Miami -- New World School of the Arts celebrated its College Commencement ceremony in Miami’s historic Gusman Center for the Performing Arts. The 2014 graduating class of sixty performing and visual art students paraded triumphantly to the beat of African drummers from the famed arts conservatory through the streets of downtown Miami, where parents, friends and onlookers snapped photos and yelled congratulatory words. For the young artists, it was a remarkably beautiful afternoon in the city, not only because the sun smiled on them, but because they had just accomplishedtheir dream of becoming BFA or BM college graduates in a city that has become an international Mecca for the arts.
"I’m awestruck each and every day by your youth and energy and vitality," said Dr. Jeffrey Hodgson, Provost of New World School of the Arts, as he warmly welcomed the class of 2014. The following message would strike a special chord with parents, family and faculty members - prompting nods of approval as he emphasized, "Things worth accomplishing take lots of hard work and perseverance. Early on in your studies, it might have seemed like the faculty were there solely to challenge you – to question your determination – to demand seemingly more and more of you. But in reality – they were working hard to help you discover your path forward to becoming an artist. To help you discover your voice – yourself – to build the you that you have become through your studies." The Provost concluded his delivery by highlighting the integral role of the BFA / BM candidates in the legacy of the school, "New World exists for you and because of you. The energy and excitement you have brought to your studies and performances and exhibitions – that’s the lifeblood of New World."
The candidates, who were eager to celebrate their most recent accomplishment, also heard inspiring words of wisdom from guest speakers who have demonstrated their commitment to the arts in our community and their support for the students and alumni of New World School of the Arts. 2014 NWSA College Commencement Keynote Speaker, Christine Dolen - respected Miami Herald arts critic and journalist - engaged the group at once by assuring them that"serious critics actually love the arts - We admire the talents of people who choose to go through life as actors, musicians, painters, dancers, playwrights, sculptures, directors, singers and choreographers." Dolen, who has chronicled the growth of Miami's impressive artistic landscape for more than three decades, and has known of NWSA since its very beginning 27 yearsago, highlighted NWSA alumni Tarell A. McCraney, Lela Elam and Jessica Sanford and noted their artistic impact in our community. She also offered instrumental bits of advice stating that, "to be a vibrant artist you need to think of life as the graduate school that never ends.” Finally, she urged the students to "stay true to your artistic vision, but don't be afraid to consider honest feedback from those whose opinions you respect."
"They say that it takes about 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert at something... While becoming an artist clearly requires a large amount of discipline work, there's something more to it - some people are just given special gifts - and you are people who have been blessed with very special gifts of unique talents. You've also been blessed with the opportunity to hone those gifts in one of the best arts conservatories in the country, so you're doubly blessed. Why you?" That's the question that Edward Schaefer, Associate Dean for Academic and Student Affairs at the University of Florida, asked the class of 2014 as he went on to describe the attributes that makes an artist. "Musicians hear color... intonation... pitch" while "visual artists create objects that help the rest of us see our world differently - to appreciate its splendor and hear the stories that it tells us." "Actors aren't just empathetic - they become the people in our plays, our films - they give a kind of life to these characters that brings us insight into humanity." "Dancers create a kind of movement that gives the human body the ability to express beauty and all the human emotions in ways beyond anything we might imagine." Schaefer's summation of artists, however, became the mantra of his speech, as candidates smiled at one another with pride and in agreement, "Artists take the human experience beyond the limits of humanity - that's the gift that you've been given and that also is what you've been chosen to do."
Meanwhile, José Vicente, President of the Miami Dade College Wolfson Campus, underscored the importance of the arts by stating that, "someone who is fully educated is someone who has been touched by the arts." Vicente, who commended the class of 2014 on behalf of Dr. Eduardo Padrón, President of Miami Dade College, the Board of Trustees and the 176,000 students that attend MDC, also acknowledged the faculty of New World School of the Arts and recognized the role that parents and family play in the success of the candidates. Encouraging the students he said, "At this ceremony you are fulfilling a dream and new ones will emanate. Please don't forget where our humble beginnings actually commenced, which for you was here at New World School of the Arts, and as importantly, as members of the family of the arts. You are the new group of scholars and you are the new emissaries of the arts. At a time in which arts funding continues to be reduced, it is imperative for you to continue to move forward."
Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent, Alberto Carvahlo, delivered an empowering and heartfelt address which began by hailing New World School of the Arts as “the great institution… where dreams are sculpted, and visions are molded, and where the future of our nation is in fact lived - one graduate at a time.” Carvahlo highlighted that each student’s personal journey is based on “believe, inspiration, skill and will,” and emphasized the importance of art in the world of education. “Believe that somehow in our country and in our world standardized testing, FCAT, and measures cannot ever replace the space of that inescapable, existentially important perspective that only the arts bring – that language that speaks not to the mind, but to the soul. You hear it, you believe it, you feel it – it rhymes with our existence – you are graduates of that existence.”
New World School of the Arts Executive Board Chair, Maria Alonso - Senior Vice President and Miami and Ft. Lauderdale Market Manager for Corporate Social Responsibility - brought a bit of humor on stage as she told the story of four violin-makers who were faced with the daunting task of distinguishing themselves over the others. Ultimately, the narrative revealed the importance of “making a difference in your block.” In the tale, it was not the violin maker that claimed to be the best in the town, or the one who hailed himself as the best in the city, or even the one who thought he was the best in the world who succeeded – rather, it was Antonio Stradivari who stayed grounded and true to his roots by claiming that he was the best in his block. Maria Alonso’s message didn’t just resonate with the candidates, it also had an impact on the audience that filled the theater – “as the violin-makers’ story exemplifies, being the best at what you do and making a difference in your block, wherever you are, is what you should strive for… and everything else – believe me – will work itself out. Success is important… but significance is what I hope that you will each find as your careers take many paths.” She concluded by urging the group not to forget “this block and [to] remain connected and engaged as alumni of New World School of the Arts.”
During his address to his classmates, Class of 2014 Valedictorian, visual artist José Garcia, summed the common denominator present in all artists in one phrase - "Passion for creativity - that is the universal thread thatbinds every students here a New World. Every graduate here shares an ability to manifest his or her passion into a work of art regardless of its form." He cited "courage" as the trait that gave them the ability to withstand the trials and tribulations of their career path. Garcia urged his peers toexpress gratitude to "those who assisted us when passion wasn't sufficient and acknowledge family and friends who heard every rehearsal saw every production and visited every one of our exhibitions." He noted, "We must show admiration for our peers who accompanied us in this journey - let us continue to inspire and push one another, to achieve what we ordinarily could not achieve on our own." Garcia closed his address by thanking the professors of New World School of the Arts, "who instilled in us an eagerness to learn and exceeded the expectations of what could be accomplished in the classroom."
The distinguished history of the New World School of the Arts began when the Florida State Legislature established the institution to provide artistically talented high school and college students the means to achieveboth an academic education and artistic training. In September 1986, NWSA opened its doors to students in grades ten through twelve. NWSA’s audition-based programs are accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art, Dance, Music and Theater. NWSA offers the high school diploma as well as a four-year BFA and BM college degree.
New World School of the Arts was created by the Florida Legislature as a center of excellence in the performing and visual arts. It is an educational partnership between Miami-Dade County Public Schools, Miami Dade College and the University of Florida.
For information about New World School of the Arts, please call at 305-237-3135 or visit nwsa.mdc.edu.