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

Dormistories with Alaces Sarmiento – feat. Nicky Radford

In episode one, Nicky talks about his time in Seneca Hall. This is where his first impressions of the school come about. With tales of a woman in power (his RA), coming out, and the one that got away (his roommate), we get to see what dorming with a roommate is like at SUNY Oswego.

Episode two contains more about the RA process, and what it’s like to live where you work. While it’s an amazing opportunity, it’s not always the best for all. Nicky proceeds to talk about the anxieties and pressures that being an RA comes with, and why he eventually decided to live with his friends in the village.

From Sharing Social Media, to Sharing Space

If you’ve ever lived in your college’s dormitories, think back to your first year. Ah yes, the feeling of finally being able to live alone, sort of. Your school pairs you up with a random person, and you want to get to know them. Now, I don’t know what people did before social media came about, but I know that if I had been paired with a random roommate, I would have stalked all of her social media to see what I was getting myself into.

It’s interesting to me that in this day and age, our first instinct when we meet a new person is to look them up on Facebook, Instagram, or any other social media platform to get an idea of who they are. This all goes back to how we brand ourselves through social media. What we post says something about us, and can alter someone’s first impressions on us. Whether it’s meeting your roommate online, or reconnecting with an old friend, we all tend to make initial judgements based on how people look online.

This is Tara (left) and Mai (right). They study at Macalester University in Minneapolis, MN. Tara is originally from Brooklyn in New York City. She hopes to study business communications and asian studies. Mai is from Thailand, and grew up in Minnesota. She hopes to study neuroscience. They both met through their school’s class of ’22 page on Facebook. Tara felt she needed to, “enhance my persona on social media to give people the impression that I’m serious” even though she describes herself as a bubbly person. Mai was “self conscious about my acne” and was hoping no one would judge her based on it. After they messaged each other on Facebook for the first time, both girls admitted to having spent a good amount of time looking through each other’s profiles.

Follow Mai on Instagram! @maimouaa

“My initial thought of Tara was that she was a very academic person (Facebook reaction) … this girl has a good balance of being scholarly and being artsy–cool. (Instagram reaction)” Mai said. While Mai isn’t the type to create expectations of someone before meeting them, she mentioned that Tara is a wonderful friend/roommate and hopes they build a deeper relationship. “Based off her social media she seemed really artsy and family oriented. She had artsy photos of herself and food. She seemed really fashionable and very close with her siblings. I could tell she was nice and not that fake nice that people put up a lot and are actually very tough and cold.” Tara said.

Follow Tara on Instagram! @tararen.ko

Mai had met all her expectations, except one: “Haha I guess the only thing that was different was her height!” Tara boasted about how she loves how artsy Mai can be, especially in their room. Both girls talk about how they actually have made so many plans together as friends. “We have the same friend group so it’s fun.” (Tara) Between studying, clubs, and activities, “Hopefully, we don’t drown in schoolwork and actually have time to do what we planned.” (Mai).

This is Lawrence (left) and Dennis (right). They go to Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, NY. Both of them are from New York City and study engineering. To my surprise, the two of them had known each other as kids, but didn’t reconnect until high school, and now they’re college roommates! Lawrence mentioned that Dennis had moved away when they were kids, and was surprised to see him again in high school. “I honestly was really glad to find out I wasn’t going to enter high school alone.” (Lawrence) However, with time comes differences. Not in a bad way, but things in life don’t always stay the same. “Dennis was always a shy guy, not too social with others, and was generally a pretty quiet guy. I wanted to be able to have a roommate I can talk to and be able to help each other out. I’m glad to have a roommate like Dennis because we both come from similar backgrounds.” (Lawrence)

Follow Lawrence on Instagram! @law_deo

He had an expectation of Dennis that things would be the way they always were. During their first few months of college, they have gotten to speak everyday and get closer as if they were kids again. Lawrence sometimes feels bad though: “The difference in personality is hard
sometimes because I feel bad when i’m interacting with my friends and I know Dennis is in the dorm playing games. I do try to make the effort to invite him out, but he chooses not to most of the time.” Dennis on the other hand was different from Lawrence in multiple ways. “While I don’t have much of a social profile, I do tend to overthink about things I put out online as I am aware that anyone could be looking at it.” He looked Lawrence up on Facebook after reconnecting, and “wasn’t too surprised as I’ve known him for a long time.”

“Sorry, I don’t have much of a social media footprint!” -Dennis

Dennis was able to see that Lawrence was outgoing and social, but “being together in a dorm, I learn more about his interests in subjects like sports and video games.” Lawrence and Dennis have both felt great about their relationship as roommates. “Things that we do together sometimes be getting a meal or tagging along with friends.” (Dennis) “We both mutually know that we can talk to each other
about whatever and know each other’s boundaries.” (Lawrence) They’re able to get meals together in the dining hall from time to time, and are able to respect each others boundaries socially.

As humans, it’s normal to have these initial thoughts about each other. While our social media profiles are just a seed of who we really are. These four were able to see past each other’s profiles and see the friend that come with their roommate. Hopefully, they will be able to live a comfortable first year together. Good luck to them!


Die Fledermaus and Tyler Hall

Among all the posters that hang in the halls of SUNY Oswego’s academic buildings, one is celebrating Oswego Opera’s 40th anniversary with their production of Die Fledermaus. The show will take place in Waterman Theatre in Tyler Hall. The building is a place where the music and art students can showcase their talents to the rest of campus and town. Tyler Hall opened in 1968 and was named after James Gale Tyler, a painter born and raised in Oswego. Music fills the halls of Tyler Hall, where students can sing, dance, act, play instruments, etc. As the opera takes place this weekend, be sure to come see it! Many students and faculty have worked hard to create this comedic production.

Alaces Jewel Sarmiento

Name: Alaces Jewel Sarmiento
Year: Sophomore
Major: Communications & Social Interaction, Music Performance
Minor: International Business
Hometown: Queens, N.Y.

Alaces is a second year student at SUNY Oswego studying communications & social interaction, and music performance. In the spring 2018 semester, she got cast in SUNY Oswego’s musical, Urinetown, as an ensemble member. Outside of her student life, she is an aspiring singer and actress after having studied vocal music performance in LaGuardia Arts High School in New York City. Along with this, she volunteers at an organization created for Filipino/Filipino-American youth called Ugnayan Youth for Justice and Social Change in Queens, N.Y. where she participates as an organizer, facilitator, and point person for fundraising strategies. On a website called the Odyssey Online, she blogs about her college life and her experience as a Filipino-American, queer, woman of color.