In 2004, Daniel J. Wakin of The New York Times tracked down the instrumentalists of Juilliard’s 1994 graduating class, whose members were by then in their 30s and “mostly embarked on careers and family life.” Though now over a decade old, “The Juilliard Effect: Ten Years Later” stands as a compelling look at the difficulties of making a living in classical music after training at one of the world’s most prestigious conservatories:
The results suggest how hard it can be to live as a classical musician in a society that seems increasingly to be pushing classical music to the margins, even as Juilliard and scores of other music schools pour out batches of performers year after year. Orchestras and chamber ensembles are under increasing financial pressure as subscriptions have dropped and government arts financing has dried up, the recording industry has shrunk and the median age of classical audiences is not getting any younger.
Sometimes the struggle is just too much, and many drop out, perhaps disillusioned with a once-sacred endeavor that has come to seem a cold, unforgiving trade. Others, like Mr. Alexander, are simply sick of the financial grind: the low pay, the lack of benefits, the scramble for work. But many others make it, and what also came clear from the analysis of this class were the high levels of dedication many of the graduates maintain and the satisfactions and excitement of expressing oneself through one of the purest forms of communication: the making of music.