Wednesday, March 4, 2015


Today was an amazing day! Because we worked so very hard yesterday, we were allowed to sleep in an extra 15 minutes! (Thank you Sa-Boo-Boo) On the way to the house we are working on for our stay in NOLA I could feel the adrenaline pumping inside me. Today was a very eventful day because we were pouring concrete at 1:00pm. So up until that point we had to prep the areas that need the concrete. This included shoveling out dirt, breaking concrete to even out the areas, as well as putting in iron stakes and wooden planks to contain the concrete. It was a lot of work but we were ready for the concrete! Then we had lunch, and Sa-Boo-Boo and Rebecca got everyone popsicles!! They were sugar free and only 20 calories so of course I had six :) Then the exciting part happened, THE CONCRETE TRUCK CAME DUN DUN DUUUUUUUUUUUNNNN!!!! It was very exciting, and I couldn't help but jump for joy as the concrete rushed out of the truck onto the ground. Then came lots of work, where we were shoveling, raking, and smoothing the concrete so we can make the perfect sidewalk. But then it happened, when we were putting the concrete on the ground for the second house the truck just almost ripped the porch off the house. It was DISASTROUS!!!! But because we, and the Habitat on Humanity people, are so flexible we were able to think on our feet and mend the situation as best as we could. I am so proud of us!

Then we went to KCCA and to our surprise the kids were excited to see us! They were so receptive of our material and wanted to learn our material for them. And that made me so happy! It was a blast to see the eagerness to learn in their eyes. It actually refueled my energy that I used that morning on the house. It was refreshing and lovely. Today was a great day, I can't wait to see how we have made a difference, no matter how small, tomorrow!

Thank you for reading!
Malik Williams :)

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Inhabiting the Habitat, Sprinkle of Education

Tuesday, March the 3rd, 2015

What an incredible day we have had! We started today bright and early, just as the sun was rising, to gobble some good food down and head over to the Habitat for Humanity site. All of the group members participated in helping out at the site with jobs from screwing in door knobs, painting the houses, sandpapering the steps, mortaring the structure, all the way to Beyonce back-up dancing and singing provided by yours truly. We worked on two blue houses. I am looking forward to seeing the finished product of these structures...and our coworkers are such sweet and informative people! It must be something in the jambalaya down here...

The sun was blazing at 80 degrees today, which was the best bonus to the Habitat site! During lunch we had a fight with the weather, which wanted to rain (and did give us some sprinkles), however the iPhone weather report prevailed in saying that the sun was going to burn regardless of droplets! I didn't mind getting my skin burnt or painted on because the reward was all in the communal effort that was being put forward. It's so fulfilling to work as a team to build a house together, but I know the effort and love put forth now will pay off later for the families that get to live in these homes. No matter the part played in building this house, it was done with love, what more could you want?

As we finished up for the day at the Habitat site, it came to our attention that we were locked out of one of the vans! Sabrina!!! After her coming to the rescue and being the cunning, esteemed professional that she is, we got into our van and headed over to the KIPP school to give workshops in dance, drama, and music, and also a workshop to students in the Shalom Zone. I was with a few of my dancing buddies, and we got to work with 15 young and passionate students! We played a lot of movement games, mimicked our names with our bodies, and discovered all sorts of ways to be creative and move in space.

These past few days have been the most gratifying. Being surrounded by people with the biggest hearts, in a courageous city, and all with the passion and love to strive and succeed is the most invigorating of all. Art invigorates!!! Definitely looking forward to more fun, food, and fulfillment in these next few days!

With gratitude and sincerity,

P.S. We are having some technical difficulties with our internet! To stay connected, please follow our Facebook page!


     Oh what a day what a day! Everyone woke up this morning to get ready to visit the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts. I was particularly excited about today because NOCCA is my alma mater! Less than a year ago, I was a student there. It's so funny that I'm coming back to my old stomping grounds to "teach" the students, some of whom I took class with.

     When we got to NOCCA, we were greeted by the ever-so-spirited Brian Hammell. He treated us a wonderful lunch and showed us around NOCCA's campus. I had never actually been inside the new building, so it was cool to see how NOCCA is expanding. Then Mr. Wedberg and his tasteful handlebar mustache talked to us and got us pumped to start working with the students.

