Welcome to the #1 Dream School
Last night was the official Dean's welcome to the Tisch School of the Arts.
Set for two hours, I couldn't imagine what would take so long and thought, though didn't vocalize, what the noisy undergrads in the theatre behind me were complaining about.
I needn't have been concerned.
The evening opened with a rousing musical number. When it ended, we were informed that it was written by a couple of students as part of a larger play while they attended NYU and that it had already been optioned for an off-Broadway run. Indeed, the rest of the evening's introduction to faculty was interspersed with performances from all the various art schools represented in Tisch, from drama to music. The final installment was a student's short film that went on to win the Animated Short Film Academy Award in 2004.
I found myself in awe and once again had those twinges of, "You're a fraud. They see right through you. Do you really think you belong in a group like this!?" (Interestingly enough, I confessed these musing to numerous other Cinema Studies grad students following the presentation and it seems it was a universal feeling.) I found myself looking around the beautiful Skirball Center Theatre trying to take in all the hundreds of faces around me. You are all so talented and amazing. I want to be friends with each and everyone one of you. We are going to do great things.
The faculty is hardly any less impressive. The old adage, "Those who can't, teach" does not apply here. It should more accurately be said, "Those who can and do, teach." I can't tell you how often I heard, "Professor so-and-so is a multiple Emmy/Tony/Grammy/Academy Award winner." This faculty is so inspiring. Unfortunately, Spike Lee was not there last night. He was out promoting his new, lauded HBO documentary "When the Levees Broke" which he shot along with a crew of NYU students shortly after Hurricane Katrina tore through New Orleans.
The Dean gave an inspired speech about NYU Tisch being a place where art and the study of art collide; a place where artistic scholars reside. She congratulated us all on being the absolute top of our chosen academic subjects, or else we wouldn't have been sitting there. NYU, she informed us, was this year named the #1 Dream School in the nation by the Princeton Review, beating out other such prestigious schools as Harvard, Stanford and Yale. It was a night in which I pinched myself several times to ensure it was not, in fact, just a dream. Oliver Stone, a Tisch graduate, was asked why he attended film school at NYU, the Dean told us, rather than simply begin working in the industry--a question I was asked often and wrestled with more than once. “Because,” he answered, “film school is a place where one has the opportunity to find one's creative voice in a safe environment that fosters creativity, supplies the resources to give that voice release and opens avenues for that voice to be heard.”
After the Dean's welcome, the grad students were treated to hors' dourves and wine and a chance, finally, to begin meeting, up close and personal, those within our various programs. I am struck, first of all, how international the student body is. Within my discipline alone, there are Canadians, French, Brits, Chinese, Koreans and numerous other nationalities. In terms of age, I am the second oldest in the program, it appears. My advisor even commented on my age and actually said he was so happy to have me in the program. "We used to get many more students in your situation," he said, "returning to school after a few years of working. They brought a great deal of experience and maturity. These days the students always come straight from their undergrad. We've lost something because of it." The graduate Cinema Studies group seems fantastic, and the mingling gave us all a real chance to connect. No longer are they just faces from an orientation meeting. Now it's Neal, Anoosh, Jeremy, Carolina, etc.
This is going to be fun.