As a talented and wonderful group of our Studio students graduate from high school this month, I've had the delight of hearing from so many of them about their experiences at The Studio and how it will effect their future pursuits.
It of course got me thinking about arts education and the role it truly plays in these students lives. Not just for those who are gunning to be the next Audra McDonald or Idina Menzel, belting their hearts out on a Broadway stage, but also for those whose goal is to be the Speaker of the House, an environmental lawyer, or the next Jackson Pollock.
Each year, fewer and fewer schools have the budget to maintain a proper arts program or instructor.
Focus is being turned to the sciences and mathematics; something measurable, something as palpable as a report card full of A's in AP bio-chem that our prospective colleges will see and promptly accept our children into their prestigious school.
What can help our children find jobs in this struggling economy? What can our children study to guarantee a successful career?
Yes, it's true. There is no disputing the importance of the sciences and mathematics in our children's education. What we cannot forget is what lies beyond the numbers, beyond the repetitive calculations: imagination. The pure joy of stepping outside what's known, what's true, to find your own improvised solution.
The arts play a significant role in the success of any child or adult. They take you beyond tangibility, beyond what can be physically seen, into a place of imaginative and creative problem solving, teamwork, perseverance and the drive to accomplish more.
This is why The Studio has created a space not just for studying voice, piano, acting, dance, drums and guitar; we strive daily to create a community of ingenuity, inspiration, acceptance, center for personal growth, and most of all: fun.
I can be sure you've all heard of the studies stating the myriad benefits of arts education for our children. It's true, statistics show students who study the arts are more successful in school, sports, and life. At The Studio, we endeavor to be a positive influence on our students' academics and athletics.
Having now been a part of The Studio family for nearly two years, what I've found to be most rewarding is the simple, unadulterated joy our students experience from being at The Studio.
Not a single week (or day, likely!) goes by without one of our teachers peeking their head out of a classroom to beckon me in, eager to show what incredible progress their student has made that day. The student will beam with pride, knowing their hard work is paying off.
I've seen students' new works they wrote themselves the night before, a tap dance including a drum solo on a chair, a 7-year-old belting out Adele's Rolling in the Deep followed by her rendition of Tomorrow from Annie (including her own choreography,) and a high school senior's entire college audition package including her Shakespeare monologue.
Their teachers could not be more proud of how far they've come and are constantly surprised by what amazing things they bring in each week.
Recently, after a long week of rehearsals and finals, one of my high school students sat down at my desk, smiled and sighed, "I just feel so happy when I get to come to my voice lesson. No matter what's happening during my week at school, I come here and feel like none of that matters for 45-minutes."
Another middle-school student who comes for lessons and classes at least 3 days a week, asks her mom to drop her off early and begs to be picked up late.
I received an email from one mom last week thanking me for creating a space for her daughter where she truly feels safe and comfortable.
Stop by any week night and you'll be sure to find a group of high school students waiting in the lobby, floating in and out of classrooms, collaborating on projects and asking if they can create a class for ensemble work or to learn Fosse-style dance...they've found their second home.
When discussing why she's choosing to be an actor with one of our recent high school graduates (who is bound for USC's renowned BFA Acting program in the fall,) she noted, "For some people numbers make sense, for others is biology. For me, it's the spoken word. I see a script and it all makes sense. I stand on that stage and I know more than ever I am where I'm supposed to be. This is what truly makes me happy."
And what we've been hoping for all along: happiness.
You can go on to become a doctor, a teacher, a plumber or a lawyer. But we hope that the lessons you've learned here with us at The Studio are ones you can apply to not only your work, but your life.
Go forth, our wonderful graduates! Take what you've learned from your arts education and be productive members of today's society. We're so proud of all you've accomplished and can't wait to see what great things you will achieve.