     It was rewarding to see the marked growth of all of the jazz musicians that Zach, Sebastian, Jacob and I worked with. They played with a bit more conviction that when I last heard them. However, the four of us talked to them about embracing their sounds and owning their mistakes whenever they hit a "wrong" note. By doing that, it was really interesting to see how creative they could be given that liberating constriction.

     Now for the group performance in the dance studio! Usually, the Juilliard students perform in Lupin Auditorium, but for some reason they decided to change it up. Luckily, us being artists, we could work with anything! Tiffany started us off with a soulful spiritual that gave me chills. Then it was time for Casey and I to improvise. It was so heartwarming to feel all the love that I was shown by the NOCCA students and faculty. It made me a proud alum. Casey killed it, as usual. This was probably our best yet! The students were mesmerized by JJ's monologue.Everyone got caught in the rain during Angela and Riley's duet. Natsuko and Allison skillfully executed some Bach, after which Jasminn performed an awesome monologue. All seven dancers boogied down to the ground during "Come On Eileen". The Team Song brought the house down as all the students eventually joined us for Dancing in the Street".

     It was so interesting being on the other of the whole Juilliard/NOCCA exchange. It's actually pretty funny because a few years ago, I met Braxton (alto saxophone) and Enrique (trumpet) when they were participating in the project, and now we are in the same jazz ensemble at Juilliard. It's funny how things work out...

     It was nice to end the day with a delicious dinner hosted by the Guariscos, Shrevers and Schrenks. The home in which we dined was gorgeous as well. It felt so great to be amongst people who support the difference we Juilliard students are trying to make. Today, I really felt the spirit of the Crescent City. Boy, it's good to be home.

Sunday, March 1, 2015


LOOK OUT, NEW ORLEANS! Juilliard has arrived!

We're here and ready to take the town! 

I felt like a child at Disneyland upon landing here in the south yesterday -- just so full of happiness! 

Considering we had a 4:15am departure to the airport, the group was chipper and made it onto the plane and into the bayou without a problem. We rented two maxi vans and put our tetris-playing skills to use when packing 20 people AND their luggage into them. And then, we were off to Morning Call for beignets and cafe au lait because PRIORITIES, right?!? Cannot delay in the true NOLA experience. We then had to rent some instrument equipment and started an impromptu dance party on the sidewalk outside of the store. Already love this team. We arrived at the good ole HONO House (the bunkhouse operated by Hands On New Orleans -- a wonderful nonprofit organization) and unpacked, before we were off to stock up on food and supplies for the week. It was Dinner Team 1's night to cook and they started us off well. YUM. 

The walls of the house started to shake as we broke out into our respective divisions to rehearse for our performance at Trinity Church -- dancers stomping away in the kitchen, musicians sawing away at their violins in the bedroom, and actors singing love songs in the hallway. 

After our early morning wake up, people hit the hay pretty early and slept hard. 

Luckily, we had this morning free to explore the French Quarter -- and what an amazing town this is! We loved shopping in the market, dancing to the street performers, and looking out into the fog over the river (it was a misty, magical, Pirates-of-the-Caribbean kind of foggy day). So wonderful to have some time with the team to enjoy all that the city has to offer!

We then were off to Trinity Church for our first performance of the trip! And a smashing success it was. We all performed in different permutations of solos, duets, trios, and groups, everything from a rousing rendition of "Come on Eileen" by the dancers, to a lovely Bach double duet by Allison and Natsuko. We obviously closed the performance with our team song, "Dancing in the Streets," which had audience members dancing through the aisles of the church.

What a day! And looking forward to the next week. I feel so lucky to be part of this fantastic group of people.


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

3 - 2 - 1! Here we go!!

In 3 - yes, THREE - days, we will fly our frosty New York City coop and land in the one and only, the legendary New Orleans.

I can't wait!

We had a rather busy weekend! Our Oscars Sunday was filled with fundraising, rehearsing, performing, and working through some logistics to ensure that we're prepared for our week of service.

Our weekly meeting began with a rehearsal of our "Dancin' in the Streets/Dance to the Music" mash-up which we will soon be performing all over New Orleans. So many wonderful riffs and amazing partnering moments! Sneak peek footage coming soon!

