Beyond The Applause

How I Transitioned Beyond the Applause

Sitting in the College Counseling office’s waiting room with my son, I felt anxious, tense, and concerned about what to expect. I was transported back in time, remembering my own horrific experience. I pictured myself walking into my counselor’s office to discuss my plans after high school. Having had no interaction with him until that day, I wasn’t sure what to expect. 

To me, my path was clear, I would attend a top conservatory and major in dance. My counselor let me know in a dismissing tone that my goal was a fantasy and not a real career, and that I needed to pick a more practical direction. I felt like a widget on a conveyor belt, heading to the same place at the same time with the rest of my class- some college. Just then, reality hit as I felt Justin’s hand on my shoulder whispering, “Mom, it’s time, Ms. Dean is ready for us.” My memories continued to haunt me, and I certainly hoped that my son’s experience would not be the same.

My heart was full as I registered at Boston Conservatory of Music. I made the cut through years of preparation, a rigorous audition, and an interview, and I began a journey that would clearly move me toward what I thought was my ultimate goal- to perform with a top ballet company. I was polished, skilled, and happy dancing and performing with seniors at BCM during my freshman year. I had never worked so hard in my life. 

Attending a conservatory in a BFA program was not for the faint of heart or mind. It was a grueling schedule, longer than that of any BA or BS program. Liberal Arts courses were core, but in a BFA program, the focus was on one’s craft. Would this be enough for me since I had other strong academic interests?

Clearly, there was more about my career choice that I had not considered- and then it happened: I was stopped in my tracks after becoming seriously injured during a partnering class. Once again, I was entering a world of the unknown without an expert to guide me. 

 Ms. Dean, a sassy yet professional southern woman, welcomed us into her office, introducing herself to Justin and me with a distinct cultural twang, which was warm and engaging. All three of us were very prepared for the meeting. Every question asked and every thoughtful answer given was formulated to build up the student, support his unique talents and needs and those of his family. From day one, it was a well-planned recipe for success. Throughout the process, I thought back about my own inadequate experience. If I had had this type of support from the beginning, my direction might have been very different. 

I was immediately drawn in by the value and purpose of personalized college and career planning. As we worked closely with the college counselors at the Wes School, I became more excited and inspired by the profession and began exploring ways to reach my goal. Ms. Dean became my biggest ally and connected me to great learning experiences and networking opportunities that prepared me to enter this new field.

My confidence soared as I worked to create my path to gain valuable experiences working with students and staff in a large public school. I became very invested in the process of providing early access for all students to college and career education. My experiences, practice, academic preparation, and mentorship from Ms. Dean provided me with a strong foundation to succeed. Finally, I found my beyond the applause career.

Soon, Beyond the Applause’s birth became clear. It was intuitive and natural for me to use my expertise and artistic background to build a business that would support creative and focused minds through an education and career discovery process. Personal experiences propelled me to find my own new directions for success and happiness.

Interview with Alisa Cerney

Q: What is your name and your job title? 

Alisa Cerney and I am a web developer and funnel builder.

Q: What event or experience inspired your interest in the arts?

I just remember back in 6th grade and we had to choose which elective we wanted to do in middle school, and we sat through this presentation about all the elective classes we wanted to take and our options were art, band, or choir. And watching people play instruments and seeing how a person could make such a beautiful sound- astonished me. 

Q: When did you become active in the arts and how did you take opportunities to grow your interests and crafts?

I became involved in 6th grade. I started in band at school, playing the euphonium. And in 7th grade I started to compete in regional competitions and when I was in high school I started competing on the state level. When I was 15 I took jazz band I started learning trombone and competed there as well. 

Q: Who were your mentors in the field and beyond?

My band directors, Greg Jones and June Campbell and I took private lessons at Baylor University. 

Q: When did you decide to do performing arts in college?

I decided to get involved as a senior in high school and I auditioned for scholarships. 

Q: Did you have other major interests to study along with Band?

I decided to major in Political Science after taking an intro to American Government Class my freshman year. I ended up loving it and decided to major in it eventually. 

Q: Did you dabble in other industries before you found your fit that engages everyday?

Yes, I got an entry level marketing position at a Chevy Dealership where I learned a lot about digital marketing. 

Q: Did you grow up surrounded by creative energy? 

No, the only creative people I grew up around were the people at school. 

Q: What did you study in college? Which college?

I got a BS in Political Science with minor in International Relations from University of Texas at Tyler and a Master of Arts in Political Science with specialties in Comparative Politics, American Politics, and International Relations. 

Q: What was your career goal after college?

I wanted to work for an interest group or an intergovernmental organization. I want to create an impact through policy.  

Q: Did you work and or perform in college? What did you do?

Yes, I worked as a server all through school. And I performed with the UT Tyler Wind Ensemble.

Q: How did your degree influence your job now?

I learned how to think critically, how to research and conduct analytical tests, and how to draw conclusions from data.

Q: Would working with an educational consultant during HS have helped you understand more? 

Yes, I think working with an education consultant would have helped we hone in on my skills and find the best fit for me. It would’ve been more helpful to have more hands on experience vs sitting and listening to lectures. 

