Brothers and bandmates set to take The Juilliard School by storm

Ziggy and Miles Johnston, graduates of the Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music, are on their way to New York City to start a new chapter as students of The Juilliard School’s master’s program.  Handpicked to train as guitarists under multiple Grammy award winner Sharon Isbin,  the brothers and bandmates join an elite cohort of exceptionally talented performers in an institution renowned for being an incubator of stellar success.

Monash Arts caught up with Ziggy and Miles to talk about their upcoming adventure, and to discover how studying at the Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music helped them take their careers to the next level.

Congratulations on being accepted into the Juilliard School! What does this mean for you?

Ziggy: So firstly, the Juilliard School is considered the top music school in the world. It’s got a phenomenal music program, along with drama and dance programs, and there’s a lot of collaboration between the different departments. They really focus on the future of music, and what you can do with music outside of music – like helping people and communities.

Miles: This is huge for us. The guitar teacher there, Sharon Isbin, has won multiple Grammy awards, she’s been invited to perform at the White House, she has more concertos written for her than any other guitarist – so she’s a big deal. We auditioned over there in early March this year, and were chatting with her. We asked how many places there are for guitar in total; and from undergrad through to PhD level there’s a total of five places for guitar, and each year between zero and three are accepted.

Wow! That makes it even more incredible for you to have both been accepted. What do you most want to take from this experience?

Ziggy: We’re going there because we really want to improve as musicians and become better players. But we also want to meet and collaborate with a tonne of other incredible students. Given it’s Juilliard, all the other students are either as good as us or heaps better, and from all around the world. We want to learn as much as we can; be able to tour the world performing solos, duos, with other people; just do absolutely everything.

We want this experience to kickstart our international career, get ourselves seen, and learn everything that we need to know. We’re going to do our absolute best and take every chance we can to grow.

You need a solid foundation to be able to springboard into these kinds of opportunities. How has Monash Arts helped shape your journey with your career in music?

Miles: The staff took such good care of us. They worked really closely with us and made sure we could be the best possible. They were incredibly accommodating.

Ziggy:Collaborating with other musicians was also really useful – we could learn new things from people with different specialities, take that knowledge and apply it in our own solo and duo playing as well.

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The Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music