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Joyce DiDonato's Juilliard Commencement Speech

Joyce DiDonato delivered an inspirational commencement speech at The Juilliard School on Friday, May 23, imparting the "hard-earned truths" that she has come to know along her journey as an artist. Whether you are a professional musician, a student, or someone who merely appreciates the arts, you will not regret devoting a few moments of your time to Joyce's words of wisdom. You can watch a video of the full speech below, or view a transcript on her website.

There are a few ... hard-earned truths—as I have come to know them—that have arisen on my personal odyssey as a singer, and at first glance, they may seem like harbingers of bad news, but I invite you to shift your thinking just a bit (or perhaps even radically). You guys are artists, so thankfully you’re already brilliant at thinking outside the conventional box! I offer these four little observations as tools to perhaps help you as you go forward, enabling you to empower yourselves from the very core of your being, so that when the challenges of this artistic life catapult and hurl themselves directly and unapologetically into your heart and soul—which they will do, repeatedly—you will have some devices at your disposal to return to, to help you find your center again, so that your voice, your art, and your soul will not be derailed, but you will instead find the strength to make yourself heard, and seen, and felt. Then you will have the power to transform yourselves, to transform others, and, indeed, to transform the world.

My first observation:

You will never make it. That’s the bad news, but the “shift” I invite you to make is to see it as fabulous, outstanding news, for I don’t believe there is actually an “it.” “It” doesn’t exist for an artist. One of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, right here, right now, in this single, solitary, monumental moment in your life—is to decide, without apology, to commit to the journey, and not to the outcome. The outcome will almost always fall short of your expectations, and if you’re chasing that elusive, often deceptive goal, you’re likely in for a very tough road, for there will always be that one note that could have soared more freely, the one line reading that could have been just that much more truthful, that third arabesque which could have been slightly more extended, that one adagio which could have been just a touch more magical. There will always be more freedom to acquire and more truth to uncover. As an artist, you will never arrive at a fixed destination. This is the glory and the reward of striving to master your craft and embarking on the path of curiosity and imagination, while being tireless in your pursuit of something greater than yourself ...

Read the full speech.

Joyce appears at Carnegie Hall next season as part of her Perspectives residency, in which she presents her wide range of interests and talents, all supported by the impeccable artistry, vibrant personality, and idealism that has made her an audience favorite. She explores some of her favorite repertoire through four concert appearances and is giving three master classes for opera singers on February 21–23, 2015.

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