I attended Ancaster High School, which was an excellent school for those who were artistically inclined. We had concert band, annual theatre productions, excellent English and visual art teachers. After attending McMaster for Humanities for one year, I decided I needed to focus on theatre performance and after a series of auditions, I was accepted into the American Music and Dramatic Academy in New York, where I studied Performance.
I can’t recall how I found out about the award – but it was likely through a community connection in the local theatre community.
Now, I’m the Cultural Strategist for CoBALT Connects, a non-profit Arts Service Organization in Hamilton. I work with artists and communities to develop and understand their creative and cultural communities. We specialize in building facilities, programs and resources to enhance the creative community in Hamilton and throughout the province.
Going to school in New York was insanely expensive. While my parents were helping, and I signed my life away to OSAP debt, I was faced with the unique challenge of not being able to work in New York to earn money while in school. Before I left, I worked like crazy to save up some money, and I sold every instrument I owned (painfully parting with my acoustic bass and saxophone). The scholarship added to the resources that made the leap to NY possible.
Going to AMDA and NY at that point in my career was life changing – I most certainly would not be the same person or artist had I not had that opportunity. I met other young artists from around the world, performed in professional productions, and more than anything, I experienced a city where culture and the arts are part of daily life. I attended dozens and dozens of plays, spent hundreds of hours in galleries and museums; I soaked up every aspect of the creative community I could get my hands on. It opened me up to the widest possible definition of where my art could take me.
If I had a chance to speak to those who made the fund possible, I would tell them that they changed my life. Going to NY shaped my career in a way no other experience could have. I would encourage them to continue with their dedication to young artists. Experience is the best education an artist can have – they must go beyond the local and the known to truly find their way. Going to NY set me on a path that has made my life something unique.
The other thing the award might have done was prove to my parents that the arts were not a passing fad for me. It is my calling. The approval by an outside body to pursue this dream likely had an effect on my parents and family in addition to myself. Lots of young artists never get that support – it’s so vital at that age to give youth the freedom and support to explore, especially in the arts.