Speech given at Waterford School’s Parent Association Meeting by Zada S. ’24, a Waterford senior and music student.
Good morning everyone, my name is Zada, and I am pleased to speak to you today in this wonderful new science center that I am privileged to learn in as I enter the concluding year of my Waterford education. In the midst of college applications, I was recently reminded of how far I’ve truly come on this campus when reviewing my transcript… typed in small margins in the bottom right corner, and the words “Enrolled in 2009” provoked a flood of emotions. As I reflect on my fourteen years spent under Waterford’s guidance, I am overcome with gratitude. The teachers, students, campus, and curriculum have gifted me and others the opportunity to pursue a rigorous education uniquely accompanied by the liberal arts. Waterford has nurtured me into not only a devoted student, but a passionate artist, and I would like to share with you how my arts experience at Waterford has contributed to my larger liberal arts learning journey.
To begin, I have a confession… Blind dates have always scared me— and don’t worry, this unexpected tangent holds a greater purpose than to bore you with angsty teenage relationship drama. Allow me to elaborate, for a planner like myself, spontaneity coupled with young love screams disaster. Growing up, I meticulously prepared for every event. Whether slicking down a rogue hair or writing out a study schedule, I never risked a lousy performance. What I certainly didn’t plan for was to agree to a blind date at age 8. However, when designing my Christmas list by flipping through a toy magazine, the smell of industrial ink wasn’t the only thing in the air. A mystery suitor– fashionably dressed in black and white– was waiting to sweep me off my feet… a plastic piano keyboard. To me, Waterford can be described as music’s wingman as this school provided music an alluring and proper introduction beginning in lower school.
Music block was my most anticipated part of the day. Playing on the keyboards with my classmates and singing in a small 20-student choir revealed my undeniable passion for imparting beauty and joy to others via sounds and melodies that I could create. I eagerly awaited our choral performances in front of a packed auditorium of proud parents, and on the day we received a CD holding the concert’s recordings, I jumped at the opportunity to be a spectator to our hard work— music brought me an invaluable sense of peace, and I sought this feeling in my free time; after school, I would plop myself in front of the piano and pick at the keys until random notes suddenly replicated that day’s choral melodies. I discovered I could play by ear, and when the time came and I joined the middle school choir, I was elated to sing in room 802— not only was it a new spacious abode to learn proper vocal techniques with professional guidance, but I valued the opportunity to retire to the small piano practice rooms lining the halls of the music building. On stressful school days, it was in these rooms that I sought peace by practicing a choral solo or refining a new piano arrangement. Waterford provides the necessary resources to inspire young artists like myself to pursue their passion whether in class, on campus, or outside of school, and these foundational years were critical in promoting my successful music career in high school.
Before I talk about my high school art experience, I’d like to take a brief step back into the beginnings of my visual arts career. When I was in kindergarten, my classmates and I had an annual competition to see who could find the best treasure on campus. I spent countless hours digging my little hands in the sandbox to find untold riches. One day, as my class strolled to the lunchroom walking the crossroads of the lower and upper school campus, I found my winning treasure. According to my youthful calculations, I had uncovered an ancient artifact— a roll of film— obviously from the “olden days.” I was proud of my discovery, and I brought my finding to playdates and family get-togethers contemplating the likelihood that perhaps one of the lower school time-machine visitors had escaped and accidentally left behind a possession. However, my wild imagination was soon tamed when my eldest cousin River informed me that my treasure was a mere representation of a poor Dark Room student who lost hours of work to accidental light exposure. Here is that beloved roll I found many years ago— and though I may not be holding a million-dollar artifact, it holds much greater significance to me now, as it ignited my passion for photography.
Waterford’s curriculum plants the seeds that grow aspiring artists. As I walked through the halls in my lower school years, I would marvel at the papier-mâché fish and stick snakes produced by the fourth and fifth graders hanging from the ceilings. I saw these art projects as a right of passage, and I dreamed of the day I too could point out my own work on display. Those days came far faster than I ever could have imagined, and I now smile when my younger siblings bring home their own interpretation of artworks I once produced. Though I was predisposed to pursue photography as my core visual art due to my roll of film, I am grateful for the many opportunities I’ve had to expand my skills in other visual art forms such as painting, drawing, and pottery during my years on this campus. Middle school was an amazing time to explore the arts and discover which form I find to be the most fulfilling for me.
