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Class of 2022 grad Tavares gains acceptance into prestigious Juilliard School to pursue acting

Class of 2022 grad Tavares gains acceptance into prestigious Juilliard School to pursue actingEddy Tavares, right, begins his pursuit of a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Drama this fall at The Juilliard School in New York.

There were many doubters when Community College of Rhode Island Class of 2022 graduate Eddy Tavares first floated the idea of auditioning for the Juilliard School in New York City. 

He chose to focus on those who believed.

Less than a year after wrapping up a life-changing fellowship with The Gamm Theatre – and a full year after being waitlisted at Juilliard the first time he auditioned – the 22-year-old Tavares is one of only a small percentage of applications who were accepted into Juilliard's four-year Bachelor of Fine Arts degree program in Drama beginning in the Fall of 2024.

Tavares got the call following a grueling, day-long audition at Juilliard in January in which he had to perform three times and a fourth and final audition at Juilliard's Callback Weekend earlier this month. 

“It’s surreal — it kind of feels like a messed-up dream,” Tavares said. “At first, I was like, ‘There’s no way.’ I had to pinch myself. ‘Yes, it’s real.’”

In what has been a whirlwind last two weeks for Tavares, he’s begun the process of mentally preparing himself to attend what is widely considered one of the most most prestigious performing arts schools in the world. With encouragement from CCRI Theatre professor Anthony Goes, among others, Tavares auditioned last year amidst his fellowship with The Gamm, but admits he “wasn’t present” and needed another year to perfect his craft.

“I got shot down by a lot of people when I mentioned auditioning the first time. They thought it was a joke. They thought it was out of reach.

“Anthony, he’s always been someone I could talk to, and when I needed a recommendation letter and told him I was auditioning for Juilliard, he said, ‘They’d be lucky to have you.’ That alone gave me the confidence to try out. Even if 20 people say no, that one person showing faith is enough to motivate you.”

"From the moment I met Eddy, I could see he had a different view about the craft – something that went beyond the individual achievements," Goes said. "He had a hunger and drive that would benefit all involved, a giving nature, and a blend of confidence and bold decision-making that is crucial in any process."

To put what Tavares has accomplished into perspective, 2,083 would-be theater students auditioned for Juilliard in 2023–24 with only 221 accepted – an acceptance rate of 10.61 percent, which, according to research, was higher than it had been in recent years. By comparison, the national acceptance rate for public colleges in 2023–24 was 68 percent. 

Founded in 1905, Juilliard has established itself a leader in performing acts education providing the highest caliber of artistic education for gifted musicians, dancers, and actors, composers, choreographers, and playwrights from around the world so that they may achieve their fullest potential as artists, leaders, and global citizens. Notable alumni include Rhode Island actress Viola Davis; Adam Driver, who played Kylo Ren in the Star Wars sequel trilogy; and the late Christopher Reeve, otherwise known as Superman – and that’s just scratching the surface.

“Once I hit the ground next fall, there’s no playing around in terms of my development,” Tavares said. “They give you all the right tools at Juilliard, but it’s up to you to benefit from it. Looking at the list of alumni and understanding where I could one day be on that list is definitely something to keep in mind and push me even further once I get there.” 

Tavares attended Shea High School in his hometown of Pawtucket, RI, for three years before transferring to the Jacqueline Walsh School for the Arts as a senior to begin focusing on theater. At CCRI, he played on the men’s soccer team and dreamt of a career in professional sports until the pandemic forced him to shift his focus to theater. Tavares rediscovered his passion as a performer, starring in Detroit 67I And YouWater by the SpoonfulThree Years From Thirty, and Othello as a member of the CCRI Players and was a semifinalist for the Region 1 Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship.

Shortly after graduating, he was one of three students to join the 2022–23 Gamm Theaters Gamm Fellowship Program, created to provide on-the-job training and educational opportunities for emerging artists of color. 

“That was phenomenal,” Tavares said. “It really opened my eyes to what is possible. Everything seemed out of reach at first – even Juilliard – but when you’re surrounded by other artists, everything seems possible. It definitely changed my life.” 

Better prepared and more focused for his second try at Juilliard, Tavares brought a refined set of schools to the audition in January. The process included performing four memorized monologues – two heightened text with at least one taken from Shakespeare and two contemporary – each two minutes in length and preparing 16 bars of a song to sing a cappella (without accompaniment). 

Just under 2,000 prospective students auditioned that weekend and with each callback that day, the group continued to shrink. Tavares was stunned when he got past the first performance.

“I thought it was so horrible. I wasn’t ‘in the room,’ so to speak, but when I got the callback I was like, ‘OK, time to focus.’ Once you get the first callback, your adrenaline shoots through the roof.”

Tavares survived the January audition and was one of 50 applicants who got the nod for Callback Weekend March 14–17. Three days later, he received another call “from a New York area code” with the news he’d been waiting to hear. Now that the reality has set in, Tavares is focused on the next four years of his educational journey, which he hopes leads to a career in acting. 

 “You really have to know yourself to be a great actor. I knew what my weak points were and worked on them,” he said. “I want to dabble with film much more than I have, but I will always love theater. These next four years are going to be crazy. I can’t wait.” 

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