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The Audition, Then The Quest

August 10, 1985|JOHN VOLAND | Voland, a recent graduate of the University of Iowa, is a Times intern. and

I went down to the audition and I was quite a bit nervous. I thought I wouldn't make it, because I played something simple--Debussy's "Les Joyeux"--and I thought they wouldn't be able to tell how I could play. I guess I got ( accepted) because playing the piano is really the only thing I really love doing. It's the thing I was made for, I think.

--Kai Zi Wu, 15, of San Marino, pianist and entering junior at the new Los Angeles County High School for the Arts.

For the hopeful high schoolers milling in the halls of the Cal State L.A. Music Building on a recent Saturday, the waiting was the hardest part--especially with visions of "Fame" dancing in their heads.

Toting bass guitars, trumpets, toe shoes and big dreams, they came from Whittier, Santa Monica, the valleys, Inglewood and Hawthorne to audition for a place in the two entering sophomore and junior classes at Los Angeles County's first High School for the Arts. Classes convene Sept. 9 on the Cal State L.A. campus.

Small crowds of nascent artists sat or stood along the hallways, looking over lines, poring over scores, biting nails. Although this was the second set of auditions for the school, this was first (and last) chance for these aspirants to get in. For some, it was also their first preprofessional lesson in The Business: waiting for their number to be called.

"Don't worry, kid," soothed Michael Isaacson, a local composer and one of the instrumentalists' judges, patting one young trumpeter on the back. "It's going to be all right. You're not on trial. It's just an audition."

I kind of knew I was going to make it as soon as the audition was over, but when we got the letter saying that I had gotten in, I went crazy. . . . I felt that I could be better at what I was doing, and this new school will let me do both things--the regular school and the dancing. I can't believe it--it's a terrific deal.

--Dawn Sherrye Brown, 14, of Los Angeles, entering sophomore dance student.

The game plan for a high school specifically for the fine arts has been on the local chalkboard at least five years, but only within the last 18 months have money, government sponsorship and personal initiative come together to bring the project to fruition.

The $325,000 from Sacramento is only enough to cover the first year of operations, however, and officials of the new school, while ecstatic that it exists at all, are cautious about its future.

"Everything depends on our first year here. If we have some results to point to, I think we'll make it," said Chuck Stewart, the arts high school's principal-designate, as he kept a watchful eye on the auditions. "What we're hoping is that once people see what kind of results we're producing, private money will replace the start-up grant." He looked down the hallway at the anxiously waiting young musicians and a faint smile came to his lips: "I have a feeling it'll turn out all right."

The school will offer classes in theater, visual arts, dance and instrumental and vocal music besides the basic educational subjects such as English, math and the sciences. Two hundred students will be accepted for this year, with an eventual enrollment of 500 targeted for 1988--if funding is continued. Since the school is administered by a coalition of public school systems, there is no tuition.

One significant problem the embryonic school has encountered is transportation. No school buses will be available to bring students to Cal State L.A. from outlying areas, and carpool arrangements are barely in the planning stages. Stewart said the number of applications to the school would have been five times greater if buses had been available.

"But given the level of commitment we've witnessed," he added, "I think they'll find a way to get here this year."

If you can't live art all the time -- have it be your regular homework as well as just class assignments -- then why do it? When people hear I went to that school, they'll know I got the proper training and I'll be able to get ahead in the business. And my folks are 101% behind my going to the school.

--Dee Ann Lerma, 15, of Alhambra, incoming junior art student.

Jason Tiller grimaced fiercely over a fluffed trill during his audition.

As his father played on at the piano, Jason's eyes went a little wide behind his glasses at the startling if momentary wrongness of his French horn sound, but then he placed his lips back to the mouthpiece and went on with the Mozart concerto, shaking his dark blond head a little.

A little later, during the interview phase of the audition, 14-year-old Jason was the consummate proto-professional, fielding questions from auditors and press alike with the coolness of a young virtuoso.

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