On Thursday evening I laid out my new dress, preset my coffeemaker, and went to bed at 10pm. I wanted to be fully prepared for my big day: Juilliard’s Commencement Ceremony for the Class of 2014. No, my four years at Juilliard weren’t over just yet, but I attended the ceremony with a very special guest. Each year, Juilliard honors a handful of prominent creative minds with honorary doctorates. I was chosen to escort Philip Glass to the ceremony. The day I found out I was out of my mind with excitement! He is known as the most influential composer of the late 20th century. He has collaborated with incredible artists such Allen Ginsburg, Jerome Robbins, Martin Scorsese, and David Bowie, to name a few. The recipients included actress Viola Davis, Joyce DiDonato, Frank Owen Gehry, Lar Lubovitch, Marcus Roberts, and Bruce and Suzanne Kovner.
The morning of the ceremony, all of us escorts were to arrive at the front door of Juilliard at 9:45. We all chatted as we anxiously awaited our guests. We also all agreed that we were more nervous waiting for them to arrive then we are before we perform! I was talking to an actor, and she said she was more nervous waiting for Viola Davis to arrive then when she performed in Shakespeare’s Richard III the previous week!
Soon, one by one everyone’s guests were arriving and I was the only one left in the lobby. When I spotted Philip Glass, I made my way towards him. Before I reached him, a graduating student walked up to him and asked, “Hi Mr. Glass, can we take a selfie?” Low and behold, the boy whipped out his phone and took the picture! I finally reached Mr. Glass and introduced myself. I told him I would be at his side in case he needed anything or had any questions. We rode up the elevator together and chit-chatted as if we had met before! When we reached the Office of Juilliard’s President, all of the honorary doctorate recipients were getting the graduation robes on, and the press was there taking pictures. I navigated the room and made sure to be close enough to Mr. Glass so if he needed anything I wouldn’t be too far, but I kept a short distance so he could have privacy when talking to someone. After the photos were taken, we chatted and cracked some jokes as we made our way down to the ceremony. Once I dropped off Mr. Glass by the stage door, I told him I would meet him in the same spot after the ceremony. As all of us escorts sat down in our seats in the balcony, and we were pinching ourselves! I know we all felt extremely honored to be part of this phenomenal event! After wonderful speeches by President Polisi, Dean Guzelimian, and Joyce DiDonato, the honorary doctorate recipients received their doctorate, and the graduates were given their diplomas. All of us escorts had to leave a little early so we could beat the crowds of people exiting the theatre so we could meet up our respective recipients.
I congratulated Mr. Glass as we made our way back to the President’s Board room for a wonderful brunch exclusively for the recipients of the doctorates and faculty. Mr. Glass had to leave early, so once I returned his cap and gown, I took him down to street level to catch a cab. I expressed how much of an honor it was to escort him, and how I would always remember this special day. As I shook his hand, I told him that I hoped to see him again soon. He nodded his head and smiled warmly before he flagged down a cab and headed down Broadway.
Mr. Glass and I spoke as if we were old friends. My day with Mr. Glass will forever be one of my most cherished Juilliard memories.