The winter break for a native New Yorker can seem pretty uninteresting. After all, I’ve been hanging around the five boroughs for about two decades, and the crowded museums and expensive restaurants and confused tourists lose their luster. The best thing to do is to find a few friends and do some cool things together. Even a seemingly sad trip to a noodle restaurant can be great bonding time. Here are a few things that anyone, including local college students, can do this winter break in the city!
1. Ice skating
I know. I know. You go every year and you’ve given up trying to do a triple lutz years ago. But have you been to every ice skating rink in the city? People always go to Rockefeller or Central Park’s ice skating rinks, but there is one in all of the five boroughs. My personal favorite is Bryant Park because if you own your own pair it’s free admission, and because I get to gorge myself on food in the holiday markets outside. I also tend to go in the middle of the day so it isn’t terribly crowded. Each rink has its own vibe, so go on different skate days during the weekdays (less crowded) and see if you find your own favorite. Speaking of food…
2. Food Day in Flushing
While everyone thinks of Manhattan and Brooklyn, there’s also Queens. Specifically, Flushing. It is mainly a Chinese neighborhood, meaning there are tons of restaurants and shops to go to. Grab a few friends (vegetarian friendly!) and head up to Flushing via 7 train. Spend the day walking around, going to food courts, mulling over posted menus in the window, and dare your friends to try to eat something they can’t pronounce. You never know what you’ll find!
3. Bushwick Shopping
A lot of my friends live in Bushwick and commute to school via the L train. Along that line are a lot of new businesses, and with that, shopping opportunities. Whether they be thrift shops, jewelry shops, or small cafes, Bushwick is a good place to go explore. If you have a friend who lives there, make some plans to do a tour-and-explore day. A nice brunch and a girl’s shopping day, and since it’s the holidays, what better time to shop?
There are plenty of things to do in the city, even for the jaded New Yorker. Find some friends and explore the boroughs. You never know what you may find!
It is nearing the end of the semester and you are shooting your finals down one by one. Everyone is exhausted. Everyone is happy that the semester is over. Everyone is going home.
Many students in my school come from another state, even another country. It is rare for me to find another native New Yorker on campus. During these hectic times, it is difficult to get your friends together to have a final farewell when they’re busy packing their suitcases.
They, on the other hand, are leaving the friends they’ve made during the semester to return to a town where things have changed. For any situation, there is a sense of time passing, of things being different, and sometimes that can be hard.
Being the only one left around, it feels kind of lonely. For those leaving, sometimes we can feel excluded. Sure, there are things to do in NYC, but what’s the fun of doing them if you’re doing them alone? And when everyone back at home has changed too, how can we still hang out?
Here’s the thing, and I think I’m just figuring it out. Being alone and having that breathing room isn’t a bad thing. It’s a scary thing, but not all scary things are bad. Sometimes we get so used to being with friends at school, with meeting them for lunch before class or for dinner after seminar or on Friday night for drinks that we forget that we have changed along the way. Winter break is a break from school, but it’s also a break from people. Going back home is a way of taking a break from what you know and seeing how far you’ve come. It’s a good time to reconnect with the most important person. Yourself.
Now, this is kind of hard for me. I’ve grown used to hanging out on my friend’s sofa in Nolita and having weekly midweek dinners. It’s become routine. At the same time, I haven’t seen friends from high school, cleaned my closet out, or thought to see if my opinions on things have changed. How am I different from when the semester first started? Did I learn anything valuable about myself along the way? Did I grow as a person? How? Why?
While this a brutal thing to do, winter break is a good time to do these things because there is breathing space from all the people who have been influencing us in the first place. Back at home, whether in a suburban town on the West coast or in a city in Asia, there is a sense of “I’m different” that naturally comes with time. It may be lonely, and relieving, to get away from it all, but in the end, it’s what you make of it.
Julia Schlaepfer has been singing, dancing, and acting since she was a young girl. She started ballet at an early age, but it wasn’t until fourth grade when she performed in The Nutcracker that she realized she wanted to be a performer. Julia was involved with theater and ballet in high school, and when it came time to go to college, she moved across the country to New York City to study at the Atlantic Acting School through Tisch at New York University.
Julia is thoughtful, passionate about her craft, and so much fun to talk to about anything related to acting, singing, and theater. Working tirelessly to pursue her dreams, when Julia is not in class, she is in a workshop or rehearsal. Whether she is on-stage or on-screen, Julia is moving, emotional, and deeply immersed in her roles. Take a moment to get to know this rising star. When looking back at her 15-year-old self, Julia says it best when she notes, “Breathe. Remember that everything doesn’t just happen all at once, it’s a process.” We couldn’t agree more.
Name: Julia Schlaepfer Age: 19 Education: Student at Atlantic Acting School, Tisch School of the Arts (New York University) Follow: Backstage
Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?
Julia Schlaepfer: To me that means wholeheartedly going after all of your dreams and not being afraid to fail. One of my old acting teachers used to tell us to dare to suck. That’s so applicable because it’s all about falling on your face and getting back up and trying again. Take advantage of all the opportunities you have now.
CJ: What are you studying at Tisch? Why did you choose to go to school in New York City?
JS: I’m studying acting at the Atlantic Acting School through Tisch at NYU. I auditioned for 11 schools because the programs are so small and competitive. I always knew I wanted to end up in New York just because it’s such a hub for art and the industry I want to go into. I really liked how you are also involved with academics at Tisch because it’s important to educate yourself on what’s going on in the world around you. I loved my audition, too. They wanted to know who I was as a person. I love the program – it’s three days a week acting and two days a week academics, which I feel is a good balance.
I have two academic classes and an elective that I take on my academic days, and then the other three days I’m at studio all day which is off-campus with the Atlantic Acting School. You get placed into different schools based on specific techniques and what your audition looked like. I’m at the Atlantic Acting School, where we study practical aesthetics, David Mamet’s technique.
CJ: You’re from Seattle. What advice do you have for people moving across the country for college?
JS: Don’t lose contact with your family. I’m very close with my family. When you’re across the country, it’s nice to know that you have people supporting you back home.
Put yourself out there because everyone is going through the same thing as you. Most of them are in a new place and don’t know anyone. Let yourself have fun and meet new people. Spread yourself out and try everything because you never know what you’re going to find.
Enjoy yourself and have fun. You’re in a new place that you applied to. You chose the school. The academics and the work can get hard sometimes, but let yourself take breaks and have fun.
CJ: What sparked your love of performing?
JS: I was placed into ballet when I was young because I was born with my feet very turned in. I would trip over my feet as a baby, so the doctors told my parents to put me in ballet. I started ballet really young and I wasn’t interested in other sports. My parents were so supportive and would watch all of my performances. It was something that was always there and I never doubted it.
The moment I knew I wanted to be a performer was in the fourth grade when I did The Nutcracker. I was addicted and couldn’t stop.
CJ: You were involved in the Pacific Northwest Ballet and you did Swan Lake and The Nutcracker. What were those experiences like?
JS: It was incredible. From a young age we were thrown onto the stage with professional ballerinas. We got to interact with the older dancers and they were so welcoming. These artists that I grew up wanting to be were right in front of me interacting with me. It was so inspiring at such a young age. It fueled my love for what I do even more.
One of my favorite things about ballet is that it’s not only art but also athleticism. You have to be an athlete. I loved doing that hard physical work.
CJ: In addition to ballet, you were also in theater productions. How do you mentally and physically prepare for those roles?
