The Arts Grow People, Not Just Performers

Yesterday evening, I had the unique pleasure of being an alumni speaker for the Fairfax High School (FHS) Academy 20th Anniversary Gala, hosted at the Stacy Sherwood Community Center in Fairfax, VA. Speaking alongside alumni and current Academy Administrator Andrea Cook were founding Administrator Dave Saunders and former City of Fairfax Mayor John Mason, who helped garner support for the Academy in its founding year.

The current students showcased each of the current programs in their own unique ways, from Korean fan dancing and drumming to musical theatre performances. It was an inspirational night that struck a unique chord with me. The thread thoughout the night was how important the arts are for growing not just artists but people. The skills learned in the arts are transferable to many other fields and help develop the whole person, beyond the scholar.

Below is a copy of my story, which I intend to continue to evolve in the coming years.

Good evening.

My name is Lauren Green. I’m an alum of Fairfax High School, class of 2005 and an FHS academy musical theatre student. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to have a career in dance and musical theatre that was supported by my family and teachers growing up, a few of whom are in this room.

The pursuit of an art isn’t just about the art itself – it’s about the values that are instilled in the process of becoming an artist. Having the opportunity to pursue the arts made me who I am today – disciplined, emotional, creative, growth-minded, relentless, and a little nuts at times.

Growing up I had a mentor, a dancer who was a few years ahead of me at the dance studio we went to. She gave me a sofa to sleep on during my first audition in New York City. She continued to be a mentor and friend of mine through the years. And now that we have both transitioned from our life of dance to our lives of dance and beyond, she is someone I admire for her commitment to continuing to perform, train, teach and guide the Fairfax Academy program. Of course, you know I’m talking about Ms. Andrea Cook.

Ms. Cook and I recently reconnected. I told her about finishing my masters in organization development at George Mason and my work as a graphic facilitator. She saw an opportunity for the FHS Academy, and I’ve been delighted to have come back to my high school and facilitate a few strategic planning sessions for Ms. Cook and the academy teachers. The part I've enjoyed the most has been the connection that Mr. Replogle has helped me make between my role in front of the room as a facilitator and the role I've played on stage as a dancer and musical theatre performer.

I would like to share a little bit about the academy and the role it played in shaping both my life as a performer and as a facilitator. In high school, i wanted to be well-rounded in dance, theatre and music. Mr. Replogle was my first exposure to the realities of the musical theatre world.

I learned how to show up as a professional in an audition. He gave me my first opportunity to choreograph and teach dance and stage movement to my peers. If you’ve had him as a teacher, you know he’s tough. Jovial and fun-loving and caring but tough. I remember him saying, “If you want to do this, you have to really love it.” It wasn’t until years later when I decided that I didn’t love dance enough to compromise the lifestyle I wanted for myself, that I truly understood what he meant.

One of the greatest blessings I had in my life was the opportunity to come to that realization on my own, not through the influence of a parent or teacher. My decision to pursue a career in dance was the best decision I ever made, but it wasn’t an easy one at first. I remember distinctly when I announced my senior year of high school that I was planning to major in dance to some of my teachers, I was met with some sideways glances. I was a straight A student and one of a few valedictorians that year. What could a life in dance possibly offer someone as bright as me?

To my horror, at the time, my mother called my guidance counselor in anger about the discouragement some of my teachers had shown. Looking back, I want to say thank you to both my mom and dad for supporting me, removing obstacles, never pushing, and for always paying for my groceries. Because of their support, I was able to pursue my dance BFA at SUNY University at Buffalo (UB). I also took classes in education and journalism.

The summer before my senior year, I got an internship with a dance magazine and was able to start freelance writing, a skill I was later able to transition into a communications career, which ultimately exposed me to the idea of following my mom’s footsteps to pursue my current focus in facilitation and organization development.

I have no regrets about taking the time I needed to pursue my dance career. It is an integral part of my identity, and as I’ve entered a whole new path, it helps me stay grounded and keep perspective on what’s important. Working to become a dancer has given me discipline and a passion to pursue all of my goals to a point of excellence.

I’m still dancing seasonally with a local dance company – Dancin’ Unlimited. And I now own my own company, Dancing with Markers, where I provide facilitation, visualization and coaching.

I have found a pursuit that truly brings all my passions together. My goal now is to find ways of pulling these skills back to the world of dance. I would love to share more with you about my path, but they only gave me 5 minutes so i’ll just say…

If you remember one thing from tonight, remember this – if your child or student is thinking about a life in the arts, encourage them – be a safety net and trust – have faith, that they will find their way, whether it is to continue their artistic journey or take it into the beyond.

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