BWW Blog: What I Learned Growing Up in the Arts
I was lucky enough to grow up in a strong arts community in Jackson, TN. They had a thriving performing arts scene thanks to JRPD and The Jackson Theatre Guild. I vividly remember my first experience with the arts. My mother enrolled me in JRPD's performing arts camp. I thought she was the devil. Despite all my tears and reservations that week proved to be a defining moment in my life. Now as an adult, I am asked on a regular basis why I believe the arts are important in the lives of young students. Occasionally I will reply with the latest study but more often than not I pull from my personal experience with growing up in the arts.
I discovered compassion. As a child the arts allowed me to look at the world from varied perspectives. I was encouraged to put myself in the mindset of others and explore the world. From those explorations I learned that the heart of humanity is much larger than I had previously imagined and that life is a continuous quest for knowledge and personal understanding.
I learned to trust my inner voice. Growing up in the theatre I made decisions at a very young age. Many people critiqued and guided the choices I made in rehearsals before they were finally presented to an audience. The directors influenced me but ultimately the implementation was up to me. Those decisions, though small, created a sense of confidence in me as a child. The more decisions I made on my own about my character's development the more I began to trust the decisions I was making in my own life.
I learned acceptance. The very nature of theatre encourages the understanding of all types of people. As a child I found myself thrust into casts filled with people that had different backgrounds and beliefs. I was able to find common ground through our ultimate goal of story telling. This common objective overcame our differences time and time again.
I learned the importance of communication. My words carried weight and could change the perception of those that heard them. As an actor you are taught that reaction is key to a performance. Well, to react first you have to listen. You have to actually hear people. Not just wait for your cue. The things I said and my reactions on and off the stage made a difference in the world around me.
I never get tired of being asked why the arts are important in the lives of young students. The arts have given me so much through the years. For me it's never been about the glory of being on stage. It's been about the process. It's about the work that you do behind the scenes. It's about how you grow as a person with every character, every song, and every new friend. Even one show can alter you forever. It's why I encourage everyone to take that leap of faith and try out for a production. You never know what you will walk away with, but I guarantee you will learn something that will make a lasting impression.