Now that I’ve filled you in on the beginnings of my liberal arts journey, I’d like to share with you my experience during arguably the most significant, rewarding, and especially difficult time of this whole process… high school. With a demanding schedule filled with AP and honors classes as well as both school and club volleyball practice, I have a lot of things competing for my time. During my freshman year, I completely overwhelmed myself. Though I was enrolled in photography and choir, academic achievement was my top priority. On top of a full schedule, I took electives such as Latin 4, and Debate, and I joined the school newspaper committee as well as multiple lunchtime clubs. Though I am grateful for the amazing education I received in taking all these classes, I knew something was missing… and I find it ironic that “Joy in the Journey” was last year’s theme. As I mentioned earlier, the beauty of a Liberal Arts education is to pursue rigorous academics alongside the arts, and I robbed myself of both the joy and growth the arts can bring during my first year of high school. Thus beginning in sophomore year, I was committed to expanding the influence of art in my life.
When I first joined the high school’s chamber singers, I was a small fish in a big pond, but my director Dr. Tatman soon distinguished me as a potential troubadour. He was correct in assuming my qualifying passion— I was elated when harmonies pieced together and overtones filled the room, however, I lacked the proper vocal techniques to project like a troubadour, so I went straight to work… I was willing to risk a couple of extra study hours in pursuit of something I was truly passionate about. Dr. Tatman educated me on how to achieve resonance: dropped larynx, raised soft palate, and breath support. I recorded myself singing, listened for imperfections, and adjusted until I achieved the desired sound. I embraced the opportunity to learn from a professional and after countless hours of maturing my singing, I was on the troubadour’s roster my sophomore year. Singing in troubadours has not only brought immense joy into my school days, but my membership has provoked immense personal growth. For years I stubbornly avoided singing for friends and family… when I would fall head over heels for a new tune, I practiced its foreign melody in the comfort of my room to save flat notes for my own ears. However, the trials of being a troubadour have shown me that perfection is not attainable, I’ve had to overcome my fear of making mistakes. The vulnerability that accompanies passion and its expression has an immense payoff, and as I grew more confident in my abilities and began to share my talent, I found that the arts are most rewarding for the joy I can bring to others. Of all my solo opportunities, I am most proud of my solo performance last winter when I sang and accompanied a piece during our choral concert. I remember the smiles of those who approached me after, and I was proud of how far I had come. Waterford has helped me discover a defining piece of my identity, I truly do not know where I’d stand today without music. I am forever grateful for the amazing opportunities Waterford has given me to grow and perform.
Similarly, AP Photography has grown both my photographic skills and my perception of the world around me… I’ve discovered the abundant potential for a strong photographic image anywhere I look. Composition, lighting, f-stop, and shutter speed are critical technical issues I’ve learned to control that have allowed me to pursue a rewarding exploration of conceptual ideas in my work. As I plan to pursue the study of psychology in college, photography has allowed me to explore one of my academic passions in a unique way. Last year for my final project, I created a book compiling macro images of individuals’ eyes accompanied with a handwritten note holding that individual’s greatest piece of advice. In an age poisoned by digital information, I sought to produce a work that allows individuals to sit and reflect on the wisdom of others through images promoting eye contact and a sense of natural connection. In ways, this project was more rewarding than the many scholastics awards I’ve won for my work… Even if no one were to open my book, the knowledge, experiences, and connections I gained from the process of production have given me invaluable keys to success and happiness that will support me in all aspects of my ongoing learning journey.
To conclude, I encourage you wonderful Waterford parents to support your children as they explore the liberal arts offered by this school… there were various bumps along the way of my journey, and my parents encouraged me throughout it all. I spent much time pursuing multiple other art forms that I didn’t mention today such as theater and violin, but I ultimately chose to pursue other crafts. While it may be tempting with this school’s many opportunities to “do it all”, I promise your children will be most rewarded by the growth and experiences that accompany pursuing their true passions that they will eventually discover. Though it’s a cliche that parents dread the day their children start to date, just remember Waterford is the best wingman out there… at least for developing a relationship with the arts. Thank you.
May 5, 2022
August 4, 2020
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