JS: It’s changed since I’ve gotten to the Atlantic Acting School. Before, I would do a few vocal warmups and jumping jacks, get my body warmed up. If you don’t have a little bit of fear and a lot of nerves, there’s something wrong. My movement teacher at Atlantic taught us that it’s been scientifically researched that the moment before an actor steps onstage, the same thing happens in their body that happens in their body during a car crash. You have to act and perform at the same time, and that fear will never go away. You’ll always have that moment beforehand. Breathing is really important and reminding yourself that you prepared and did the work.
Now at Atlantic, we have an entire routine that we work on with speech articulators and vocal warmups. We also do a movement warmup to help us get inside our body. Thinking about what makes us feel alive is helpful and inspiring before we go onstage. I also like to listen to music.
CJ: How do you stay motivated during each performance?
JS: It’s all about reminding yourself why you chose to be an actor in the first place. I chose to commit myself to this kind of life for a reason, and reminding myself how much I love what to do is helpful.
CJ: What is it like working, living, and studying with your peers who have become close friends but who are also in that same professional space?
JS: We all support each other so much. On the first day of class, our performance technique teacher told us to eat our humble pie. You’re only as good as your classmates and ensemble members. The people who I work with are great about that. They are there for you when you’ve had a bad day or a rough scene. They’re also supportive when you get good feedback or get a role.
CJ: You’ve done theater, ballet, singing – you’ve also done film work. How do your film experiences differ from your theater roles?
JS: Theater is so immediate. You have two hours to tell a story and it makes you feel alive. I love film because the acting is a lot more subtle and it feels more real a lot of the time. Obviously it’s not as theatrical. With film I feel like I’m telling a more intimate story, which I love. Sometimes it’s hard because in the middle of an intense scene you might be stopped and have to do another take. You always have to be on your toes but that’s what makes working on films is exciting.
CJ: How much time do you actually spend auditioning?
JS: It was hard last year because I was still getting the hang of things at school. This year now that I have a better feel for my schedule, it’s a little bit easier to audition. This fall I auditioned for, and will be in, a television pilot called Easel R. There also an online database through New York University where student directors can contact me. Then you have to decide whether you’ll have enough time to do that project and balance school at the same time. School and training is very important to me, so there’s not too much time for that. If I can, I’ll take advantage of as many opportunities as I can while trying to stay sane.
CJ: What are the greatest lessons you’ve learned from being a working actress?
JS: One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned is to stay true to yourself. Moving to New York City to pursue an acting career at 18-years-old is terrifying. It’s a rough business, and it can be easy to lose sight of why you started in the first place. It’s really important to bring it back and stay grounded. There will always be people telling you what you should and shouldn’t look like, and those opinions are all going to conflict. As long as you have a clear vision of your goal and who you want to be as a person and how you want to conduct yourself, that’s what’s really important to being grounded and staying yourself.
CJ: How has taking classes changed the way you act or view acting?
JS: It’s changed it a lot. David Mamet created this technique called practical aesthetics and it’s a four-step script analysis process. You go through all these steps and at the end you have a clear action of what your character is playing in a scene. Before I’d just read a script and start acting, but now it’s a clear and simplified version of your character encompassed in whatever scene you’re playing. It helps bring characters to life and really humanizes them. It’s been fun to explore a method of what you do when you’re onstage.
CJ: How has what you’ve learned in your acting classes helped you in your everyday life?
JS: It’s helped a lot in terms of just being a really curious and empathetic human being. My teachers say that the number one rule of being a good actor is being a nice person. Every day when we’re analyzing scenes and trying to bring someone’s story to life, you feel so much for this character. You’re always taking this person’s side because at the end of the day you have to portray them in an honest way. It makes you curious about other people and open to listening to others.
I’ve also learned to be more present with the people around me and connect with people on a real level.
CJ: What advice do you have for other youth or peers who are interested in acting?
JS: Be a nice person. That’s so important because people won’t want to work with you if you’re not a good, genuine, and caring person. When you walk into an audition room, people are going to remember you if you’re kind and open to trying to new things.
Also, work hard. Hard work pays off. It’s so applicable to acting because it’s really tough, and there will always be 100 other people auditioning for one role. If you sit down and prepare and learn the material, no one can ever take away the amount of work that you do. If you work your butt off, that’s going to show.
CJ: Every day must look different, but what does a typical Monday look like for you?
JS: I wake up and have to be at the studio by 8am. Classes start at 8:30am. I will have an assortment of script analysis class, Shakespeare class, movement and voice class, speech work, or film class. We get done with studio at 6pm. I then have rehearsal for a few more hours after that. When I get home I do academic work for the next day.
CJ: What specific things do you do to improve in your craft?
JS: I stay in practice. I’ve gotten so many amazing tools from Atlantic and my training about how to be your best emotional, physical, and mental self. I do my warmups every day. Keep applying yourself and practicing.
CJ: What do you like to do in your free time?
JS: I like to go to plays as much as possible. We get a lot of free or discounted tickets through Atlantic, so we take advantage of that. I also like to get away from the theater sometimes. I like to go to Washington Square Park with friends, watch movies, go for walks along the river, and spend time with friends. I like to feed my soul with as many different things as possible.
CJ: What play has had the greatest impact on you, and why?
JS: I would say the play Gruesome Playground Injuries by Rajiv Joseph. It was the first play I fell in love with. It’s incredible. It’s the story of two children who first meet in elementary school, and the play skips around throughout their life. Their story is tragically beautiful and important because of how exposed and vulnerable the characters are. So many people hide those ugly parts of their lives but Joseph just throws it all out on the table. It feels so real to me.
Also any play by Anton Chekhov. There are no words to describe the amount of heart he has poured into each and every one of his characters. His plays have truly changed my life.
CJ: What advice would you give your 15-year-old-self?
JS: Breathe. Remember that everything doesn’t just happen all at once, it’s a process. You’ll get to where you want to be eventually. Also, remember that happiness comes first. Working hard is important, but at the end of the day you have to be happy.
We met up with Shavanna Miller, the Co-Founder and CEO of Bloompop, earlier this fall in a coffee shop in the middle of bustling downtown Washington, D.C. Having grown up in the area, Shavanna knew the in’s and out’s of the metropolitan streets and kindly helped point lost passerbys in the right direction. It’s no wonder that she now runs an online marketplace that connects consumers with the best local florists across the country (think ‘Etsy for flowers’) – she is a natural community builder. Apart from providing beautiful flowers and an incredibly easy and enjoyable browsing and purchasing experience, Bloompop’s true success is in helping small businesses and consumers build a stronger community network.
Shavanna graciously shares her career trajectory, how she stays organized, and why she ultimately decided to come back to D.C. after having lived in so many great cities. This entrepreneur is making the world a better place one bouquet at a time, and we’re so excited to share her interview and introduce the face behind the flowers.
Name: Shavanna Miller Occupation: Co-Founder/CEO, Bloompop Age: 29 Education: The German School of Washington D.C.,B.S. in Environmental Science and Film Studies from Columbia University, London School of Economics and Political Science Follow Shavanna: Facebook | Twitter |LinkedIn Follow Bloompop: Bloompop | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter
Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?
Shavanna Miller: One thing I’ve tried to do is always say yes to opportunities. Whenever I’ve had to make a decision on something that could be important – whether its deciding to take a new job, making a leap into entrepreneurship, taking on additional work for a committee, or even helping someone else out – I’ve never regretted taking those opportunities – even if not everything pans out. There are a few times I’ve regretted not taking them for some reason or another, and that kind of regret is much worse. So my definition of Seizing Your Youth would be to act rationally about the opportunities you might take, but to ultimately take those opportunities, especially early on.
