“The biggest adventure you can take is to live the life of your dreams.” Oprah Winfrey
Nine Episcopal seniors will embark on an adventure this fall in pursuit of their dreams. After countless auditions, miles of traveling and sleepless nights preparing portfolios, these students are attending some of the nation’s top art schools, including Bates College, Berklee College of Music, Drexel University, Illinois Wesleyan University, Louisiana State University, Loyola University, Texas Christian University and Tulane University. College Counseling Director Justin Fenske says Episcopal students have gone on to study art in the past, but this year’s group of nine is the largest in recent memory. “This shows the growth of our programs,” says Fenske. “We’ve always had success but that success is now building upon itself.”
Deciding what you want to be when you grow up and choosing the right college can be daunting for people of all ages. For those passionate about the arts, the process is even more grueling. Once these students determined that they wanted to dedicate their life to a profession in the arts, the college application process began. All of the students applied to multiple schools, with some students submitting 20 or even 30 applications. Art school applications are quite rigorous with audition tapes and portfolios required for each. Then there’s the waiting. After completing their applications, students and families waited anxiously for news. Many received invitations for in-person auditions in multiple states, meaning families logged frequent flier miles along the way. As intimidating and overwhelming as this may sound, these future artists say they wouldn’t trade the experience for anything in the world.
Future LSU music education and music performance major, Lauren Smith, says the process was tiresome but she enjoyed every minute of it. Lauren has long dreamed of the day she would begin her music journey. Her thesis was on the racial disparity in classical music and how not seeing people who represented her among those in the music she loves impacted her. Now Lauren will have the opportunity to fulfill her dreams and impact the face of classical music. Such a passion inspired her to withstand the grueling application process. “Make sure you love what you’re pursuing,” she advises anyone considering their future.
Ethan Wax, who plans to double major in musical theater and marketing at Illinois Wesleyan University, agrees. “This was one of the most stressful, but rewarding experiences of my life,” he says. Wax says it was rewarding to meet people with the same passion for the arts and to see the different methods used by other performers. Fellow actor Maggie Ewing, who will attend TCU in pursuit of a BFA in theater with an emphasis in acting, says the application experience was an “insane, challenging, rewarding process of self-discovery.” However, she says the experience was worth it. “Have faith in yourself and put all of your efforts into it,” she advises her classmates.
Even as these students were preparing to pursue their dreams, the day-to-day requirements remained. With that in mind, Lauren Reed, who will attend Bates College as a dance major, advises anyone interested in pursuing an art degree to start the process early. “Keep up with school work - school work doesn’t stop because you have to go out of state to audition.” While the requirements of high school do not stop during the college application journey, Fenske says faculty are supportive and ultimately want students to be successful. In fact, Fenske says a major strength of Episcopal is the faculty’s ability to mentor students and help them develop beyond what is typically available in the classroom. “Our faculty members are committed to helping our students excel and they work diligently to make sure there is no limit on what students can achieve,” he says. Fenske points to the creation of the Dance Masters Seminar course and the Theatre Masters Seminar course as examples of how the faculty personalized course offerings to meet the needs of this talented group of students.
The majority of this group of nine seniors have known for some time that art was important to them. “I have to dance,” says future Tulane dance and communications student Mackenzie Bell. “You can do anything you set your mind too,” Bell advises others as she reflects on her decision to pursue her passion. “I knew I liked art, but I never thought about majoring in it,” says Tess Cunningham, who will pursue a BMA in music industry studies – performance track with a minor in business at Loyola University New Orleans College of Media and Arts. Tess says she researched her options and found a way to make a career of doing what she loves. Senior Lara Rende, who will attend Drexel University to obtain a degree in animation, had a slightly different path. Lara was new to the country and not at all sure what degree to pursue. However, she says she followed her gut and decided to study animation. “I created a portfolio in one week,” says Lara with an excited smile. After several sleepless nights and being accepted into Drexel, Lara says the entire experience was worth it.
These nine students have grown through the college application process. Aspiring musical theater performer, Ethan Massengale, who will attend TCU this fall, says the experience brings those in the process to a space of vulnerability. “It is the most exciting, yet nerve-wracking experience,” he says. He encourages others not to give up. “If you really want to do it, it will work out.”
This week’s announcements certainly did not happen overnight. These students and their families have committed years of their lives to seeing this dream come true. Jessica Fletcher, who will attend Berklee College of Music to major in professional music with concentrations in vocal performance, songwriting and music business, advises others to practice every day if they are serious about the field. As for audition day, she had this advice. “Go in there with confidence and look them in the eye. You have what it takes.”
The success of these students is a shining example of Episcopal’s whole child philosophy, which allows students to explore and excel in academics, arts, athletics and spirituality, all on one campus.“The combination of challenging academics and faculty dedicated to providing students art conservatory-level programs is really something special,” says Director of Performing Arts Paige Gagliano. “It has been rewarding to see Episcopal’s whole child mission in action as these students have developed new skills and discovered new talents.”
At Episcopal, 90% of students participate in the arts. The school offers a range of art opportunities including music, visual art, theater and dance. There is truly something for everyone.
Now that these students have completed the college admissions journey, the true adventure of pursuing their dreams begins. We wish you well in life’s adventures. Good luck to each of you.