Today, I'm sharing a success story - my son. What his journey represents is important for all the young artists out there.
Alice in Wonderland
The lad never fit the mold of traditional education. His right brain dominance and creativity surfaced very early on. Unfortunately it didn't mesh with the left brain rigors and demands of public education.
Sadly, that disconnect tends to label artistic students as inferior to our high academic achievers.
I say malarky.
Here's a quote from my son at six years old when a classmate drew a butterfly without wings...
"That's a butter-not-fly."
Is that the insight of an inferior learner?
His wit and humor took off from there to new levels of sophistication beyond his years. He was born with perfect pitch, developed an uncanny ability to pick up instruments, and was a natural performer. No spaces on the report card for those talents.
He could never memorize his multiplication tables. That and other perceived deficiencies pegged him as an "at risk" student.
He wrote his own plays before his classmates had mastered paragraphs.
Problematic grades in required classes that had no meaning, connection, or impact on his creative goals landed him in night school to earn his high school diploma.
He started his own improv group with friends and won awards in theatre competitions for the high school that was continually labeling him inadequate.
What's wrong with this picture?
Why aren't there a variety of measurements for success in our public schools? Why aren't our young artists valued on equal terms as our young scholars? Why is there such a narrow pathway for success especially in high school?
Is there a foundational education that students need? Absolutely. But I ask you - what's more important - knowledge of the quadratic equation or balancing a checkbook?
The commonly accepted high school expectations do not serve our student artists. Often they result in an academic pommeling out of sync with creative goals that burn students out and turn them off to continued education.
For example, why doesn't a blossoming actor study the history of theatre for their social studies requirement? Hmm, civilizations such as the Greeks, Romans, and the world's political movements are reflected throughout theatre and art history. Why isn't a budding painter encouraged to read biographies of Picasso and Michelangelo to enhance their literacy? The key to student engagement is to validate and encourage their goals, talents, and dreams.
Yes, budget shortfalls enter into this discussion, but a motivated learner can follow an independent study path that doesn't require additional classes. The same teacher that would be grading a research paper on World War Two could grade a thesis about the effects of the Expressionist movement on society.
So what was the game changer for my son? How did "he who eschewed college," end up in college?
Enter Pacific Conservatory for Performing Arts - PCPA. This program is a brilliant model that combines a scholarly and practical training approach to theater. The body is fine tuned as an instrument and every academically rigorous class is relevant to the developing life of an artist.
Key word here - relevant.
Fiddler on the Roof - PCPA
Fiddler on the Roof - PCPA
Suddenly the reluctant scholar is writing ten page college level papers on classic Greek tragedies. Not exactly light summer beach reading for a kid who just squeaked through high school. He's memorizing pages of dialog, complex dance routines, and intricate musical harmonies.
When you match education with passion the result is success.
The Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, FIDM is another college experience that nurtures the talents of artists following a path that leads to fashion and costuming arts.
We need to make these focused opportunities available earlier in our schools, especially at the high school level so our young artists are valued and inspired to follow their talents, not discouraged.
My son just signed his first professional acting contract. He's living the dream, but how many disillusioned talents have we lost along the way?