CJ: You studied film and environmental science at Columbia University – How did you decide what to study?
SM: Those were two topics I really loved on a personal level. For a while I thought that I was going to be working in film so a lot of my internships in school were related to that. I worked at a production company and an agency for actors. Those experiences were very fun and I still have many friends working in that industry. But somewhere along the lines I realized it wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do. The environmental side of things was a personal interest that I’ve always had. When I was growing up I raised and bred aquarium fish. My parent’s basement was filled with aquariums; I think I had 30 aquariums or so when I left for college. That was a lot of fun and it was how I learned about basic genetics, water quality, etc. I probably started that in the fifth grade and it’s something I hope to get back to when I have the space again.
CJ: What did you do after you finished studying at the London School of Economics and Political science?
SM: When I finished graduate school I went back to New York. I started my career at Meetup, which was a great introduction to both the startup and tech worlds. It was smaller then than it is now, so I really had a chance to interact with every department. Eventually I left Meetup to go to Rosetta Stone in Washington, D.C., which was a fantastic experience as well and is also a great company. I was promoted there to ultimately be the head of web sales for the US consumer side of the business. I was responsible for a huge part of the company’s global annual sales – definitely a big, exciting thing to have on your shoulders. I had an amazing team there and we did everything from social marketing, to managing email and paid search platforms, to working with affiliates, you name it – basically anything related to digital sales. I managed a team of seven people who each had their own specializations. We were a very young, fun team and I loved the company.
CJ: What tools do you use daily to keep yourself organized?
SM: My sister is also an entrepreneur – she’s the CEO and co-founder of Kabinet based in New York – and the two of us have an ongoing debate about how we manage our time, and what tools we use. There are so many tools out there you can use, and I feel like you can have as many apps as there are people since everyone manages things differently. I’ve tried a million of them, but honestly I always end up coming back to a notepad and pen. I keep trying to figure out how to modernize this classic method with technology. I heard about a partnership between Moleskin and Livescribe recently which sounds like it could be exactly right for me. And of course I also use google calendar for meetings so it can sync to my phone, but for actual tasks I always come back to paper and pen To-Do lists. Old school.
CJ: What made you decide to come back to D.C. where you grew up after living in a couple of different cities?
SM: I actually came back to D.C. because of the Rosetta Stone opportunity. I wasn’t necessarily looking for a job here, but it came up and it was an exciting opportunity. So it was almost a coincidence that I grew up here, but it’s great being around my parents again and being back in this city.
CJ: Where did you get the inspiration for Bloompop?
SM: I’m someone who has always personally loved flowers, and what I discovered as I looked into this space was that it’s a really outdated industry in more aspects than I’d initially realized. I knew that the experience for consumers was really terrible, but it was shocking to discover how detrimental it is to the florists themselves. Local florists will often work with a mega-network like 1800flowers etc, but they don’t get to create any of their own designs, have no creativity in the process, and to add insult to injury often barely make money off of those orders. I’ve actually spoken with many who literally lose money on filling orders for the big flower behemoths. It was an industry ripe for disruption. I decided to take my experience in digital sales and tech, combine it with my love for flowers, and tackle this outdated industry with better quality products, better tools for both florists and consumers, and modern tech and marketing experiences.
CJ: What has been the greatest success since having started Bloompop?
SM: Definitely putting my team together. Matt, my co-founder and CTO, for example, is brilliant and also somebody who is such a perfect cultural fit with the company. The two of us get along amazingly and I’m finding that that’s incredibly important. We all spend so much time together, so being able to find the right people – on both a personal and professional level – has been one of my biggest successes. It was a very deliberate thing in finding them and building our team; it wasn’t something I took lightly.
CJ: Can you please tell me a bit about your past experience with The Craft Factory?
SM: I’ve always been into DIY projects. Craft factory was something I started when I was back at Meetup. It was a group that came together every month and worked on a project together. I think that DIY is a stress reliever for me because at Bloompop so much of my day-to-day is digital – from web sales and marketing to product work – it’s very much sitting front of a laptop. DIY is a nice way to do something with your hands.
CJ: You also have an Etsy shop called HudsonScout – can you please tell us more about that?
SM: I’ve been an Etsy seller for several years now – it’s great because it has really helped in my understanding of the supply side of an online marketplace. Which obviously comes in handy now with Bloompop. My shop on etsy sells first birthday candles. I actually started HudsonScout by selling candles in every number, but what I eventually saw was that nearly 95% of orders were for First Birthday candles. So now that’s really what the whole focus is.
CJ: Although you’re a young company, has Bloompop hired interns before?
SM: We had two interns last summer but none currently. I feel like hiring interns at such a small company can have a huge impact – it’s a combination of figuring out what they can be doing that really has an impact and also providing them with a valuable experience. We want interns who will be excited about Bloompop and become serious contributing members of the team.
CJ: What advice would you give to your 20-year-old self?
SM: Become friends with professors at CU’s business school.
Ever wonder what is the average day of a photo student like? Let me tell you.
Monday morning. 9am. You and your classmates are hanging your work on the wall. The pins are magnetic Last week, you got a darkroom printing tutorial. This week is a crit, a critique.
You and your 15 classmates and a professor you call by the first name gather around one person’s work. Professor sets the timer and there is silence.
Someone starts talking. You have an opinion. You wait for the right time and you say it to the room without raising your hand. Suddenly the timer rings. Fifteen minutes has passed.
Time for the next student. This lasts for three hours. You hear everything. Feminism. Racial issues. Gay expression. Self portraiture. Inspiration from artist x, y, and z. Performance art. Cultural exploration. You learn to understand the issues and decide whether the work addresses it, and whether or not you’re convinced the work works.
It is the afternoon before you get out of class. Do you want to work on your art history midterm paper or do you want to go buy film before the store closes? (It closes at 4pm).
You decide to eat lunch with your friends in the dorm cafeteria. They said they would treat you on their meal plan card.
You spend an hour or two decompressing. You gossip about today’s crit, potentially hot professors, an interesting exhibition at a nearby museum (MoMA) or art gallery.
You think about what you need to shoot for your assignment due on Thursday and you go back to school to rent equipment. A tripod and a film camera. You head home carrying your equipment. You start planning your next shoot. You’re very, very excited.
My first semester had five courses:
Freshman Seminar - the crits, tutorials, and work making.
Drawing - pencil and charcoal drawing.
Light - deals with how light interacts with objects, space, and movement
Design - graphic design, basically
A writing class that everyone had to take
I hope this gives you an idea of what a day in the life was for me as a Freshman (at Parsons and in NYC). College is a challenge but it’s a good place to grow. College isn’t always fun, but it’s always a time to learn about yourself. Good luck!
High school students are beginning to fill out their college applications, and part of that process includes deciding what major to pick. While you can always change your major once you get to school, oftentimes colleges encourage you to choose one so they can get an idea of your interests.
For those thinking about majoring in photography, here are a few things to keep in mind:
1. Costs add up.
It is impossible to imagine how much things cost. Film, darkroom paper, photo paper, book printing, photo books, mounting, business cards…the list goes on. As the four college years go by, it adds up. Some schools have amazing facilities (Parsons) but others do not. For those that don’t, it would be frustrating for you to have to buy all your own gear and pay for studio and scanning and developing chemistry.
2. Think outside the box.
Photography is no longer the black and white documentary 35mm it once was. From fashion to fine art, photo students are now expected to grasp, come up with, and execute concepts. Why did you take that picture? Why is it next to that other picture? Is it a series, a diptych, a stand alone? Digital, prints, or book form? Why? Be prepared to think critically.
