Remember My Name, FAME! – A Story About LaGuardia Arts Alumni

Just over a year and a half ago, I graduated from a school in New York City known as the “Fame” school. The 1980 film, “Fame”, was actually based off my high school, Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts. In 8th grade, you go in to audition for one of the six majors: vocal music, instrumental music, drama, dance, studio art, or technical theatre. When you get accepted and actually attend the school, you’re put through four years of rigorous training in your craft (along with keeping high grades for New York State high school standards). This meant that many of us had full 10-period schedules that ran from 7:55am till 4:09pm. If you were in a club or on a sports team, you probably stayed until 6pm or 8pm. Many students, like myself, lived over an hour away from this school. It gave all of us a sense of professionalism in our field, and time management skills. It’s an amazing school to attend, even if it works you down to the bone. Each of our diplomas had an endorsement on it that certified our training for our major, that is if you completed the requirements and testing for it.

Ansel Elgort in “The Fault in Our Stars” as Augustus Waters

LaGuardia Arts was a dream school for many students. It was your chance to build on your craft every single day. We always put on top notch shows that make you forget that the kids who built the stage and who were on stage are only 15-18 years old. One of the biggest wonders is where all these students go after completing their time at LaGuardia. Not all of us go on to become Broadway stars, or become opera singers, or even the next Picassos. We have a ton of notable alumni such as Nicki Minaj (’00), Ansel Elgort (’12), and Timothee Chalamet (’13). These are a few of the more recent names in LaGuardia’s long list of stars, but what about those of us who decided to not become stars?

I interviewed some of my fellow friends from high school to see where they are now. I have a great mix of them who are still doing music, and those who moved on to a different profession. I personally chose both. At SUNY Oswego, I double major communications & social interaction, music performance, and minor in international business. I had my reasons for it. For one, I believed that I was still meant for the stage in some aspect, especially since I could never leave it. I didn’t want to throw away years of singing, dancing, and acting only to never do anything with it. However, I also grew up in an Asian household to immigrant parents. My mother always supported what I decided to do, but I refused to only get a degree in music. I felt the need to still do something “useful”. Success has different meanings to me, and I felt that I didn’t have to restrict myself to following only one dream.

Instagram: @aiaiea

This is Marian Rivera. She graduated from LaGuardia in 2016 as a vocal major. I first met Marian in Filipino Club, where she ended up being one of the vice presidents in her senior year. Marian currently studies health science at Long Island University in their Brooklyn branch. “I chose not to continue my art because I never saw myself as a professional performer. I’ve had opportunities to sing solo in front of an audience and I realized I wasn’t as comfortable with performing as I wanted to be.” Marian did countless performances with Filipino Club, where she was able to be a star solo performer, but always felt too unprofessional. However, “Attending LaGuardia was an adventure I’ll never forget and I’ll never regret it. Most of the songs I sing in my shower concert are pieces like Amarilli, mia bella.”

Instagram: @gerivalonzo

This is Geralyn Valonzo. She also graduated from LaGuardia in 2016 as a vocal major. I met her at the same time I met Marian, in Filipino Club where she also became a vice president. Geralyn currently studies psychology at Hunter College in Manhattan. “I knew I didn’t want to pursue music from the day I auditioned. I don’t love music or performing so much that I would be willing to make it my career. I knew that I wanted to do something else.” This shocked me to hear, especially since Geralyn had always been one of the strongest performers in Filipino Club. “I never loved performing even though I love music because I have massive stage fright, so I don’t miss having to perform constantly. I do like to play music when I have the chance, especially with people I went to LaGuardia with.” 

I knew both Marian and Geralyn as my older sisters and mentors at school. They were a power duo in club, and talented singers. When they graduated, it was hard to believe that they would not continue music, especially since they were passionate about every performance I did with them.

Instagram: @caitlumbia

While they may not study music, meet Caitlyn Klenner. She graduated from LaGuardia earlier this year (2018) as a vocal major. Caitlyn currently studies musical theatre at Rider University in New Jersey. Caitlyn describes her time at LaGuardia as a constant test on her talents and abilities. I met her when she was a freshman in my sophomore year. She was constantly receiving callbacks for our competitive school musicals, operas, and choir solos, but never got to land a role because of LaGuardia’s “favoritism” culture (which is an unconfirmed myth made by the students. Luckilly, Caitlyn was kind enough to vlog for us a day in her life at Rider University.

As I said earlier, I still study music as well. Sure, it’s my secondary major, but performing is hard. You’re constantly put to the test and second guessing your personal abilities no matter how long it’s been. I constantly find myself running around from my dormitory building to tyler hall. Here’s what life since LaGuardia has been like for me:

Overall, LaGuardia was an experience in itself. Whether you go on from here to be musician or not, “What’s important is that you’re doing what you love because then you wouldn’t be working a day in your life.” (Marian) “If you do decide to pursue another career that doesn’t mean the craft they studied can’t be a part of their lives anymore.” (Geralyn). The whole idea is that wherever you go, “I’m gonna live forever, baby remember my name. Remember…remember…remember.

• “The Fault in Our Stars Movie Poster” – Wikipedia
• “Be Our Guest LaGuardia High School” – UpperEastIsland on YouTube (2016)
• “Photo – Marian Rivera” – Fabio Gomez Photography
• “Photo – Geralyn Valonzo” – Pao Photography
• “A Day in the Life – Caitlyn” – Alaces Sarmiento
• “Life as a Music Major” – Alaces Sarmiento

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