Tips from Juilliard: Making the Most of a Consultation Lesson

Tips from Juilliard: Making the Most of a Consultation Lesson

This is a monthly column from Juilliard about the nuts and bolts of admissions. Search the archives for previous posts.

Sample lesson. Trial lesson. Consultation lesson. These are all terms related to the suggestion, “Take a lesson.” Why take a lesson? How do you decide with whom you should take a lesson? How do you go about setting one up? What follows is some how-to advice along with wisdom from Darrell Babidge, chair of Juilliard’s voice studio faculty. 

Right now, you probably study with a private teacher—the person you see every week who assigns exercises and repertoire, listens to what you have prepared for the current week, and guides your development as an artist. In college, this person is often referred to as your studio teacher or your applied teacher (that is, they teach you how to apply what you learn). Since you are unique in skills and abilities, it is critical that you find a teacher who can work with you to address your weaknesses and build on your strengths. And that is where the consultation lessons come into play.

From the teacher’s standpoint, Professor Babidge noted that consultation lessons help teachers get to know the student—their personality, how they react to new information, and how they synthesize information. He noted that in an audition setting, students can be (and often are!) nervous. A consultation lesson gives the teacher more of an idea of what the student can do, and sometimes results in the teacher advocating for that student to be admitted. 

Consultation lessons can happen at any time. If you are in the process of actively applying to a school, however, the timing of a lesson may serve different purposes.

  • Prior to a prescreening round, a lesson serves as a “barometer,” as Professor Babidge puts it. That is, the teacher becomes familiar with the student’s current level, and can advise the student whether they are competitive for the particular school or program.
  • Prior to the live audition round, when a student has passed prescreening and been invited to audition, the teacher may listen to some of the audition repertoire and discuss the rep choices, as well as offering guidance.
  • After an offer of admission, Professor Babidge said that his approach is to work with the student as he would a current student. At this point, generally when a student is considering where to enroll, such a lesson allows the teacher and student to get to know each other, and to see how they gel. Professor Babidge notes that these lessons help him to see if the language he uses in his teaching is understandable by the student.

One important note from Professor Babidge is that in a consultation lesson, the teacher gives vocal technical advice. So come warmed up to the lesson, ready to be exposed to—and willing to try—new information. 

Not all teachers give consultation lessons; some are too busy, some just don’t as a matter of policy. You should assume that those teachers who are available for lessons will charge you for their time; after all, they will be providing you with professional advice. (You would not expect to consult with a medical professional for free, and you should not expect to consult with a voice teacher for free.)

How do you find these teachers? You may have current teachers and mentors who recommend people to be your next teacher. You may find the name of a teacher first, or you may find the name of a school and then research who teaches there. Once you have the names of some teachers, consider your current level before asking for a lesson. It is not necessary to provide your resume, links to videos, or your current repertoire, unless specifically asked for by the teacher.

A consultation lesson is not an audition, nor is it a guarantee of admission. Rather, such lessons are an opportunity to assess what you can learn from the teacher, and for the teacher (as Professor Babidge said) to get to know your vocal prowess outside of an audition. Admissions ethics state that you are not admitted until you receive an official offer of admission from a school’s designated admissions officer. When you hear a teacher say, “I would be very happy to have you in my studio,” that is encouraging news, but it is not an offer of admission. The teacher may advocate for you, but you must be admissible to the school on all fronts—academic as well as artistic—so make sure you have a written, official offer of admission from the school rather than making any assumptions about the outcome of your application (consultation lesson aside). 

I hope this article has encouraged you to do your research and then reach out to teachers for consultation lessons. The lessons will benefit you and the teacher, and are one more step forward in your journey.

Kathleen Tesar

Kathleen Tesar, BM, MM, EdD, is the Associate Dean for Enrollment Management at The Juilliard School. A former professional violinist, she was previously the Associate Dean at the Colburn School Conservatory of Music in Los Angeles, and Director of Admissions at the Eastman School of Music of the University of Rochester. She presents frequently on topics related to performing arts admission, and is co-author of College Prep for Musicians (Bosler, Greene, Tesar).