3. Critiques will happen.
“Crits” are days when your work is hung up and people talk about it. Sometimes you can defend your work, sometimes you can’t. People will disagree or dislike your work. They will tell you what they honestly think. You can’t do anything about it. The best thing to do is to learn to take everything with a grain of salt, and to give good crits. That is the most productive thing to do. Explain what is working and what isn’t and why.
Being a photography major has its good and bad points. But as long as you love it, then it will all be worth it!
When we met food editor Laura Shunk for her Professional Spotlight, it was over breakfast (naturally). While enjoying eggs and toast, we discussed studying abroad, being a food writer, and being on the board of New York City Coalition Against Hunger. Having studied International Relations at Claremont McKenna College, Laura is smart, thoughtful, and passionate about her career and involvements. We love Laura’s outlook about post-college years being a skill gathering time, and if you’re a student, take notes on the top three traits she looks for in interns. For a more in-depth look at Laura’s life, great advice, and to learn how she got to where she is today, read on!
Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?
Laura Shunk: I don’t know if there’s one good way to describe it or way to answer that. I think about how to seize any time in your life and it’s engaging in things that you care about and you feel invested in for whatever reason, whether that’s because you’re helping a cause you’re interested in or enriching your own life and knowledge and setting yourself up for future success.
CJ: What did you major in at Claremont McKenna College and how did you determine what to study?
LS: I was an International Relations major. Before I was an International Relations major, I was an Economics major, a Government major, a Literature major, a Biology major – I probably changed my major about 10 times. I ultimately settled on International Relations because it was the only major that required you to study abroad and I really wanted to have the opportunity to do that. It ended up being a great major.
CJ: Where did you study abroad and what was your big takeaway?
LS: I studied abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I learned Spanish, so that was a very tangible takeaway. I spoke it fluently after that. Study abroad isn’t necessarily about the classes you take or what you study, it’s more about seeing a different culture. I studied development theory in college and I had never seen it applied in real life, and I spent the summers in parts of Latin America in poor communities, but I had never understood what it meant to be in a developing country and Argentina put such a vivid experience to that. A broader understanding of the world and understanding that other places in the world aren’t just like here and that people are great everywhere.
CJ: Are you happy you went out-of-state for college?
LS: Yes, I highly recommend it. My parents told me when I was getting ready to go to college, “Go out of state because you can always come back.” That was the best advice anyone ever gave me.
CJ: Where did you intern and how did you go about securing those internships?
LS: My only internship was at Chipotle, which I had throughout college, in their corporation headquarters. I was part of the culture and language program, so we were writing and managing programs that helped employees learn English, which helps them advance in restaurants. It was an amazing internship, it ended up being so hands-on and I secured it by working my network. I knew I wanted to do something that used my Spanish and do something in the business world and I was interested in food, but I wasn’t quite sure how to put the two together. I knew people at Chipotle and asked about internships and they pointed me to the right place.
LS: On a job responsibility level, I manage the division of a section, I assign stories, I edit stories, and I keep the online part of the food coverage of the Voice and the paper moving in the direction I think it should be moving.
CJ: What makes a good food writer? Is it traveling and eating, or is it eating a lot?
LS: It can be a lot of things. There are a lot of different kinds of food writers. The best food writers have a unique angle of some sort. They could have traveled and bring a cultural awareness to the food that they’re eating or writing about. They could really love the human story behind foods. They could love the environmental factors or the experience. There are a lot of ways to be a food writer.
CJ: What does a day in your life look like?
LS: I wake up, drink a lot of coffee, spend the first four hours of my day editing and writing and getting our blog set for the day, and then I spend the second half of my day interviewing, talking to people, strategizing, and transcribing. There is also a lot of eating involved. I am out to dinner every night and out to lunch a lot. Sometimes I’ll have two dinners.
CJ: What should a teenager or young adult who wants to be a Food Editor do now to set themselves up for success?
LS: Write. That would be the first thing. Writing is a skill that no matter how naturally good at it you are, you get better as you do it more. And find a good editor because that helps a ton. Start a blog. With the direction media is going, get good at social media, photography, and film. In that same vein, a good food writer has a unique angle – learn something in the food world better than anyone else knows it and you’ll be the go-to person for that topic.
LS: I sit on the board, which means we meet and hear about the day-to-day of the organization, we help with fundraising, and we help with higher level strategy decisions. The board provides overall strategic direction and fundraising help.
The New York City Coalition Against Hunger works with and on behalf of food pantries around New York. Instead of just helping soup kitchens fulfill their duty, we work on changing the rules of the system. We are focused on fixing the problem as opposed to just putting a Band-Aid on it. Being in the food industry, fixing the problem is important to me.
CJ: If you were hiring an intern, what are the top three traits that you would look for?
LS: Eagerness. The best intern I had was eager and never said no. That’s a big one. A certain level of maturity and self-awareness. Be able to take direction and accept that somebody might have something to teach you. Communication is also important, especially today, you’ve got to be a good communicator.
CJ: You’ve been out of school for seven years. How did you transition from college life to “the real world?”
LS: I approached post-college as a skill gathering time. I looked at it as a time to do a lot of different things, and I ignored people around me telling me I had to have a career where I was moving up. I didn’t buy it. Whether that’s true or not, I don’t know, but it worked out on my end. Being flexible is important. I moved from L.A. to Denver, went to New York, back to Denver, and then back to New York. Some years were harder than others. The year I quit my consulting job and was working for a quarter of the salary waiting tables I would think, what did I do? That’s when I would think that I wasn’t transitioning well post-college. But it’s all temporary and things work out. If I hadn’t done that I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing now.
CJ: What activities were you involved in throughout high school and college? Were there any experiences that were most memorable or life changing?
LS: In high school, I was the editor-in-chief of the yearbook, I was on the mock trial team, I was on the golf team – but I’m pretty sure I only did that to get out of gym – and I was a girl scout. That was meaningful not so much from the organizational perspective, but because I did a lot of community service, which was very rewarding and momentous.
In college, I did different things such as Model EU and a foreign affairs club because I got to travel. At Claremont McKenna, I helped design a curriculum that helped staff, such as janitors, to learn English. We would tutor them one-on-one, and that was rewarding.
CJ: What motivates you in your everyday life – at the office and/or during your down/personal time?
LS: I think a lot about making an impact. Going back to what I said about seizing your youth, feeling engaged is huge. I worked a lot of jobs where I didn’t feel engaged. I feel engaged now and I feel compelled to continue to dig in and I want to feel that way forever about what I’m doing. I’d like to do something that impacts my community in a positive way.
LS: I’m pretty lucky to have a lot of role models. I had an editor in Denver who I would consider a role model. Still one of the greatest editors I’ve ever worked with. She taught me a lot about the business, and she is one of those people whose impact on me is something I hope to have on others.
CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?
LS: Don’t worry about it when you feel uncomfortable. You’re going to have times where you are unsure if you can pay a bill or if you’re going to be fired. These things will happen and it is part of it and it is fine and it usually works out. Try to enjoy it and try not to get caught up in others telling you what to do or how to feel.
If you follow us on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook, you may have seen our live updates from the Wisdom 2.0 Next Generation conference in New York City. It was a great day filled with invaluable life lessons from awesome people such as Kleaver Cruz, Jessica Kane, Elle Luna, Miki Agrawal, and Matthew Brimer. We are excited to share some of the important lessons that we took away from the conference, complete with photos to document our conference journey in the Big Apple.
When in New York City, walk. We strolled through Washington Square Park before the conference started at 10AM. Even though we were running on 3 hours of sleep, we were so excited for the day to begin.
Moments before the conference started! The conference focused on millennials living with greater purpose and meaning in life and business. All good things, right?
Jessica Kane, The Huffington Post Director of Millennial Outreach spoke to us about what it means to be a millennial. We are the most stressed, but optimistic, generation. Also, according to data, millennials would rather be broke than bored, meaning that we want to find passion and purpose in our work, even if that means receiving a lower paycheck. Because we’re so busy and always consumed with technology, it’s important to incorporate well-being into our lives.
We were excited to hear Elle Luna speak. She’s an artist and the author of the super popular article, The Crossroads of Should and Must. Something eye-opening she said was that if we want to be free, we need to reflect and understand why we are not currently free. Instead of thinking about what you would rather be doing or where you want to go, first understand why you are feeling a certain way and what exactly you can change to make a difference.
Also, make a “What are you so afraid of?” list – write down 10 things you are afraid of, and once they are down on paper, you’ll see that they might not be so scary after all. This list is a great first step for overcoming your fears and to start doing. Elle had such an amazing energy and optimism; we were so inspired!
Lunch break! We roamed the streets and grabbed a quick bite to eat. Don’t forget to look up! There’s beauty around every corner in this city.
Miki Agrawal, co-founder of Thinx and Wild, was hilarious and so, so smart. We have been long-time fans of hers as a leader and businesswoman, so we were excited to hear her speak. She started her presentation by saying that there are no guarantees in life. A simple, yet important, reminder that we should remember every single day. Some important points she made during her talk: master a skill, purpose is your best motivation, face people and you will face your own fears, and leaders don’t talk badly about other people.
Great people talk about ideas. Average people talk about things. Small people talk about other people.
Matthew Brimer is the co-founder of General Assembly, and he is seriously smart and driven. We loved his point about how your education should always be in beta; never stop learning. He also spoke extensively about the importance of failure, and that failure is necessary. Through failure we can learn and improve.
These were just a few of the amazing speakers that shared their insight from the experiences they have had. It was an overwhelming day in the best kind of way, and we left feeling motivated and determined to include wellness into our lives. There was a speaker who led everyone through a guided meditation, which is seriously good for your brain and health. Meditation = paying attention to being alive. When you take a couple of minutes out of your day to just be, you significantly reduce stress and help calm your mind and body down.
Not only was it great to hear about including well-being into our everyday lives, but it was awesome learning more about millennials. Every now and then it’s great to learn more about our generation and better understand our place in the world. Did any of these lessons resonate with you?
It’s August. The carefree summer is slowly, painfully, even bitterly on the distant horizon. No! There are a few more weeks! For a freshman entering college, there is the buzz of excitement and anticipation. For those of you who are coming to New York City for college, welcome! As celebration of your soontobearrival, here are some things you should consider before packing up and moving in.
Dorming in NYC is nothing like dorming in a university with a campus. Many schools in suburban towns have their own little communities, enclosed with lawns, parking lots, and even buses to get from one part of campus to another. NYC is not like that at all. If you’re going to school in Manhattan, chances are you’re going to be in, well, Manhattan. Your buildings are probably integrated into the city. Parsons and NYU, for example, have their buildings and resources blocks from each other, and students tend to walk or take the subway. Some schools are more closed off than others, but if you’re in NYC, why not use this chance to explore?
Exploring isn’t hard in NYC, but it takes practice. Actually, getting anywhere in NYC takes practice. The city is a grid for the most part, but some sections, such as the West Village or Chinatown, can get a bit muddled. Remember: short blocks are streets. Long blocks are avenues. Learn to read the MTA map. Use Google Maps but keep in mind that walking, not driving, is the goto method, so learn to live without your car.
While travelling, dress properly. The weather in NYC can range from 75 degrees to 50 degrees in a week. Autumn is great because it’s a chance to layer clothes, but check for rain, wind, or hurricanes (you can’t miss the last one). Hurricanes do affect us, as with Hurricane Sandy, so keep that in mind.
Grocery shop in the middle of the day in the middle of the week. Weekends and after work hours are packed with people getting off from work. My outofstate friends think Trader Joe’s is a good option, and there are always corner stores that you can run to if you need laundry detergent or instant noodles in a hurry. Those corner stores (or delis) are everywhere, so no matter where you dorm, they should be there. If you have a day where you don’t have classes and you want to stretch your legs a bit, go stock up on Nutella. You’ll appreciate it.
Remember, NYC is like no other city in the world. Always ask questions, keep an open mind, and be prepared for anything. Welcome and good luck!
This is amazing! It’s your first summer in New York City. You’re here for pre-college classes, checking out universities, taking summer courses, interning, working, or simply shopping, eating, and being a tourist. It’s the city that never sleeps, a place romanticized by movies and glorified by those who live here.
Well. Sort of. If you know anything about NYC, you know it has its rough patches. New Yorkers are known for their direct and fast paced attitudes, always rushing around stylishly but quickly. In the summer, the tempo of the city changes. Tourists flood in and some New Yorkers leave. But those who stay, like yours truly, are forced to weather through some of the not-so-pleasant things about being in NYC in the summer. These are a few things you should know before coming to New York City.
1. It is hot.
That explains everything. The grouchy taxi drivers. The simmering concrete. The wet sensation under your arms and the uncomfortable chill of the train if you’ve been sitting too long. NYC summers are hot. Commuting feels nasty. This year has been pretty tame, but usually the temperature hits triple digits. NYC summers are hit-thebeach, break-the-fire-hydrant, egg-on-the-sidewalk hot. Advice: drink water, stay indoors or have indoor trips until 3pmish, and pack lightly. Mornings around 7-9am and evenings around 6-8pm are commuter hours and you don’t want to be stuck next to the sweaty businessman and a woman with her crying baby. I recommend that you do your summer intensives or other courses during a more relaxed time in case you have to lug supplies or textbooks around. If you insist on going outside, keep the heat in mind.
2. Watch out for mosquitoes.
Yes. Mosquitoes. Did you think that being in a city full of skyscrapers and asphalt would save you from those little monsters? You’re sadly mistaken. I sit here telling you to beware of the mosquitoes, but I have five bites on my legs just from walking to the grocery store. What’s so unique about NYC mosquitoes? They’re intense. My friend from the West coast says that they are nastier biters here than where she’s from, so be warned!
Even as a seasoned New Yorker, I haven’t overcome this itchy nightmare. It does not matter who you are or where you’re going. If you breathe and if you have blood, you’re going to be mosquito food. You can either simply accept that you’ll get bitten (as I have) or you can avoid going outside, especially at night. The crazy thing is they seem to be everywhere, even indoors and in the middle of the day. They cling to people’s clothing, and with all the moving around, it’s no wonder they are everywhere. There are bug sprays and lotions you can use to keep mosquitoes away, but there really isn’t an escape. Best of luck.
3. Avoid moving-in nightmares.
If you’re a college student looking to live outside the dorms for the semester, you better find an apartment, and fast! Students who are coming back for fall are going to start moving, or moving back, and you want to make sure you find somewhere to stay during this rush. Start looking for places now and if you’re lucky, you’ll find something you like within your budget.
New York is a great place to spend the summer if you know your way around. Even if you don’t, you’ll get the hang of where you are and what trains to take quickly. There are a lot of things to do and see, and as long as you’re aware of how to take care of yourself, you will be just fine. Remember to stay hydrated and to take it easy. Enjoy the city, and make it a summer to remember!
Halfway into the morning, my dream company cancelled the interview they’d scheduled with me. No more trip to NYC.
The same day, the person I’d been most recently involved with texted me the news that he’s seeing someone new. Kind of an ego bruiser.
This all came in the midst of a post-grad journey that has been anything but smooth and peaceful, about a week after the death of a wonderful high school friend.
In times of grief and confusion, minor letdowns can seem major. The camel’s back had officially broken, and I realized that I needed to make time to resolve these conflicts on top of a schedule packed with class, writing deadlines and a full-time job search.
Despite what you’ve heard, it isn’t “strong” to ignore your problems. Over time, failure to acknowledge and resolve internal conflicts can manifest in depression, anxiety, confusion, and an inability to emotionally connect with people. Practicing internal conflict resolution while you’re young and resilient will seriously pay off.
Resolving your conflicts also doesn’t have to get in the way of a busy life. Here are the steps that have helped me uphold my commitments and personal relationships as I overcome my challenges:
Be honest with yourself.
You don’t have to tell the world you’re hurting, but tell it to yourself straight. You can’t overcome any type of feeling if you don’t admit it’s there. By facing the nitty gritty details, you’re giving yourself permission to unearth and work through them.
Be kind to yourself.
As you’re honest with yourself, be sure you’re doing it without judgment. Some of your truths may not be pretty or easy to accept; take your time with them. Don’t resent yourself for being sad, angry or confused.
Transform any self-deprecating thoughts to positives. For example, turn “I’m such an idiot for starting that fight,” to, “I engaged in that fight because I was frustrated. How can I better express those feelings next time?”
Be conscious of unhealthy thoughts.
Resisting the changes your conflict has created, or obsessing over regrets and what-ifs, creates backward progress. Re-direct your thoughts when you sense they’re heading down what-if road.
I redirect mine by focusing on my five senses; what colors I see, how my breathing sounds and my skin feels, etc. It brings me back to reality and lets me change my train of thought.
De-cluttering your physical environment helps a surprising amount in releasing emotional baggage. Put all your dust-collecting items and unworn clothes in a giant trash bag and donate them.
Having trouble blindly parting with your more sentimental dust collectors? Give them to a special person in your life.
Physical health = sanity.
Carve out time to exercise, but be gentle with yourself. It’s ok if you’re too depleted or stressed for anything more than a five minute walk in the morning.
Remember, too, that over-indulgence is not self-care. A bottle of wine and a pint of ice cream will make you feel sluggish and skip the walk tomorrow. Moderation is your friend.
Meditate, meditate, meditate.
I am not kidding. You don’t have to be the Buddha to do this. Sit and focus on your breathing and body for five to ten minutes. Continued meditation will give you calmness and clarity.
Set a daily allowance.
Avoid spending precious time and energy in sad or angry lala land by allotting five to 10 minutes a day to journal, cry, scream into your pillow, whatever works for you. Once the timer is up, it’s time to get back to reality. Lessen the time by a minute each day. You’ll find you become more in control of your feelings while still acknowledging them.
Don’t grieve alone.
As my best friend says, the phone can weigh 500 pounds. But even just telling a loved one you’re sad and need a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on will bring you comfort and release.
Teen and young adult years are already pretty confusing as is; life’s big and small obstacles during these times can throw us for some serious loops. The great thing is that conflicts can aid tremendously in self-discovery and personal growth if you address them in healthy ways.
What are your tips for overcoming personal conflict while staying focused and present?
Growing up on Long Island, Tina Marie Realmuto’s love for acting was recognized in middle school, and she has pursued acting ever since. All throughout high school (hello, Class Valedictorian) and college (where she graduated a year early!), Tina got involved with all things acting-related. By studying amazing actors, stepping on-stage night after night, and living and breathing theater, Tina demonstrated her commitment to her craft.
Tina is not only talented and passionate about her work, but she is humble and motivated. With a great deal of experience in theater, Tina is also involved with films. She most recently finished shooting the short film, Whispers Of Guitar Strings, where she played one of the film’s lead roles. By working hard, feeding her passion, and constantly learning and improving, Tina is on the fast-track to stardom.
In-between classes at the Actors Studio Drama School in New York City, Tina sat down with Carpe Juvenis to share how she deals with stage fright, how she prepares for roles, and what her experience at graduate school has been like. Attention aspiring actors and actresses, take notes! Tina is seizing her youth and taking every opportunity possible to learn and hone her skills, and we can’t wait to see her on the big screen and Broadway!
Name: Tina Marie Realmuto Age: 23 Education: Currently working towards Masters of Fine Arts in Acting at the Actors Studio Drama School at Pace University in NYC; Bachelor of Arts in Theater from Connecticut College Follow: Website
How do you define ‘seizing your youth’?
Seizing your youth means to take advantage of opportunities that you are given at a young age and to really try to find out what you want to do with your life and go full throttle and go with it. Life is short. Follow your passion. Realize your dreams and try to pursue them.
What did you major in at Connecticut College and how did you determine what to study?
I majored in theater at Connecticut College and got my Bachelor of Arts, and I was determined to study theater before I even applied to Connecticut College. In high school I took theater classes and just loved them. After that I knew this was what I wanted to do with my life and realized that acting was my passion. I applied to some conservatories – not many because I wanted to do a liberal arts program to get a more well-rounded education – and decided to continue with acting.
Did you study abroad?
Unfortunately I did not because I graduated a year early so I wasn’t able to study abroad with my schedule. I would have loved to. I probably would have gone to Italy or England because they have great theater. I definitely want to travel. Once I’m done with my Masters [at the Actors Studio Drama School], I would love to travel and see the sights and absorb the world.
What was your experience like graduating early?
Graduating early was tough to leave my friends and leave that part behind me, but once I got into the Actors Studio Drama School, it allowed me to see the next step and goal, which relieved a lot of uncertainty. It was very helpful.
What or who inspired you to become an actress?
Meryl Streep is my all-time favorite actress. I saw a couple of movies of hers when I was younger, but there were a lot of serious roles that I wasn’t allowed to see until I was a teenager. It was Mamma Mia that I fell in love with Meryl. I love the music of ABBA and the role she played, you saw a different side of her. Her versatility shined, and it helped me realize that this is what I want to do.
How do you mentally and physically prepare for a role?
This answer has changed since coming into my Masters program. Before, I really just read the script and tried to identify with the character, see similarities in her that I possess. However, now at the Actors Studio Drama School, my process is incorporating the Method. It’s a technique to acting that is grounded in the work of Stanislavski and it basically explains that inspiration can only bring you so far. Sometimes you are automatically inspired with the role, but sometimes you can’t get that inspiration.
We do a technique where you do different sensory work. First you do relaxation so you can relieve your body of external tensions and stresses. Then you do sensory work, which helps me connect more with my emotional memory, which brings forth an organic and truthful emotion. It’s very difficult and emotionally and physically draining at times, but it’s so rewarding when you are able to access that part of yourself that I was never able to access before the program.
In terms of mentally preparing, it’s the sensory work and relaxation. I do different vocal warm-ups and learned how to do a series of steps that trains your voice to be more resonant – this way you won’t lose your voice onstage.
How do you stay motivated through each performance?
It all comes back to that inspiration. What inspires you? What drives you forward? Also for the character, what are her motivations? Since I haven’t been in a very long run before – such as months and years – but only for 10-12 performances, I really try to stay in the moment and remember that it’s a new audience every time. You owe that to the audience since they are coming to see the show for the first time. It’s also important to stay true to the character. I try to be motivated and try to do each part justice and do my part to tell the story.