After an energizing mini rehearsal, we discussed some logistics, covering everything from teaching protocols to packing lists. (We gotta make sure we don't forget to pack those beautiful team t-shirts!) As we had our teaching touch-base, I thought back to this time last year when I, as a new teammate, eagerly prepared for our time in the classroom. At that point, all of my teaching experience had involved dance instruction, and though I looked forward to co-teaching arts enrichment and drama classes, I was a bit nervous about how those classes would actually go: How many students would be in each class? For some, would this be their first time in a drama class? Would the students have fun? Would they enjoy the games my co-teachers and I led? What if we run out of exercises or something "bad" happens?

And then we arrived in New Orleans, gave classes to several eager groups of students, found a productive co-teaching dynamic, and found that our students were generous, fearless teachers themselves. With teaching, much like live performance, you have to go with the flow. The unanticipated will always happen in the classroom. And it's those unplanned moments that often offer profound opportunities for discovery for everyone, teachers especially. I love those moments where a student embraces their perceived slip-ups as much as their successes; they're beautiful moments.

Suffice it to say, as we reviewed our teaching teams during our Sunday meeting I found myself brimming with excitement for the brilliant and unexpected moments we're bound to have next week!

After our meeting, we also had a benefit concert. Thanks to the generosity of the Church of St. Paul the Apostle, our hosts for the lovely benefit concert, we performed an eclectic program featuring many of our teammates. Our cabaret offered a little something for everyone: Bach concertos, original works choreographed and performed by our dancers, some Shakespeare, contemporary theater, jazz, a medley of standards, and some amazing operatic spirituals. It was so inspiring watching my teammates speak through their muses! Their technical dexterity is enlivened by their generosity of spirit. It's a pleasure to watch them perform.

And last but not least, we drew our raffle. Congratulations to our lucky winners and HUGE thank you to everyone who supported our fundraising endeavors!

Until next time,


Sunday, February 1, 2015

That's right, the rumors are are not heard correctly. 
It's time to go back to New Orleans! Wooo!
...well, we still have another month before we actually leave, but the wheels of this bus are a-turnin'. One more month until we are back in that wonderful little city with the biggest soul, and the best beignets. And I couldn't be more excited. Are you intrigued? Curious? Interested? Want to help out? Let me fill you in.

Well hey. 
My name is Riley O'Flynn and I am a second year dancer here at Juilliard. But you can call me Riles. This is my second year on the New Orleans Service Project. I simply had to return on this adventure after last year's life-changing experience. Never before have I laughed so much in one week. So. Much. Laughter. Don't believe me? Take a look.

^That is what a typical night looks like in New Orleans.

Now, here's what a typical team meeting looks like.

Sunday, February 1st 9:30 am - 12:30 pm
We hold all team meetings in the 11th floor lounge. 
 We start each team meeting with an ice breaker. 
 Today, we got our raffle tickets! Thomas is clearly excited about it. 
Now it's time to sell, sell, sell! 
 Our fearless leaders Allison and Angela. Jazzy J, the third 
student leader was not able to make it to the meeting today. 
 Our other fearless leaders, Rebecca and Sabrina! 
Malik, with our finalized mission statement today. 

2015 Mission Statement: 
"As creative and generous young artists, the 2015 New Orleans Service Project team will celebrate and contribute to the city's ongoing revitalization by openly sharing ourselves and our own "soul food" - the arts - with the New Orleans community. Cultivating curiosity, confidence and courage, we will use this soul food to feed hears and minds, uplift sprits and spark positive change. Art Invigorates." 

Our third meeting was a success! 

Now it's time to sell those raffle tickets, promote the indiegogo donation page, and find our way to New Orleans. I know that we can do it! 

And remember... Art Invigorates 

Till next time, 


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

As is usual on Sunday mornings, the city was hardly awake. The sky was clear, the air was cool, a few early risers were out for their morning coffee. And in the lobby of the Juilliard dorm building, the New Orleans Service Project team stood in a circle, frantically shouting numbers at one another, and then chanting “Big Booty!” unison, in order to “break the ice.” After which, Kelly beat Riley in a “vegetable off” (her pose was was more broccoli-esque). As is usual, on Sunday mornings.

