symphonies, operas and film scores.

Glass’ music has been utilised in films such as The Truman Show and The Hours. He has also collaborated with a variety of musicians including Paul Simon and David Bowie. Glass is also an activist, fighting for various social and political causes including human rights and environmentalism.

3. John Williams

John Williams is one of the greatest film score composers of all time. He began his career as a jazz pianist before transitioning to crafting film scores during the 1960s. Williams has composed music for some of the most iconic films in cinematic history including the Star Wars series, E.T and Jurassic Park. 

He has a plethora of awards to his name including five Academy accolades, four Golden Globe Awards, and an incredible twenty-five Grammys. Williams has also composed several concert works and even served as the Principal Conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra for over a decade from 1980 to 1993.

His ability to capture the emotion of a film through the art cements his legacy as a timeless composer, integral to some of the most treasured filmic memories of all time, with his impact on the industry unquestionable.

2. Nina Simone

Nina Simone

Nina Simone is amongst the most famous female musicians to have attended Juilliard. Simone began playing piano as a child, studying classical music before developing a love of the jazz and blues genres. Throughout her career, Simone recorded a wide range of music styles including blues, folk, jazz and soul. She is best known for hit songs such as ‘I Put a Spell on You’ and Feeling Good.’ 

Simone was also a devoted civil rights activist, often using her work as a way of speaking out against inequality and racism. She was a vocal supporter of the Civil Rights Movement who performed at many demonstrations or rallies.

In addition to her music and activism, Simone branched out into different artistic endeavours, writing her autobiography I Put A Spell On You and acting in several films. Her impact on the world of music and civil rights is undeniable and her legacy untouchable.

1. Miles Davis

Legendary jazz trumpeter and composer Miles Davis is seen as one of the pioneers of jazz music’s development. Born in 1920s Illinois, Davis moved to New York City and the Juilliard School to pursue a career in music. He recorded over sixty studio albums and collaborated with high profile musicians including Herbie Hancock and John Coltrane.

Davis is best known for his albums Bitches Brew, Sketches of Spain and Kind of Blue. His experimental approach to jazz in particular is well documented where he incorporates elements of rock, funk and electronic music.

Davis was also a fashion icon in his day, an influencer who was known for his distinctive sense of style and sharp suits. His lasting impact on the world of music is epic with a legacy that influences endless musicians even today.

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