I graduated from a prestigious performing arts high school in New York City; a school that was the basis for the 1980 film “Fame”. Jennifer Aniston, Al Pacino, Liza Minnelli, Arthur Mitchell, and even Interview En L’air’s very own Armando Braswell, are only a few names in the school’s great list of famed alumni. I have always been proud to say that I attended such a great school, until these past few years when I repeatedly see headlines on how the current principal is prioritizing academics over talent. And so I ask, what is the “Fame” school without its talent? Wouldn’t it be just a normal high school? What was happening to my dream school?
Eleven years ago, probably around this time, I was training for hours, every day, for one of the biggest auditions in my life. I was auditioning for a school that was known for its performing arts program; with an acceptance rate equivalent or even less than The Juilliard School. Many people around me said that I should give up or asked if I had a backup school in mind. People believed that getting accepted into this school was like winning the lottery. I ignored what others had to say. This was my dream school and it was the only school that I had wanted to attend. After what felt like a lot of waiting and a short amount of time spent dancing, a miracle had happened. I was accepted into my top school.
While I was a student there, we had a different principal so situations back then were a bit different compared to today. I can’t say I understand what students and auditionees are experiencing right now. What I can say is that the school is not and should never be treated like a normal public high school. Every day, no matter where you were, there was art. Hallways were covered in amazing works done by the visual art majors. Vocalist and actors were seen practicing during lunch. On the 8th floor, the sound of the piano and drums echoed from the dance studios and students were greeted with beautiful classical music, played by the instrumental majors, in the morning every Friday. If you took away the talent, what would be left of the school whose foundation was built solely from the talent of its students? I can never imagine nor do I even want to imagine my alma mater being anything but a performing arts school.
Without a doubt, education is important; for one’s future and for one’s well-being. But for a school that is raising the future musicians, dancers, artists, and actors, I think talent is more important. We live in a society where people believe that art is nothing more than just a hobby. When art becomes a career for one person, people ask “why.” There is a reason the term “starving artist” exists. So in such a society where dreams of pursuing the arts are crushed, I believe that every arts school should stand tall and be the support for striving visual and performing artists. Schools need to convey the idea that the arts is not just a hobby. It CAN be a career choice.
Many talented artists have been rejected from my alma mater due to their grades. I have to say that it is difficult maintaining good grades in school when you’re practicing or rehearsing every day outside of school. I’ve experienced that. I took dance classes almost every day after school. I had classes during the weekends and my summers were dedicated to dance intensives. But I believe that artists are brilliant regardless of what the grades may say. We’ve been trained, at a very young age, to multitask, to be creative, to express a feeling through a whole different instrument… we’re more responsible, diligent, and we have traits that enable us to adapt to any situations in a quick manner. Our academic grades may show that we can study, memorize, and comprehend information.. that we can solve math equations, write essays, and conduct simple science experiments… but are those qualities that contribute to a major factor when it comes to being an adult or getting a job? I believe that what we’ve learned as artists are a lot more useful in all different kinds of situations.
And so I ask, do you believe that academics are more important than talent? In a world that we live in today, I think we need a little more art.
Photographs taken from the school’s Graduation Dance Concerts (2015 & 2016)