And then we were down to business. Our weekly fundraising checkup found that we surpassed our $2000 goal on Indiegogo. In addition, our first bake sale brought in $266, and we planned several more for the coming weeks. Still, we’ll have to up our fundraising game another notch, since the goal for next week is $5000. If all goes well, we’ll be launching our raffle in just a few days, and the prizes are amazing. (I won’t spoil anything, but I’ve been meaning to see “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” for forever now.)  We also came up with a few alternative fundraising ideas: selling cheese, grapes, and crackers at the third year drama production of “Cabaret”; and hosting an event where students pay to throw pies in their professors’ faces. We’re especially excited about that second one.

As for the colors of our team shirt, we decided on a deep magenta with text and design in white. The bracelets will be navy blue. If you’re curious why we chose the colors of the main characters in Blue’s Clues, so am I. But, it’s true, they look great together, and we’ll be the most stylish team of artists in New Orleans.

There is this funny thing that happens in our meetings when we arrive at the discussion of the team song. When the discussion begins, we are sitting cooperatively in a circle. Someone then mentions a song the team likes (Pharrell's “Happy”, or “Don’t Stop Believin’”). Without fail, a few people then begin to sing that song, a few others start to dance, and before long it is playing through someone’s phone and everyone is grooving to the music. After a few repetitions of this last Sunday, we chose Martha and the Vandellas’ “Dancing in the Street” as the team’s official song, with alternate theme music of “Dance to the Music” by Sly and the Family Stone.

Afterward, we took our break. Which, normally, wouldn’t be worth mentioning, except that JJ spent the whole time dancing to iPhone ringtones, and the rest of us spent the whole time laughing hysterically. As productive as our meetings are, we always find some time to goof off.

For the remainder of the meeting, we discussed the theme of this year’s trip, “Art Invigorates.” We brainstormed mission statements and discussed our goals: sustaining and cultivating the vibrant New Orleans culture, sharing our artistic passions with the community, and eating as much good southern food as possible. It’s only the second week of planning, but we’re well on our way to the Big Easy. I can taste the beignets already...


Sunday, January 18, 2015

As a newcomer to the New Orleans Project, (and a newcomer to blogging)I've spent the past few minutes scrolling through this blog for inspiration. And after seeing all of the history that exists in these posts, documenting the last several years of the NOLA project, I am delighted and honored to be writing the first official post of the 2015 team!

We had our first team meeting today, and after a little "fun" with a 9:30am ice breaker, which I'm told is customary, we got down down to business.

First order of business was watching 2014's video made by Riley. The video brought back reminiscing smiles from the returning members, and I think I speak on behalf of all of the new members when I say that it added a dimension of reality to our future that stirred up quite a bit of excitement!

After receiving our personalized binders, we covered some logistical things and proceeded to tackle some fun but important decisions, such as our team theme, our team shirt color, and team song ideas.

I'm pleased to announce that after some intense brainstorming, idea tossing, discussion, and voting, we arrived at the the theme, "Art Invigorates". And after Angela tossed around some super creative color descriptions such as "Baby's Bottom Pink," and "Jeffery's Shoe Green" we arrived at our top two color choices of maroon and mint green, with a final color to be determined next meeting.

Finally, we spent the end of our meeting discussing some very important aspects of fundraising, from our Indiegogo site and donation letters, to our raffle and the bake sale.

It was an early Sunday morning for the group, but the air was full of excitement for everything that is to come. We have a lot of work ahead of us but we have a great and committed group. We're one meeting in but it's all starting to become real and we couldn't be more excited.


Sunday, January 11, 2015

Our 9th consecutive project is underway!

The 2015 team up and running! 18 students will be traveling back to New Orleans for a week of service and outreach!

We need your support though to make this happen! Please visit our Indiegogo page to make a donation to the project. Every cent helps. all donations go directly toward housing, meals, airfare, ground transport and teaching supplies.

Check out our 2014 video below to see the work we do.

Thank you for your support!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Thank you Shout-Out!

Thanks to the following "Beignet" and "On the Riverwalk" perk awardees for donating via our Indiegogo page! This trip wouldn't have been possible without you!

Ashlee Webster
Doug Eisinger
Emily Kaplan
Emma Goidel
Kellie Tabron
Lisa Yazici
Midori Samson
Stephanie Terasaki
Alexander Donnelly
Andrea Ciannavei
Don Nguyen
Keiko Obremski
Lori Woliner
Rose Johnson
Shana Gozansky


Thursday, March 20, 2014

View our photos from the trip!

