Pursuing Art

In the spotlight: majoring in vocal talent

As seniors begin to hear back from colleges and plan out their futures, a select few look to the stage when it comes to where they want to go next. These future names-in-lights plan to take full advantage of their time in college by majoring in their choice of art.

Jordyn Benedict, a senior in both Concert Choir and Chamber, has been singing and writing songs since she was three years old. Her dreams of working professionally in the industry are starting to be realized.

“Music has been part of my life forever and I can’t imagine myself doing anything different, so I want to pursue that,” Benedict said.

With her first, self-written single being released on iTunes in the next few weeks and her family’s support behind her, Benedict is excited to major in Performance and Songwriting, where she will be “surrounded by people who share the same passion,” she said.  

Benedict is used to people questioning her decision to major in an art form, but believes that is the right choice for what she wants to do.

“I get that a lot, where they’re like ‘Oh, what are you going to do after?’,” Benedict said regarding people who have doubts about her major. “I want to go in the music-business route, so with songwriting and majoring in that, I think it will open up doors. So even if it’s not me front-lining singing, which is obviously the ideal job, I can always work in the industry that way.”

Like Benedict, Nick Glaab, senior, has been singing his whole life. Glaab recently decided to double major in Vocal Performance and Music Composition.

“I was planning to major in Film until the beginning of my senior year and then I decided to major in music,” Glaab explained.”Over the summer, I played a lot of piano and sang a lot and became really inspired to do it in college.”

Although it may seem difficult to get a job as an arts major, Glaab is confident he will be able to find the right fit for him, and hopes to eventually compose music for a major film company.

“I feel there is a need for (music), even if I’m a teacher or professor somewhere,” Glaab said. “And even if I’m doing jobs here and there, I’ll still be doing what I love.”

Megan Masson, senior, is planning to major in Classical Vocal Performance. With years of classical singing under her belt and numerous college auditions underway, she is ready for the opportunity to become more well-versed in her art.

“I get questions from my extended family like ‘Are you sure you want to do that?,’” Masson said, “But I think everyone believes in my ability and going to college is a step in the right direction because there’s still a lot I have to learn.”

Masson also believes she is tough enough to remain resilient in the industry, despite the inevitable rejections that come with the price of being an artist.

“It does take a certain personality to have a thick skin, because you get told ‘no’ a lot more than you get told ‘yes’,” Masson said. “And you can’t let that get you down or anything, you just have to keep going because you like to do it.”

Despite the possible hardships that can come with majoring in an art, these seniors believe that being able to pursue their passions to their full extent makes it all worth it.

“Obviously art is not the most rational thing to major in, since it’s really hard to find jobs,” Masson said. “But being able to do music everyday would be the best thing I could dream to do.”

Exercising artistic talents in stable careers 

Although many people encourage students to pursue their passions, it’s common for artists to wonder if majoring in an art form is what they want to do. Some students have thought of ways to continue their art into college and beyond while majoring in a different field of choice.

Nazzo Khalil, senior, had a basis in drawing and painting before becoming a makeup artist at Kiko Milano, where she works 25 to 30 hours per week using her artistic skills as a way to transform people’s look.

“I like that I’m actually doing something I really enjoy,” Khalil said. “No one actually wants to stand in a room for eight hours, but at the same time I can do my thing on people’s faces.”

Although she wants to have art as a part of her future career, Khalil will most likely major in Business Administration because “no matter what type of job I get, business will be involved.”

“I feel like if you’re an Art Major, that’s not really the way you find work in the arts,” Khalil explained. “It’s more about who you know rather than what kind of education you have. If you have connections to people that are actually going to help you make money, that’s how it works.”

Jessica Han, senior, has been drawing and painting her whole life and was a winner of the nation-wide Congressional Art Competition last year. Despite her talent, Han has never seen herself majoring in an art form and considers it more of a hobby.

“It’s really hard to make it in the art world,” Han said. “It’s not necessarily your art but who you are and your name and everything.”

Instead, Han plans to major in Mechanical Engineering, where her creative side can still thrive while solving problems in a technical way.

“I’m going to do Mechanical Engineering because I like the math and science, and it’s like art with creating things, but I feel like it’s more about what you can do than who you are,” Han said.

After getting her first camera in seventh grade, Sarah Northrop, senior, has been hooked on photography. Since then, she has developed and honed her skills, and even has taken headshots for Silver Gauntlet International. However, Northrop is not planning on majoring in photography in college. Instead, Northrop has chosen to study advertising so she can “still use her art on a daily basis,” she said.

“I feel that a career right off the bat in photography wouldn’t really take off for me,” Northrop said. “I want a stable income and I feel like photography has a lot of risk attached to it.”

Although her major involves her artistic talent, Northrop still dreams to someday open her own gallery, but only after she feels comfortable in her means to do so.

“My cousin had this saying, and not a lot of people would agree with it but I like it,” Northrop said. “It’s ‘Do something that makes money, and use that to do the thing that you love.’ And for me that would be photography.”

Although pursuing the arts as a career can feel risky, being able to still use artistic elements within a future job brings both worlds together in a safer place for students who still want to practice their art without majoring in it.

“I don’t think it’s necessary for people to major in their form of art because if they’re advanced in their form of art, that’s never going to escape them if they don’t continue it into college,” Northrop said. “But I think that if they want to, there shouldn’t be anything stopping them.”

Painting your high school career

With trying to fill just six to eight spots while considering the classes that interest you and keeping in in mind required credits, choosing yearly courses can be hard. Conejo Valley Unified School District requires high school students to take at least one art class in order to graduate, leaving them perusing choices such as theater and eco art.

Many students, such as Grace Hsu, sophomore, face this dilemma of how to fit their classes into a tight schedule. “(I choose) what courses will look better on my transcript and help me get into a good university,” Hsu said.

Some students believe art is not the most productive choice for their future. “I don’t think it should be mandatory because not everyone wants to pursue art related (careers),” Annie Sun, sophomore and AP Art student, said.

Hsu agrees. “Some people are going to major in subjects that are unrelated to art. Instead of taking an art class, they should use that class period to take a class they think will be helpful to them in the future,” she said.

Ryan Barry, sophomore, explained that he prioritizes educational classes, taking art classes only when there is an empty space in his schedule.

“If I have an open spot for a class, I could possibly take an art class to widen what goes on my transcript and maybe colleges would like that,” Barry said.

However, Barry believes the art requirement is necessary for students to be in touch with the creative side of the brain. “It’s just a time to take my mind off of everything and … express myself,” Barry said.

Madeline Weiss, sophomore and choir and theater student, believes that art classes are no different than any other elective. “PE is required and not all people are athletic so I think definitely exploring the arts is something that every student … should do,” Weiss said.

Although all students take one art class during their high school career, many choose not to continue. According to Jennifer Kaye, art teacher, this is due in part to the stigma that art classes are not as important as other high school classes.

“Not that many students apply to art schools,” Kaye said. “I think there is a stigma against art because people believe they will just end up as ‘starving artists’. Most people don’t realize all of the different types of jobs artists can have.”

Kaye tries to address this negative reputation in her classes. “While [students] are in the class I try to get rid of the stigma by discussing how art and design are part of their everyday life,” Kaye said. “

Although art classes are not everyone’s first choice, the program has significant benefits. “Many of these programs that I am a part of, they’re like my outlets,” Weiss said. “So whenever I’m having a bad day, it’s kind of like where I go to be myself and it’s accepting and you meet so many new people and it’s just a great experience to be a part of …  it can definitely grow you as a person and it might show you something … of yourself that you have never seen before if you’re afraid to try it.”

No matter the opinion of the art courses, it is still required to take for high school students in California, and those such as Kaye are grateful.

“I believe that a creative way of thinking and understanding is important for all students to have no matter what they decide to after high school,” Kaye said. “ I know that a lot of other states don’t have any art requirements, so I am glad that California recognizes it importance.”


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