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Artists in the making: Persistence proves key in artists’ lives

Standing in front of her dream college, New York University, and its supervisors, senior Krystal Uchem is about to begin her audition as part of the application process. Her hands could be shaky and sweaty, but instead she executes a calm and collected performance with every line flowing gracefully in her voice and her body language invigorating emotion to the judges. By the end, she knows in her heart that this was her best performance yet. Uchem is already accustomed to the demands of theatre. This is part of the experience she has given herself the past four years.

Many students join clubs, complete numerous community service hours, win scholastic awards, and earn leadership positions to build their resumes. Some, however, take an independent route in creating a name for themselves.

In addition to being an active member of Cadre Kerr, Uchem also participates in community theatre.

“It’s different because everyone in the production is much older, most are in college and some are adults,” she said. “The age range is different and everybody is more experienced.”

Uchem believes it is harder to obtain main roles in community theatre.

“People have connections with the director and they kind of already know who they want,” she said.

Junior Melissa Ramos, a fellow Cadre Kerr participant, agrees with different atmosphere while working in community theatre.

“I guess in high school, you have it more narrowed down to certain people,” Ramos said. “You have all sorts of people to play the role.” 

A major challenge was giving time to both activities.

“It’s a lot of work,” Ramos said. “I’d go home and do work because it’s Kerr. I have to go to rehearsals for my other show and I’d be doing shows here too.”

Another form of art has allowed senior Nhu Pham to become known on the internet for computer graphic art and photo manipulation. Pham’s work has been exposed throughout  platforms like Facebook, Deviantart and Tumblr.

“The biggest surprise was someone actually posting my art and crediting me and then it got a very big response,” she said. “On Tumblr, I think there was one user that posted and credited it and said, ‘Oh, this is amazing.’ As of now, I think the post got 300,000 notes.”

However, Pham struggles with her parents’ expectations.

“They don’t think art is going to get me anywhere. My dad has walked by while I’m finishing artwork for class and they say, ‘Oh, why are you so focused on art? You should be doing other things,’” she said. “That’s a little obstacle and probably why I chose to minor in art and major in engineering.”

Senior Roddrinskeee Johnson faces challenges as well while he aspire to make it big through singing.

“Sometimes it’s not feeling like you’re not good enough to be what you want to do,” he said. “You watch people on YouTube and you see how they hit a certain note and you’re like, ‘Man I can’t hit that. Am I really good enough to do this?’”

Johnson, however, has taken great steps to make himself known.

“I did open mic night in January in this local café and I sing at weddings. I recorded my EP, called ‘Handcrafted Melodies.’ I’ve done tons of live streams on UStream and cover videos on YouTube,” he said.

He realized along the way to not lose himself while pursuing his ambitions.

“Honestly, just stick to you,” he said. “Don’t feel like you have to do something because of what society says or what your parents say. You can set your own standard…When I started to sing and I started to be more me, that’s when people gravitated toward me. They wanted to know more. Just do you and people will be inspired by that.”

Senior Brenda Mburu also struggled with self-image and monetary difficulties. From the age of 14, she had to make money for herself in order to be signed by a modeling agency.

“[My mom] helped me sign up for agencies. She took me to Neil Hamel Modeling Agency and they agreed to sign me, but I had to come up with $1,195,” she said. “So I started selling brownies, cookies, and cupcakes to come up with the money, but I didn’t come up with enough. So I went online and signed up for many competitions.”

Mburu soon learned just how difficult it will be to succeed at modeling.

“Being a size 8 model will be the hardest thing to do,” she said.  “I came across an agency in Houston named Page Parkes and they signed people like Angelina Jolie and Channing Tatum,” she said. “I had an interview with them. They loved me and wanted to sign me as long as I trim down to a sample size of 0-4. I was hurt. Not only am I not capable of being a high fashion model, I’m too small to do plus size of 12 and up.”

She was tempted to starve herself, something she had told herself she wouldn’t do.

“I get insecure a lot. I’ve been working out and eating healthier, but nothing is happening,” she said. “I told my mom that the only thing I could do is not eat anymore. It was already too serious. I don’t want to do what other models do, starving or taking drugs, but in that moment, I wanted to starve.”

However, Mburu persevered.

“I use all the negativity as a boost of energy to work harder,” Mburu said. “Giving up is not an option when you love something so much. Modeling is more than modeling to me; it has become a part of me.”

Johnson believes that the struggles he and other independent artists undergo are for the best.

“I’m always scared, but I think I’m more excited. God has really placed this inside of me. I’ve seen so many other people do it and I’ve seen their stories and how they’ve done it,” he said. “I’m excited for what’s in store, negative or positive, because it will help me grow.”

Like Johnson, Uchem reminds herself to remain hopeful.

“There’s a million other people trying to do exactly what you’re doing,” Uchem said. “The main thing is to find your strength and go with it. Always be confident. Also, of course, never give up because your time will come.”


Here is Johnson singing his original song “Reason Why I Smile” from his new album, “Handcrafted Melodies EP,” now available on iTunes.


Check out Johnson’s pages. 

Facebook: goo.gl/glW5vZ

YouTube: goo.gl/sF5mTe

Also check out Nhu Pham’s deviantART page: goo.gl/XTsahN