Q: How did you pivot from your initial goal to what you are currently doing with your creative talents?

I realized that I am able to express myself more creatively when I’m working solo instead of in a larger group. 

Q: Are you happy with your career?


Q: What would you have done differently if you were to go back to college again?

I probably would have majored in either Marketing or Mathematics or Engineering. The older I have gotten the more I started to understand numbers and math. 

Q: What would you tell other students that are studying in that field?

I would encourage them to get involved in programs like debate or Model UN, and to apply for fellowships and internships to make sure this is the direction you want to go in.

Interview with Stephanie Davis

Q: What is your name and your job title? 

My name is Stephanie Davis and I’m the Artistic Director and Founder of the Creator’s Studio: a nonprofit Arts Collective in Moberly, Missouri. We offer after school and summer programs in theatre, art, and science in an at risk area. However, this is mainly my passion project. My “real” job is in social media marketing and blogging.

Q: What event or experience inspired you interest in the arts?

When I was 2, I started dancing, when I turned 8, I danced in my first musical, and from there I really started to prefer theatre. 

Q: When did you become active in the arts and how did you take opportunities to grow your interests and crafts?

I switched from just doing the occasional play to really consistently being involved when I was about 12- going into 6th grade. My stepmom signed me up for a scenic painting class and a film class at a local children’s theatre (this ended up being the model for my current theatre). I felt like I finally fit in and from there I just kept sticking with it. 

Q: Who were your mentors in the field and beyond?

Pamela Putnam-Whitaker, the artistic director from the children’s theatre. She was like my summer mother. 

Robin Hackett, she was my voice teacher and later hired me at the theatre- she saw potential in me that I never saw. 

Thomas LeGalley, he was my High School Theatre Teacher who clicked with me from day one. He taught me the value in transparency and also had a passion for theatre that is unmatched.

Q: When did you decide to major in the performing arts in college?

I knew by the time I entered in High School that I wanted to teach theatre. I didn’t want to be on Broadway. I wanted to be a part of the entire production process. 

Q: Did you have other major interests to study along with Theater?

I ended up studying elementary education after teaching some theatre classes, I learned that I really loved teaching young children. I also really got into carpentry and set design- both of these have helped me so much in life. 

Q: Did you dabble in other industries before you found your fit that engages everyday?

I worked in the restaurant industry and in sales. I started off waiting tables in the evenings in college and that later grew into restaurant management. I loved the fast paced environment but the hours were brutal. I went back and forth between sales jobs and restaurant management- and at one point in time I even opened my own restaurant. But in all of those I never felt fulfilled. 

Q: Did you grow up surrounded by creative energy?

Yes, my mom is a decorator and my dad designs furniture. My grandfather used to be a signing agent for Columbia Records back in the day and was a performer himself. My dad always said I got his performer gene.

Q: What did you study in college? Which college?

I went to school for a BA in Theatre and Elementary Education at Texas Woman’s University.

Q: What was your career goal after college?

I wanted to teach. I was planning on getting certified in Elementary Education and Theatre. I didn’t have a clear goal as to what I wanted. 

Q: Did you work and or perform in college? What did you do?

I was a waitress (insert cliche here) and I worked in retail. I spent one summer as an intern/technical director/director at a community theatre for my summer stock hours- and honestly that’s where I learned so much of what I do know.  I did perform in college but honestly, my program was mainly grad students so undergrad students rarely got good parts in shows. That was a humbling experience.

Q: How did your degree influence your job now?

Learning about theatre helped for sure in the theatre aspect of it- all the set design and scenic painting helped me feel like I had enough knowledge to teach basic art to kids. And of course, studying elementary education helped in running a youth based program. 

Q: What is something you wish you would’ve learned more about in school that would help you today?

I wish I would have taken more courses in business and finance- more practical math like that. Starting a business involves so much trial and error unless you are actually knowledgeable in business itself.

I somehow had this idea that because I had worked in a children’s theatre and operated a similar program- and studied this in school it would be easy to start a business in it. I was wrong.

Q: Would working with an educational consultant during HS have helped you understand your needs for success?

I do think working with an education consultant would have change the course of how a lot of my life would have turned out. I think I could have used someone to not only set the goals I needed to get in to somewhere great but also they would have helped me find a program and resources that would’ve helped me succeed. 

Q: Are you happy with your career?

Every single day. Even on the most difficult days, I love everything about my job. 

Q: What would you tell other students that are studying in that field?

Have fun and diversify your class load. I wanted to be a theatre teacher, I knew that from day 1 and all the electives I took were in acting and directing. I didn’t think of publicity, costuming, set design, construction, lighting- any of that. I thought I wouldn’t have to know any of that. I thought I was going to graduate and walk into a big 5A school and just be able to direct and teach acting to kids. 

Though I do both of those things, I also spend the majority of my time creating sets, costumes, hanging lights and teaching teens to do lights- and painting, I do so much painting. 

Q: Any final thoughts?

If you get a chance to work with kids- take it- even if you aren’t a kid person. There is something magical about children’s theatre that more professional theatre loses. You get all the nostalgic feelings and hype that you did the first time you were on stage. Everyone should experience it. It makes you fall in love with theatre again and again. 

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