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Read Joyce DiDonato's Inspiring Juilliard Commencement Speech

Mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato.
Simon Pauly
Courtesy of the artist
Mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato.

Star mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato gave the 2014 commencement address at Juilliard Friday — and it's a memorable one, both for her words and by DiDonato's own example as someone whose own career began under low heat.

DiDonato has posted the text of her speech on her own website, and it's well worth 10 minutes of your time, whether you're an aspiring artist or need a gentle reminder or two about creativity. Here, though, is the bullet-point version for an extra-quick boost:

  • You will never make it ... "It" doesn't exist for an artist.
  • The work will never end ... It will always be there for you — even if in some moments you lack the will to be there for it. All it asks is that you show up, fully present.
  • It's not about you ... You may not yet realize it, but you haven't signed up for a life of glory and adulation.
  • The world needs you ... We need you to help us understand that which is bigger than ourselves, so that we can stop feeling so small, so isolated, so helpless.
  • And if you're in a late-spring mood for even more inspiration, check out the brilliant interactive list of speeches of our colleagues have created, culling from 300 addresses — including two by Wynton Marsalis — going back to 1774. They are The Best Commencement Speeches, Ever.

    Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Anastasia Tsioulcas is a reporter on NPR's Arts desk. She is intensely interested in the arts at the intersection of culture, politics, economics and identity, and primarily reports on music. Recently, she has extensively covered gender issues and #MeToo in the music industry, including backstage tumult and alleged secret deals in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against megastar singer Plácido Domingo; gender inequity issues at the Grammy Awards and the myriad accusations of sexual misconduct against singer R. Kelly.