the juilliard myth
February 9th, 2010
I’ve always felt a little bit sheepish for the poetic license I took in If I Stay regarding Mia’s Juilliard audition. While the pieces she plays are definitely by the book, I doubt that the Juilliard judges would ever do something like clap after an audition or tell the prospective student anything that might hint at her acceptance. But, well, you know, I had to do something that suggested strongly that Mia’s acceptance was likely without her actually having been accepted.
Juilliard occupies mythical status in pop culture as the place to go for musicians, certainly classical musicians, and definitely cellists. I’ve seen a couple of movies recently that featured Juilliard cellists. One was The Soloist, starring Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey, Jr. and is based on a true story about Nathaniel Ayers, a homeless schizophrenic who was once a very promising cellist. The Julliard scenes in the movie—mostly in flashback—chronicle Nathaniel’s first psychotic break. It seemed like a fairly reasonable representation of the school, and I assume, though I’m not sure, that Ayers did go to Juilliard, as that’s a pretty big plot point in the based-on-a-true-story movie.
The other movie was August Rush, which people had recommended to me because of the whole rock-star-falling-in-love-with-cellist motif, even though the couple in question (Keri Russell and Jonathan Rhys Myers) had about as much chemistry as a toenail and a piece of lint. Anyhow, Keri played a Julliard cellist named Lyla Novacek, but the Julliard myth kicks into high gear—spoilers here for anyone who wants to subject themselves to a really sugary, insanely unrealistic movie—when her 11-year-old son, an orphan (long story, mom thought he was dead; dad didn’t know he existed) who hears music in everything and believes in music like other people believe in fairy tales is not only accepted into Juilliard after a pastor at a church (who just happens to know the dean) brings him in, but then composes a symphony that is performed by Juilliard students and the New York Philharmonic in Central Park. These concerts, to all you non-natives, are like a Very Big Major Ass Deal. So, the kid not only goes to Juilliard, writes the symphony, then conducts it, and doing so magically brings his -still-pining-for-each-other-after-a-one-night-stand, ripped-apart-by-a-misunderstanding-parents back together.
Oh, and then the spaceships come.
Wow, this makes me feel slightly better about my little stretch of reality.
Here are both trailers. Judge for yourself: