April 23, 2002

Keep A Little Art in Your Post-High School Life

Filed under: Art and About Kids — admin @ 2:38 pm

Ten-year-old Orindan Adrianna Sung loves music, dance, art, math and singing — especially singing. Next month she will be making her debut with the San Francisco Opera in Georges Bizet’s “Carmen.” She will be playing a street urchin, along with nine other young talents from the San Francisco Girls Chorus.

Adrianna has been making history at the Girls Chorus since she was allowed to audition for their program at the age of six, a year earlier than most girls are invited to try out. At age nine, she was the youngest girl in the history of the chorus to make the highest level of instruction, Level 4, in the chorus school.

Adrianna’s parents say they can’t remember when their daughter didn’t have a song bursting forth from her soul. With the Girl’s Chorus, she has already performed in Davies Hall, and was part of the ceremony for the emotional “Day of Remembrance” following September 11. When music isn’t coming out of her mouth, it is tickling her feet as a dancer for Contra Costa Ballet.

Adrianna is a young member of our community with extraordinary talent. But when I asked her what she likes best about singing and dancing, she simply answered, “It’s really fun to make people feel happy inside.”

Every now and again I meet a artist, dancer, musician or singer in Lamorinda who has an astounding resume at a very young age. Their parents or teachers, even a family friend, will call me because they are so proud of what the child has accomplished. I’m very fortunate to get to meet these kids and for the brief time I’m interviewing them, I get rejuvenated by the purity of their artistic spirit. Whether I’m speaking to a child who has just won a national art contest, or someone whose art has been posted on the school bulletin board, I ask the question, “What’s your favorite part about (singing/acting/dancing/composing)?” They invariably answer, “It’s fun.”

I haven’t done any formal research on the topic, but in my four years of covering the Lamorinda arts scene, I have noticed that “It’s fun” tends to be the answer given by folks through high school age. When artists reach college age and older, the reasons for pursuing art often come attached to the financial feasibility of it, or some deep philosophical rationale. I know that deep down, they must have begun their artistic pursuits because it was fun. But “It’s fun,” which can sound like a trite answer, doesn’t bubble to the surface when asked why they do what they do.

I’m not worried about adult professional, semi-professional and recreational artists. Whatever drives them, at least art is a part of their lives. I do get a knot is my stomach, however, when I talk to a high school senior in the arts about his or her future plans. In Lamorinda, almost all of them say they are going to college. Many of them already believe they’ll be pre-med or pre-law or business majors. Some of them are excited to talk to me regarding the concert or art show or dance recital about which they are being interviewed because, “It’s my last one.” I will ask, “Are you going to play piano/sing/write music/do art/act in college?” They almost invariably respond, “I don’t think I’ll have time.”

Anthony Ruiz, the owner of FastFrame of Lafayette, tells a similar tale. He often frames a high school senior’s final project or big competition entry. In chatting with a young client, he will talk about the artwork and ask if the artist is going to take an art class in college. Ruiz says the chilling answer he most often hears is “probably not.”

I’m not exaggerating. The Sun is a newspaper, which means our stories have to be newsy in some way. I write stories about seniors from Lamorinda who win arts scholarships, or are planning a career in the arts, or are delaying college to study art, because that endeavor is so unusual, it is actually news in this community. I love to trumpet that news, but I would rather be scrounging for stories because “Ho-hum, Lamorinda churned out another artist.”

Encouraging kids to do art while they are in our school system and living under our roofs is important. But somehow, the burning drive of the artistic spirit exemplified by Adrianna Sung is extinguished in young adulthood. I know sometimes the flame is just turned down, and we think we’ll add fuel when we retire. But the reality is, not all of us will live until retirement. To live every day to the fullest, whether you’re given the gift of 20 years or 120 years, then every day must be filled with a little art.

Graduation is approaching quickly. If you live with a young person who seems to find an iota of enjoyment from the arts, please make sure they don’t leave that joy hanging on the bedpost in their room at home when they pack their bags to move into the real world.