Lessons from High School
Before starting at Juilliard in the fall of 2015, I attended an arts boarding school. Somehow the artistic landscape of this high school was even more diverse than Juilliard. Yet the school was cloistered away from the outside world. I spent three years studying classical ballet, modern, choreography, and adhering to a rigorous academic schedule. I was surrounded by artists from all over the world who had come to study in the boarding school stowed away in the wilderness of Massachusetts. I met students who were passionate about Musical Theater, Writing, Visual Art, Opera, Dance, and Music. The atmosphere of this school was charged with ambitious individuals experimenting, and working incredibly hard towards a future that they could not even envision. It was a future that was separated from us by the prospect of college, and the challenges which awaited us once we finished the next stage of our education and attempted to go into the world as artists. Many of my classmates ended up switching tracks or pursuing another career entirely after college. I look back on my high school years and I can now see that I gained an enormous amount of experience, and a plethora of lessons which carry me through my days at Juilliard, and would in fact help inform my life if I had not chosen to pursue dance.
In high school I cultivated a love of art, and an appreciation for the creative process. I remember walking through the painting studios of the neighboring art building and witnessing the trial and error that took place in the form of paint, and photographic chemicals. Dresses materialized overnight, and clay pots morphed into strange masks or sculptures. I witnessed the making of art inside of a studio, outside on the large lawn, and in the small practice rooms littered throughout the building. Witnessing creation helped me form bonds between other majors, as well as lasting relationships with my fellow dance majors. Two of my best friends are Sean and Matthew, who I spent my high school years collaborating with, and I continue to work with as I enter my junior year at Juilliard. Sean and I choreographed my audition solo, Matthew and I collaborated on films and continue to dance together in community outreach performances. I got to know these incredible artists throughout the trials of high school, and the small triumphs along the way. We spent many a ballet class together, and even more hours of Nutcracker rehearsals side by side.
Part of high school is the wonderful and terrifying sense of the complete unknown ahead. At times the fear of the unknown discouraged me, but mostly it inspired me to work really hard. I would study well into the night, go to tutoring if I didn’t understand an assignment, read poetry, and write 30 page papers on Globalism and Development in the Middle East. It was difficult, at times impossible, but overall I developed a work ethic as strong as steal. I think this is the largest lesson I learned in high school, to work hard and do the best you can without having a concrete reason or impetus. The reason is that you want to prove to yourself that you can learn more, you can do better, and that your curiosity and spirit are more important than SAT scores or an acceptance from an ivy league school.
In my rigorous artistic education I learned to question the opinions of every teacher I had. I began to cultivate a sense of myself, and a means of filtering the useful corrections and comments from those that simply served to tear me down. Constructive criticism comes from the wise words of your teachers, yet it also involves your means of interpretation and translation into your daily artistic practice. For a long while I took the opinion of my teachers to be the only opinion, and at times this uplifted me, yet mostly it made me discouraged. I learned to rely on faith in my ability, my work ethic, and my love of dance. I knew that if I kept myself open, curious, and learning, that no one could ever take away my passion or drive. This attitude helped me immensely when auditioning and applying for schools, training programs and companies. My high school years gave me the ability to believe in myself and my dream of becoming an artist. I left with an appreciation for process, work ethic, relationships that developed into strong collaborations, and an overall faith in my dreams.
By Moscelyne PH