Reading a friend’s blog in which she writes about her daughter’s application, prep, and audition to an arts school, I was reminded about my own daughter’s desire to attend an arts high school and the preparations.
During the last year of living in Los Angeles, I decided that it was time for me to move out of the area. It was too stressful for me. Everywhere we went, we encountered traffic, rude people, crowds, etc. My diabetes was very bad then and it is exacerbated by stress so I needed to cut down on my stress. At that time, it was just my youngest with me. She was about to enter high school and I knew that if we stayed, she would begin school and we would be stuck there for four more years so the time to make the move was before she entered high school. She was home schooled for middle school so we could, theoretically, move anytime before September. When I discussed this with her and with the older kids, Susie went ballistic. She did not want to move and leave all her friends behind. She said she wanted to go to the performing arts high school. She had mentioned this previously but I didn’t realize she was serious about applying. So we did some research (of course she had already gotten a lot of information and made some inquiries from her choir teacher from elementary and from before she left middle school). We looked online for the time frame for applications and auditions.
I felt bad that I was taking her from something she wanted so badly. The rent where we were living was astronomical. It was over $1700 for a one bedroom townhouse with 875 square feet of livable space. My health, both physical and mental, were declining. But I wanted her to be happy. So I told her that I would help her apply and prepare and if she made it into the school, we would find a rental closer to the school which is on the campus of Cal State Los Angeles (basically east L.A., not a great place to live but we would find something affordable and safe) and we would stay until she finished high school. If she didn’t make it into the school, we would move as soon as we could find some place to move.
The Los Angeles County High School for Performing Arts is very exclusive in who they accept. They demand excellence and prepare their students to enter performing arts colleges and/or professional employment. Each year thousands of students apply for admission. Of the applicants, those that make the academic cut go on to audition. Then those that make the audition are put into a lottery because the number of successful auditions is far more than the number of slots available each year. That particular year, it was something like 30 openings for the choral program. The number that auditioned was at least a couple of hundred.
Her academic application was accepted and she had begun to work with a choral coach in preparation for the audition, even before we knew if she would be accepted on her academic record. She was excited but of course, with so much riding on the audition, she was very apprehensive. So was I. I knew the best thing for me was to move out of the area (to northern California) but I knew that Susie really wanted to attend this school. I was torn but I stuck to my deal with her as we both prepared for the audition. We began to look for a pianist to accompany her at the audition because each applicant had to provide their own. I also began scouring the newspaper and the internet for information about the area and prices of rentals.
The audition was mentally grueling. There were hundreds of (mostly) girls auditioning, each with their “stage mother” and singing coaches. The atmosphere was very strained as they all looked upon each other as the “enemy” they had to beat. Susie had only me and did a good job of keeping as calm as she could. When it was time for her audition, I had to leave because no one was allowed to view/listen to the auditions. I went outside to decompress and enjoy the beautiful March day. Her accompanist came out and I knew the audition was over. He came over and told me she had done beautifully.
In the end, she made the cut with the auditions but not the lottery. She was so far down on the wait list that we knew she would not get it. By then, she had pretty much decided that the people at the school were “too snooty” and she didn’t want to go there anyway. She still didn’t want to move out of Los Angeles but that was the deal. With a lot of arguing and rationalizing, we went up north to look around. She was determined not to like it. She pretended to be asleep the entire drive and then as we drove around a few small towns I had picked to investigate as possible places to move. Even after I had signed the two year lease on a house three blocks from the local high school (she had decided to go back to school instead of being home schooled), she resisted, contacting her father and asking if she could move in with him so she could stay in Los Angeles. He said yes but after a family meeting with all three of the kids and their father and I, her dad realized what he was getting into and started to back down. Susie realized that her step mother would not allow her to bring her cats or her bearded dragon or her geckos with her if she moved in with them so she decided to move to Santa Rosa with me. I was relieved because I knew that if she stayed behind, there was no way I could move away and I would end up staying in Los Angeles which would be suicide for me.
End of story is that she had set her sights on something and we had made a deal. We both followed through. It didn’t work out for her the way she wanted it to work out but in the end, she found a wonderful group of friends in the very artsy Santa Rosa. We were less than an hour away from San Francisco and we went there often. She ended up with home schooling there, too. When she graduated, she went on to an arts college in Baltimore and upon graduation, moved back to Santa Rosa where she is working and happy and thriving!