What is one of the greatest lessons you have learned from being a working actress?
I have been very fortunate in that getting into grad school was an experience in itself. The audition process was grueling, but it prepared me for the real world as a working actress. It’s important to know that you’re not going to get every role that you try out for, and that you need to have confidence in yourself. I’ve learned in this program that you have to believe in yourself and your abilities. Appreciate the opportunities you’re given; be grateful for them, and give 100% of yourself and in the end you’ll be rewarded for that. Also, just be nice to people and be polite, courteous, and never think of yourself superior in any way. This program has helped me as an actress and a person. I view the world differently.
What was the audition process like?
Most of the schools I applied for I had to do classic and contemporary monologues. For Pace, which I love, I had to do a scene with a partner. My mom offered to do the scene with me, and I was like, “why not?!” We did a scene from Steel Magnolias. It was only five minutes long, and it was a beautiful, surreal experience. I auditioned for Elizabeth Kemp, and we performed the scene, and then she came out and spoke to us individually. She told us both that we had to think of someone that we lost and would do anything to bring back. We both picked the same person unknowingly. We did the scene again and genuine emotion was coming out, and I was bawling my eyes out. Just from those two minutes of guidance from Elizabeth, it helped me perform the best acting of my life.
Do you have a pre-show ritual?
I am a spiritual person and have faith. I also try to incorporate preparatory work and try to get to an authentic emotional place for the character.
How do you overcome self-doubt or stage fright?
Self-doubt is hard because in this profession, we shouldn’t center ourselves on accolades from people, but we do need that feedback. However, you can’t let negative comments or feedback make you think less of yourself and your abilities. Self-doubt is hard, and I went through a lot of debate about whether I should go into this industry. At the end of the day, you have to realize how much this enriches your life and as a human being. It’s a constant battle throughout my life, but I keep pushing forward.
Sometimes I get nervous right before I go onstage, but once I’m onstage I’m usually okay. Thankfully, my stage fright hasn’t affected my performance. What helps me is realizing that it is my physicality up onstage, but I’m really being someone else. This way, it makes me feel less judged because it’s not me as Tina, but me as my character. I’m telling the story of someone else, which helps me feel less self-conscious. I focus on doing the best I can as my character.
What advice do you have for youth who want to be professional actors/actresses?
Everyone’s journey is different. For me, it was great to go to a liberal arts school and study theater, as well as other subjects, and then go to an acting graduate school for training and to get more experience. Other people might want to go straight into theater after high school.
Be true to yourself and really hone in on what you want to do. I know it’s hard to figure that out when you’re 17-years-old, and I’m fortunate that I knew what I wanted to do. Start now when you have the time and energy to accomplish things. When I’m in my 30’s, I’d like to have a family and kids, but now is my time to do what I want to do.
What does a day in your life look like?
My days are a little crazy. Right now my days are filled up with classes for the program. I’m taking a theater history class, acting, voice & speech and a movement class where we learn how to use our physical bodies with acting. I spend time studying and rehearsing, but just trying to enjoy it all at the same time.
What activities were you involved in throughout high school? Were there any experiences that were most memorable or life changing?
In high school I was involved in theater and dance classes, which propelled my love for theater. I didn’t audition for major productions because I was an AP student so I had a lot of homework. Academics were the most important thing to me in high school even though I knew I loved theater. It ended up being great that I did that because I had enough AP credits to graduate early. I focused on theater classes in college. I was in an Italian Foreign Language Honor Society Club and I was involved with Best Buddies, which is a program that worked with special needs students.
In college I participated in Gospel Choir. I also did a lot of behind-the-scenes work such as sound design and set construction. I tried to do different elements of theater, but I realized acting was my true passion.
You attend the Actors Studio Drama School at Pace University. What has your experience been like going to graduate school in New York City?
I grew up on Long Island, but I was thrown by living in New York City. I love the Broadway strip and it’s great to absorb so much culture. It’s also great to observe people, especially as an actor, just walking down the street. I’ve been more observant of people and their habits and behaviors. I love New York City and lower Manhattan. I haven’t been able to see too many shows because of my grueling schedule, but I love that I have the city at my fingertips.
How has the Actors Studio Drama School changed the way you act or view acting?
It has changed me in every way. I came here with a notion of what to do, but this program went on a deeper level. The amount of authenticity in emotion that comes through the work and preparation is mind-blowing. It transcends you in a way, and it borderlines a surreal experience. It taught me a different view on life. I realized that our creativity is inside of us and we just have to tap into it. A lot of people have it, but they don’t have the means or inclination to do it. I really recommend this program, I love my professors, and I’m so grateful to be here.
What has your favorite role been?
In Elizabeth’s class, I played Corie in Barefoot in the Park by Neil Simon. It was so freeing. My partner and I had great chemistry and I learned so much from the scene.
In a couple of weeks I’ll be playing Catherine in A View from the Bridge by Arthur Miller. It’s great because it’s an Italian-American family in Brooklyn in the 1950’s. I can’t wait to do that. It’s part of a festival where we perform scenes.
What motivates you in your everyday life?
I would say my family. I’m very family-oriented. I have a great mother and father, best friends, and wonderful grandparents. The love is there. I try to do that in all my work; I try to find the love. Even when people are screaming at each other, the love is beneath everything.
Also, I try to be a good human being. I try to be positive, even when I’m tired. To bring joy to people, that’s a huge motivation. I think about acting and theater all the time, but I’m also a normal person who enjoys reading, seeing friends, and watching TV and movies. My art really drives me though.
Who is your role model?
Meryl Streep, of course. I also love Ellen Burstyn, who I met during orientation last year. My mom is a wonderful role model for me just as a woman and a mother. I hope to be as great of a mother as she is one day. She’s been a great support system and role model for me.
What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?
Have faith in yourself. Have confidence. You can do it.
What’s next for you?
I want more film experience. I’ve been so involved with theater, which is my passion, but I’d love to try different mediums of acting. Watching film actors as a child really propelled me into acting. Once I graduate, I hope to become a lifetime member of the Actors Studio and I hope to come back here to teach and continue the legacy that they have established.
Managing, singing, writing, playing, and producing your own music takes a lot of time, effort, and creativity. What is the process for producing an album? How does one become a professional musician and artist? How do you stay confident in front of crowds night after night? Connor Frost, who manages, sings, writes, and plays his own music with his band, Dizzy Bats, explains, “Just go out there and do it, repetition really helps.”
Having grown up playing music and being surrounded by a musically-talented family, standing in front of an audience is nothing new to Connor, but he continues to channel all of his energy into his performances and he makes sure he is always learning something from each new experience. Fresh off the release of his new EP, Appendectomy, Connor has a lot to share about his experiences pursuing music full-time and how he got to where he is today.
Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?
CF: Following your passion. I do my best not to worry about the different molds that society has created for us, and instead just roll with it and ride that passion wave.
CJ: What did you major in at Connecticut College and how did you determine what to study?
CF: Going into Connecticut College I knew that I wanted to study Chinese, so when I was applying to colleges, I looked for programs that had strong Chinese programs. I also knew that I wanted to study music but I wasn’t really trying to dive into a conservatory atmosphere. I was, however, looking for schools that would allow me to be involved musically, so the small liberal arts college system appealed to me.
CJ: Did you study abroad? What was your big takeaway from studying abroad and do you think it was worth it?
