Tomorrow begins my second week at NYU Steinhardt. I have learned so much from this experience already, not only in the weeks leading up to it, but also from my first week here. I really love this program. I almost went off to the races and started a really disorganized paragraph about the school, the classes, and the surrounding area, but I’m going to try to control myself and make this post followable. Here are a few lessons I have learned so far that I would like to impart on you.
1. You get out what you put in. Steinhardt’s program already does a pretty good job of keeping you busy. They pack in a ton of rigorous courses and master classes, each ranging from one hour in length to three hours in length. I am loving this program! You don’t really have time to focus on frivolous things. It’s all work and no play, but, when your work is your play, it’s so much fun! However, there is still free time to be found in the schedule. For example, we are divided into two dance groups, Dance I and Dance II. When Dance I has class, Dance II does not. Therefore, because our dance classes are 90 minutes long, that’s an extra 90 minutes of free time to hang out with friends, explore the area, or get food. Now, that may sound great, but are you really getting everything you can out of the program just sitting around? I decided to take Dance I and Dance II. Dance I is more technique based, and Dance II is for singers who dance really well. I took both classes so that I could work on my technique and continue to challenge myself with faster paced classes. I am really pleased with this decision. It has allowed me to really take a lot in. Because of this, I usually have three straight hours of dancing in the mornings. Thursday, I had five hours of dance. My legs were sore, but I didn’t regret my decision at all! Yes, free time would be nice, but I want to get everything I can from the program. My dance teachers are extremely pleased. I definitely suggest taking as many classes as you can at programs like these. You can only get better!
2. Do your homework. Before the start of the program, we were asked to read William Wesbrook’s book, Dramatic Circumstances, which is all about the acting through song technique that we’re using at NYU Steinhardt. I suggest that everyone read it! It is very informative, and I have already seen great improvement in my own acting since applying it (not to toot my own horn). Anyway, back to the point, some people didn’t read it. They’ve openly admitted to not reading it to the other students, and it shows. Almost everything we do here (singing wise) is based in the dramatic circumstance technique. If you haven’t read it before coming into this program, that’s a problem worth singing about. (Haha – That’s a dramatic circumstance joke.) Frankly, I don’t think it is wise to skip reading the book before coming to the program because that demonstrates a lack of responsibility/dedication in my humble opinion. Even if I were to disregard that fact, I have to admit that it makes everything progress much slower. Now, the basics have to be re-explained for an alarmingly large amount of people, so we can’t move on as quickly as I would like. My suggestion would be to always do your homework. Is reading a technique book my idea of a thrilling way to spend your weekend? Heck no. Still, I learned a lot from Wesbrook’s book, and I think that not doing your homework will deprive not only yourself, but all of your classmates of a more enriching experience. That’s just my opinion.
3. Unfortunately, there is no escaping the clique mentality. I had really high hopes for the social dynamics of this program. I believe that I am working with some of the most talented high school performers in the nation, and I thought that, with the level of dedication it must take to become one of the most talented in the nation, there wouldn’t be any concern for social groups or cliqueyness. I am sad to say that that wasn’t the case. Even here, there is a very exclusive clique. It’s disheartening to see that we all can’t just focus on theater and working to become better performers. Some people just want to form something exclusive. That’s fine. If you ever experience this, my suggestion is to just ignore it. This is going to sound a lot worse than I intend it to, but I didn’t come here to make friends. Of course I want to, and I have! There are 42 of us and a lot of really nice people. What I mean is, my primary goal in participating in NYU’s program was to become a better performer. Making friends comes after that. In the end, everyone at this program could ostracize me, and, yes, it would be a little lonely, a little upsetting, but I would still be okay because that’s not my primary focus. Choose what you put your energy into wisely. Clique mentalities distract from learning. You came here to learn. You came here to be better. Be nice to everyone, and focus on becoming the best performer possible. 🙂
4. New York City is really safe. The NYPD is everywhere all the time. In the case of Greenwich Village, where there isn’t NYPD, there is NYU’s campus security. Besides the fact that it smells like urine all the time, NYC is a very beautiful place with a lot to see and do and a lot of lovely, talented people. Washington Square Park is home to a lovely baby grande piano, and there is a pianist who plays there everyday. People all gather around to listen to him. I think that is so poetic and pretty. My one warning is not to talk to strangers. Being from the south, I always respond to people when addressed, and I can sometimes be overly polite in situations that don’t call for politeness. Up here, there can be a lot of crazies. Don’t respond. It’s really hard not to; you feel really bad, but don’t respond. If you follow that simple rule, you’ll be fine!
5. College programs are fun. Don’t let my above statements scare you or make these programs seem really hard core… Okay, I won’t lie. They can be a little hard core, but I honestly expected a lot worse. These programs are actually really fun and educational. They are a fantastic way to see if colleges are compatible for you and to work on your craft. I recommend trying a college program if you want to go into musical theater. Just remember to have fun and take advantage of every opportunity.
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