Photos have been posted to our Shutterfly share site! No need to sign up for Shutterfly or become a member. View our photos here,

Saturday, March 15, 2014


Not too long ago was I sitting in CafĂ© Du Monde, New Orleans, sharing laughs with my teammates over cafe-au-lait and beignets (so-OH many beignets!), and now, as I sit here on the plane ride back to NYC this early Wednesday morning, I have become aware of the fact that Spring Break is nearing an end and "real life" is drawing near.  However, before I begin to wrap my mind around the concept of rehearsals for Spring Dances starting back up in a day, there are many thoughts permeating my mind about my week spent in New Orleans.  Although I (along with the rest of the team), am running on few hours of sleep, my brain is buzzing, and I feel compelled to get my thoughts down while they're still fresh.

This was my third trip to New Orleans via Juilliard's ARTreach New Orleans Service Project. I have been involved as a team member since my freshman year at school, and this year was my first time serving as one of three student leaders.  I freely admit that it is no easy feat making this project happen and I have an even greater appreciation for past team leaders, now having experienced what that means.  

Coordinating logistics for a sizable group of students, including but not limited to, finding creative and lucrative ways of fundraising $17,000, coming up with agendas for our weekly three hour meetings leading up to the trip, as well as deciding on and solidifying our agenda while in NOLA, coming up with a performance program, rehearsing the program, teaching and learning team-building games, etc.  Mind you, all of this is thought through and discussed with the team advisors and student leaders either at 8 am on weekdays before school starts or in between classes on our lunch break, as well as through a multitude of emails.  At times I was overwhelmed by the magnitude of work that needed to be done, and money that needed to be raised in a relatively short amount of time, compounded by everyone's crazy school schedule.  However, I had faith that our team would find a way to pull it together and make it happen - and, we did!

It is incredible how much work can get done when each person on the team is fully committed. This commitment held true throughout the week in New Orleans in each new task we took on, whether it was someone laying wood panels on the muddy ground of the Habitat site so that no one would slip, grilling paninis for our team dinner even though it was not their designated night to cook, doing dishes after a long day of laborious work, giving massages (which proved to be very necessary), or putting coffee on, first thing in the morning. Needless to say, the teamwork was palpable.

Practicalities aside, something I shared at last night's final team meeting is that this project represents the essence of Juilliard.  Spending just one week with only a fraction of the students at school, I feel more in touch with my art form and the direct effect art has on those around me, and, most importantly, why I wanted to come to Juilliard in the first place.  I crave to be around artists who can't help but perform and entertain, who break out into song and dance because the music overtakes them. It comes from somewhere deep inside and cannot be taught, even in the hallowed halls of a famed conservatory.

Although Juilliard certainly attracts artists of high caliber, the unadulturated, organic qualities that make us who we are as performers and as people, is sometimes overshadowed by the desire to be "perfect" and better than the next one. While technique is absolutely necessary (and a little healthy competition is sometimes needed), it can also be a hindrance.  I have learned specifically from this project to not always harp on the details or allow others define who I am, but to let go and be myself.

Every single team member oozes with talent, and seeing these talents put to use, sometimes in their most bare-bones state, is the most inspiring.  For instance, performing on a grassy, untamed lawn at Habitat, with no marley floor rolled out for the dancers, a lack of proper acoustics and music stands for the musicians, no lighting and set design to inform the actors' monologues, or piano to give us our "A" to keep Ain't No Mountain High Enough in tune, was extraordinarily liberating.  As a result, it allowed us to simply love what we were doing while doing it, and our audience responded.

A special moment for me was after our performance at Trinity Episcopal Church when a young girl whom I have taught for the past two years in New Orleans, both at Dryades YMCA and through the Shalom Zone, came up to me and give me a big hug.  She knew I was a dancer, but this was the first time she had seen me in my element. She smiled and looked at at me wide-eyed, and could not stop hugging me. In this moment, I realized that although our time in New Orleans is fleeting, the impressions we leave are lasting, and this warmed my heart.

I am forever grateful that this project has been a part of my life and a truly defining experience in my Juilliard career.  It is important to venture away from New York and from 60 Lincoln Center Plaza to gain perspective and other life experiences, and to make genuine connections with those you may not otherwise find the time to meet and get to know. Make that time, prioritize it, because art is meant for bringing people together.  Who are we in this world if we cease to make connections with other people?

-Kelsey Connolly