Arts and Culture

Honors and the arts


by Jan Gillis ('07)

 
image: /_images/stories/jamison-courtney-232708-rehearsal-1015-655x393.jpg

SUMMARY: For Courtney Jamison ('15), a JMU Honors student and musical theatre major, the Madison Experience was an exploration of music, visual arts, performance, art history and theatre history.


Courtney Jamison rehearsing for a Mainstage productionJamison rehearses for production of "How I Learned to Drive," at JMU's Mainstage Theatre.

Why did you choose the Honors Program?

I came to JMU interested in academic challenge, so I joined the program in my sophomore year. Adding Honors options to my theatrical and creative work has allowed me to delve deeper. I’ve been able to build a real academic base for my work as a theater practitioner. For instance, I did research on Devised Theatre and presented it to my class. Devised Theatre allows a group of people to start from a foundation—perhaps a song, poem, or a moment in time—and devise a work of theatre. Together, the performers create and mold a piece that is reflective of them and is representative of their inspiration.

'Pursuing Honors in the arts can provide invaluable resources and opportunities to challenge yourself. You can make it what you want and need.'

Photo of Courtney Jamison

How has the Honors experience influenced your plans for the future?

I am applying to graduate school now. Ultimately, I plan on being a successful performer and one day open my own art school that infuses and integrates academic and performance components. Many conservatory environments are very ‘straight and narrow.’ What I learned from my Honors experience is the challenge and importance of integrating academics into being a smart performer, a smart listener, and theater artist. I hope to work with young people, integrating into their education elements from music, visual arts, performance, art history and theatre history, and show them how to learn from everything around them. That was something I really took to heart during my Honors Seminar Abroad, Culture and Politics in Medici Florence. Seeing the artwork commissioned in 15th and 16th century Florence, you’re struck with the color, design and spectacle. What I took away is that art is all around us. You must be able to learn from it all.”

Do you have other favorite moments from your work in the Honors Program?

The relationships you build with faculty partners in the Honors Program are significant. They are not only advisors and mentors, but they bring alumni into the relationships so that you have well-practiced and well-informed people in the industry to go to.

Photo of rehearsal of How I Learned to Drive production

Describe your typical routine.

Right now, I’m in a playwriting class, a directing class, and auditioning and professional issues class, which prepares you to go out into the real world and develop your brand. Developing your brand is huge, and I’m not sure anyone ever figures it out totally until they become successful. In many ways I think it’s being you, yourself: marketable, likable, able to handle multifaceted opportunities. That’s why I’m so grateful to JMU. We receive a conservatory-like education for performing arts and theater with GenEd and Honors opportunities. It’s kept me well-rounded and grounded in who I really am."

'The relationships you build with faculty partners in the Honors Program are significant. They are not only advisors and mentors, but they bring alumni into the relationships so that you have well-practiced and well-informed people in the industry to go to.'

What are your favorite Honors experiences?

Definitely, the cultural education and experience of studying abroad in Florence as part of the Honors Program. I am really excited about my senior project, too. The starting point of my experience is Amy Winehouse's music. I want to infuse her music into a performance piece focused on addiction and the part it plays in the extremes of human nature.

Any advice for future JMU students?

Change your perspective of the Honors Program—it’s not just for scientists or English majors. Many incoming students don’t typically think about pursuing Honors in the arts, but it can provide invaluable resources and opportunities to challenge yourself. You can make it what you want and need. I have gotten so much from my Honors projects. I really encourage incoming students to expand the realm of their academic focus at JMU through the Honors Program.

Learn more about the Honors Program.

Learn more about the Madison Experience.

Published: Monday, September 1, 2014

Last Updated: Thursday, October 20, 2016

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