CF: I studied in Beijing for the spring semester of my junior year. There are so many takeaways, but I would say by the end of that experience, I considered myself “fluent” in the Chinese language, which was ultimately my goal. I think it was also an incredible cultural learning experience. Just crossing the street in China is an adventure every day. Immersing myself in that type of environment that was totally different from what I grew up in was pretty great.
CJ: What or who inspired you to become a musician/artist?
CF: I grew up playing music. My mom is a professional pianist. My dad is a singer. They’re both teachers, they both teach music. My mom works at Sacred Heart University as a teacher there, she’s also an organist at a church. My dad also teaches. So I grew up around music, but it wasn’t until college that I realized that music is what I want to do. My parents made me continue music up to a certain age, but I never felt like they forced it on me. It was a mix of being surrounded by it, but also the great experiences that I had in college and starting my own band made me realize that this is what I want to do.
CJ: How did you know you wanted to be a musician/artist professionally?
CF: I didn’t really know. Out of college I was a full-time teacher for 2 years, the first year in Connecticut and then in North Jersey, and my reasoning for that was that I wanted to be in or around New York because that’s where my band was and still is. I really love teaching, realized that teaching full-time and doing the music thing full-time just wasn’t a healthy lifestyle and it was causing a lot of unneeded stress. I ultimately decided last February that I wanted to remove myself from full-time teaching and dedicate that time to music.
CJ: You recently went on a national tour. When on tour, how do you stay motivated on-stage night after night of performing?
CF: I put all of my energy into the performance. Seeing the country is great, but at the end of the day, you’re on the road for one reason and that’s the performance. I try not to worry about things that are out of my control, which is easier said than done. Seeing different cities is pretty cool, too, but I put everything into the show. Whether I’m playing for 1 person or for 50 people, it doesn’t matter, I just try to make the performance the best it can be.
CJ: Have you ever forgotten a song lyric on-stage and what do you do when that happens?
CF: Short answer, yes. I’ve mixed up verses. I think only the really hardcore Dizzy Bats fans notice, so it’s not a really big thing. I’ll definitely laugh about it, though.
CJ: Do you have a pre-show ritual?
CF: I don’t really, but I probably should. I just try to eat well and not right before performing.
CJ: What is one of the greatest lessons you have learned from being a musician/artist?
CF: I think throughout all of my song-writing, I was really concerned with how my music would be received amongst my friends, new fans, and family. In the beginning, it was as if I was trying to write for someone else. I was trying to write to this group of people – whoever they were, and I wasn’t even sure who they were really. Lyrically, I was trying to make my songs really accessible as well.
Now, I truly just write for myself. I’ve stopped worrying about whether the record will sell or if someone will like a song or not. The greatest lesson I’ve learned is that you should write for yourself and be true to yourself, otherwise the art loses authenticity and meaning.
CJ: How do you overcome self-doubt and stage fright?
CF: Just doing it more and more. I grew up performing so I had a lot of experience on stage. I do get anxious about some shows, though. For example, our first Dizzy Bats show, which was a couple of years ago now, I was crazy nervous. Last year we were playing a show every weekend from January to April, and by the end of it performing was second nature. There were some nerves but more excitement and positive energy than anything else. Just go out there and do it, repetition really helps.
CJ: You write, sing, and play your own music. What is your songwriting process?
CF: It really depends. It’s tough for me to pick a time to sit down and just write a song. It doesn’t really work like that. I get ideas for songs at really inconvenient times, usually right before I’m going to bed, which is a horrible time to get a song idea, or while stuck in traffic on the GWB. I usually come up with a melody first, and then I take that melody and mess around with the guitar, and then I’ll put lyrics to it and take it to my guitarist, Kyle, who will come up with additional guitar parts. Then the whole band will flesh it out from there.
If I start writing a song and the song doesn’t write itself, then it’s probably not meant to be. If I have to spend a lot of time thinking about the song, then it’s probably not going to happen, or perhaps I just have a horrible attention span.
CJ: What advice do you have for youth who want to be professional musicians?
CF: Write for yourself and don’t worry about how your music is going to be received. In the end, if you’re not happy with your music and you’re not stoked about what you’re putting out, it’ll be hard for others to be excited about it. If you want to be an indie rock artist, don’t let the empty room discourage you.
CJ: What does a day in your life look like?
CF: A typical day involves waking up and now eating breakfast which I never usually did. I’ll work on some music, whether it’s Dizzy Bats or other projects I’m involved in. During the day I’ll have rehearsals, at night I tutor, and then I’ll work on more music, read, and watch TV. Every day is different which is really cool.
CF: I had an appendectomy that went all wrong due to mediocre doctors and poor opinions. I ended up back in the hospital after the appendectomy because of post-surgery complications, so during that time I was going through a lot.
So I started writing this song which is a little bit about missing this girl and also about putting things into perspective. I found myself whining and crying when I was bedridden, but I realized at the end of the day I was going to walk out of that hospital, which was more than a lot of patients can say.
CJ: How long did it take to write, sing, and produce Appendectomy?
CF: We toured the songs for half a year, from January to May. We went into the studio in May and I would say we spent four total days in the studio for five songs – one of the songs didn’t make it on to the EP. The mixing and mastering was in June. From learning the songs to getting the final tracks was a 6 month process. It can be shorter than that, but it just happened this way.
CJ: What activities were you involved in throughout high school? Were there any experiences that were most memorable or life changing?
CF: I was very involved with music. After I quit the soccer team my junior year of high school, I decided that music was going to be my focus outside of the classroom. My jazz band teacher in high school really was a source of inspiration. In playing with such strong high school musicians and getting instruction from a great jazz musician, I started to casually think about life as a teacher, as well as a musician.
In college, I played in every single group imaginable, it seemed. I played in the concert band, symphony orchestra, jazz band, I fronted a rock band and funk band, and that’s when I started writing my own tunes. My college band, The Endpiece – that experience made me realize I wanted to go the rock ‘n roll/indie route. Of all the amazing learning experiences that I had, that was one of the most amazing and life changing. I learned so much and there is no way I would be doing what I am doing now without that band.
CJ: You are also the manager of your band. From the business side, how does that influence the creative side?
CF: It doesn’t, except that some songs have been about the frustrations of managing the creative as well as business side of things. They are pretty separate because managing deals with booking shows and PR, so it doesn’t necessarily crossover into the creative world.
CJ: What music are you most influenced by?
CF: I am influenced by all of the genres that I’ve studied. We have a lot of horns in our recordings and I draw influence from all of the experience that I’ve had playing classical and jazz trumpet. I hate classifying our music but if I had to put us in a box: 90’s alternative rock, punk and power pop. Our music is very 90s influenced, which makes sense having been a 90s kid.
CJ: What motivates you in your everyday life?
CF: The music is what motivates me, as well as working with kids. Those are two things that I love to do, and I feel so blessed that my life consists of these two passions. I don’t find myself necessarily sitting on the couch trying to find ways to motivate myself. Not at the moment, at least.
CJ: Who is your role model?
CF: It sounds corny, but seeing what my parents have done with music and seeing how happy they are is inspirational.
More recently, the various producers that I’ve worked with – our guitarist, Kyle Joseph, and my buddy Jon Markson – have been the two people on the production front for Dizzy Bats, and in seeing what they do in the studio and what they do with their own music keeps me motivated and inspired. Every time I see them work I am amazed by their knowledge, expertise, and drive. My brother, who I consider to be the most all-around creative person I know, is also someone I look up to. I feel really lucky to be surrounded by such talented friends and family.
CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?
CF: Relax, it’s all good.
Check out the lyric video for ‘Batman and the Joker’ below!