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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Intellectual Autobiography: Part of My Acceptance Into the HUX Program

When I Consider How My Life’s Been Spent

When thinking back on my cultural experiences, I realize how intellectually, culturally, and artistically devoid my life had been. I found myself shocked at how little I craved or understood the arts as a child or as a young adult in high school. Although I had attended plays as a child, I never fully understood or appreciated the experience for its inherent value. This all changed for me as a freshman at Akron University.

I, like many other incoming students, had no direction or idea as to a possible major. I found myself mired in the core curriculum at Akron, trudging my way through a myriad of prerequisite courses hoping for some divine inspirartion that would choose my major for me. One such course was English Composition. The professor, Mary Tohill, took a unique approach to the coursework. She required us to attend movies, plays, and other cultural events and report our findings in our journals. On Halloween night, I attended a play called The Passion of Dracula. Being Halloween, the cast and crew naturally put forth a novel effort into the show, pulling stunts and utilizing new props to add a new dimension to what I considered an excellent play. My experience with this play sparked me on to searching out new artistic and cultural avenues in my life.

My love for theatre spread and my new hunger for it led me to seeing dozens of live perfomances. In the years following my Dracula experience I attended dinner theatre, seeing such shows as Will Rogers’ Follies, Damn Yankees¸ Ain’t Misbehavin’, and Gypsy. Furthermore, I found myself attending shows at my school, seeing such shows as Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, and Twelfth Night. Still I pursued theatre, witnessing shows at the State Theater in Cleveland and seeing wonderfully staged productions of Phanton of the Opera, Miss Saigon, and Taming of the Shrew. My love for theatre pressed on and even led me to trying out for a small production of Godspell at the local community college where I learned to sing and train my voice as the character Judas.

The experience of trying out for the role of Judas filled me with even more confidence to try new things. At this point I fancied myself a bit of a writer. I had taken a few creative writing courses through the school and found myself eventually taking over the reigns of Editor in Chief of the college’s literary magazine, Waynessence. Í poured over countless submissions, some of which were extremely well written. During this time I began to wonder why there was no forum for these poets and storytellers other than this magazine. I approached the Writing Center Director, Marjorie Kiel, and pitched an idea for a poetry night. Working diligently with Ms. Kiel, we set up a date and mailed out invitations for artists, musicians, and writers to attend the first ever Prose, Poetry, and Acoustical Jam night at Akron’s satellite campus, Wayne College. The event was a much needed forum for anonymous artists to get their work into the public eye. I myself emceed the event and had the honor of being the last reader of the evening. The event was met with remarkably good reviews and the Prose, Poetry, and Acoustical Jam has been an annual fixture of the college for eight years running.

The poetry night also served to bring very talented local musicians to the show. My brother was playing bass guitar in a band at the time and they played the inaugural show. They were invited back the following year and he asked me if I wanted to sing a song at the show that year. I eventually agreed and we learned Neil Young’s Rockin’ in the Free World which I sang the lead. The experience I had gained from trying out for the Judas role combined reading poetry in front of a large group helped me get over the paralyzing stage fright I felt that night. The song sounded quite good and I found myself attending more and more band practices with my brother, eventually landing the lead singer job. We have played together for six years and have played a variety of parties, bars, and school sponsored events in that span.

Finally, about the time the poetry jam was taking off, I was involved in my humanities class at Wayne College. I had worked my way into a variety of artistic disciplines at this point, yet still had no real experience with painting. As part of the class we were required to take a field trip up to the Cleveland Museum of Art. I wasn’t sure what to expect, as I knew nothing of painting. We went to the museum and spent the better part of the day there. It was overwhelming experience. The sheer volume of works and themes was far too vast to process in one day. My eyes roamed over the canvases of Jacques Louis David, Frans Hals, El Greco, and Claude Monet to name a few. The overall experience of the art museum coupled with the enthusiasm of my instructor led me to taking the second section of humanities so I could warrant another trip to the museum. Since that time I have been to the Cleveland Art Museum six more times and always find something new to my eye.

There are more experiences that could yet be related. Trips to the symphony to hear Tchaikovsky and Beethoven, a trip to see the pyramids in Mexico, and a handful of others. When I look at how my life’s been spent, I find myself depressed at the fact that it took me the better part of 19 years to understand what the arts can do for me. My experiences have shaped and instilled me with the confidence to try new things in front of many people. And, with a spot of luck, I may yet inspire others to expand their own horizons in the same ways I have.

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Graduate of The University of Akron, Graduate of California State University (HUX)

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