Independent Educational Consultant
COPA, Inc: College Options in the Performing Arts
Co-Leader of the Performing Arts SIG
What drew you to the world of college counseling?
I was a child performer who grew up with a dream to be a music educator and I was privileged to be able to follow that path earning degrees in music education at NYU and the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College/CUNY. In my student years I was strongly involved in writing, and wrote for and edited the “Student News” column in the New York State music educators monthly journal, the School Music News, in which I am still a contributing guest columnist. Musicians wear many hats, which I continue doing to this day: composing; conducting; singing; and teaching classroom, choral, and musical theatre; as well as having taught music education methods and courses in integrating the arts in the early childhood, elementary, and special education curriculum at NYU for over 20 years .
Being a private voice and piano teacher has led to many discussions and preparations with my students for their college plans. For years I helped them find, apply to, and audition for colleges that suited their arts pursuits. In the time BC (Before Computers), one had to send requests by mail for “college bulletins” — material we now find with a simple click — and I maintained a lending library of those college catalogs in my music studio.
Technology has changed a lot since then but students, not really all that much: still passionate about the arts, still searching for performing arts college programs that fit them artistically and academically, still preparing auditions and portfolios, résumé and repertoire lists, and still enlisting the help of their arts teachers. The idea of formalizing my work with college-bound students evolved in my mind slowly but steadily over the years, and for a while I toyed with the idea of going for a master's/licensure in school counseling. But that wasn’t really what I wanted, so I looked around (with the help of an internet search, of course) for the possibility of doing a master's in college counseling, but there didn’t seem to be anything. There was, however, the Certificate in College Counseling offered (online!) by UCLA, and with that I found my new hat.
What is your favorite part of the job?
I worked with a student a few years ago who, despite, or maybe because of, being a talented, insightful actor/singer, was withdrawn, depressed, and could barely do anything college-related unless I was sitting across from him. Little by little he took the tiniest steps on his own, and one day he called to proudly let me know that he had completed and submitted a college application all by himself! His subsequent college career was spectacular and today he is a thriving, working actor. The growth that students find within themselves as they work through the college application process is hugely satisfying and gives me hope for our future in an unsteady, uncertain world.
How did you get involved with the Performing Arts SIG?
Having been so involved with professional organizations all my life (Musicians' Union member at age 13; several teacher unions, and local, state, and national music and education associations in which I continue to hold membership) I had learned in the UCLA certificate courses that NACAC was the conduit through which professionalism would be recognized and maintained in my new career path. I joined as soon as possible and started to explore the perks and benefits of membership. I discovered the music SIG, and a separate one for theater. I joined them both but there wasn’t much interaction on the Exchange. When the music SIG was looking for a co-leader, even though I was a comparative newbie in the college counseling profession I was an old-timer in the performing arts world. As I volunteered for the co-leadership I wondered if the performing arts groups could be combined into a single SIG, as there is so much crossover and collaboration within the arts in our world. NACAC officials were instrumental in helping to create and support the new title and group, and soon after, the Facebook page. Now we are a thriving SIG that communicates frequently in that space. Through our sharing of information and resources we have found not only colleagues but, in many ways, a community of friends and allies.
Why should counselors and admission professionals get involved with a NACAC SIG?
The SIGs to which I belong all seem to be more vital today than ever before. Industry professionals, parents, students, educators, and administrators are all victims of so much misinformation from news media, individuals, self-proclaimed experts, and other questionable sources. A key function of our jobs, in the college world, is to be able to distinguish and disseminate the real stories, real information, and expert perspectives. I believe that it’s important for professionals from across the industry to get to know each other and realize that we can offer positive functions and support for each other, and NACAC'S SIGs do just that.
In addition to co-leading the Performing Arts SIG, you also are involved with NACAC’s PVA college fairs. What makes those events different from our National College Fairs?
I believe that the PVA college fairs are unique and exciting experiences for students, parents, and teachers as well as for the schools and representatives who participate. When I tell parents and students about a fair where everyone they speak to will be knowledgeable about their specific interests I see faces light up. The performing arts are such varied yet specific areas of study. To know that you can ask detailed questions and get informed, comprehensive answers, and have access to many different schools is like being a kid in a candy store, with the riches of the performing arts world down every aisle. It’s also been great to see that NACAC has created pre-fair workshops, which I’m so happy to facilitate at our New York City location, to offer students and parents focused information on important topics.
When you aren’t working, what do you like to do?
In the past few years I wrote a series of articles basically deconstructing my experiences seeing Hamilton. Recently I’ve judged for the Roger Rees Theatre Awards at local high schools. Are these activities work? Play? I’m not even sure! My work and my non-work certainly seem to meld into each other. I’m fortunate to have access to rich cultural experiences large and small, professional and vocational. Concerts, opera, “Jazz at Lincoln Center,” regional and Broadway theatre, choral and chamber music concerts large and small are big draws for me. When not attending a grandchild’s dance recital or softball game, my husband and I are the grandparents who take the grandkids to see theatre and concerts. Whether it’s Daniel Tiger Live at the NJPAC, or a Disney show on Broadway, Little Mermaid, Jr. at regional theatre, or seeing a performance of Peter Pan choreographed by my AEA-member daughter-in-law, we are helping our grandkids gleefully become the audiences and potentially the performers of tomorrow.
If you could be any fictional character, who would it be and why?
An unapologetic Anglophile, I am charmed by the character Juliet Ashton in the novel The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. The book was conceived and started by American author Mary Anne Shaffer, who, knowing that due to her failing health she probably wouldn’t live to complete it, asked her writer-niece, Annie Barrows, to finish and publish the book. As I am the daughter of an immigrant who fought for our country in WWII, that time period has always intrigued, and somehow called to me. We meet Juliet Ashton, who, not surprisingly for me, is a writer whose war-time newspaper columns gave Britons an outlet, with humor and tolerance, to express, share, and face the terrors of war and daily bombardment. Juliet’s story begins just as WWII has ended. I love and admire her personality and resilience, her use of language, compassion, and observation, as she moves forward in a world that is trying to rebuild the good of humanity.
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