May 28, 2014

Joyce DiDonato reveals the four secrets to her success

The down-to-earth diva addressed the 109th graduating class of The Juilliard School with these important life lessons.

Joyce DiDonato was invited to speak at the Juilliard School’s 109th commencement ceremony on 23 May, 2014. On this momentous occasion, the prestigious music institution presented her with an Honorary Doctorate.

The American mezzo, who came to fame late but quickly established herself as one of the most beloved, hard-working and outspoken opera stars of her generation, had these words of wisdom for a new generation of elite musicians. Her international career recording for Erato and singing under the bright lights of Covent Garden and the Met flourished, she told the students, "despite being the only young artist of my class to fail at securing management until the ripe age of 29, and despite my evaluation sheet for the Houston Opera Studio which simply declared me to possess 'not much talent'." Here are her four secrets to success, boiled down to their essence:


  1. "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 …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.

  2. The work will never end.
    This may sound dreadfully daunting…but it is there where you will find solace and truth. Therein lies not only your artistic freedom, but your personal freedom as well!

  3. It’s not about you.
    You have signed up for a life of service by going into the Arts. And the life-altering results of that service in other people’s lives will NEVER disappear as fame unquestionably will. You are here to serve the words, the director, the melody, the author, the chord progression, the choreographer, but above all and most importantly, with every breath, step, and stroke of the keyboard, you are here to serve humanity... Don’t ever abandon that intoxicating sense of FUN in your ART. Through that, you are serving your truth... If you can find that, you have everything. That’s why “making it” is, in the end, utterly insignificant. LIVING it, BREATHING it, SERVING it … that’s where your joy will lie.

  4. The world needs you.
    Now, the world may not exactly realise it, but wow, does it need you. It is yearning, starving, dying for you and your healing offer of service through your Art… Go on, make us laugh, cry, dance, FEEL, unite, and believe in the incredible power of humanity to overcome anything!"

 Joyce DiDonato's full Juilliard speech here.