Vanessa Strickland: It Matters

Afternoons with Dad

One of my fondest collection of memories of the presence of art in my life was when I was in preschool.  By this age, I was already drawing with crayons on endless reams of paper, playing with stuffed animals and dolls as if they were real, and listening to all kinds of music, from opera to glam rock.  A huge influence for me artistically as I was growing up was my father.  He would show me classic movies, check out huge picture books with amazing illustrations, and have me watch and listen to ballets and operas.  This introduction to opera and ballet by my father is where my favorite memories stem from.

I learned, through my dad, about all the different stories that were told in operas.  When we had long afternoons together at home after preschool, my father and I would plop down on the floor by the stereo and he would explain to me the story as it played out over our living room speakers.  Through these afternoon activities, I learned about the love story between Prince Ziegfried and Odette in “Swan Lake”; I remember being in calmed by the soft sounds of Mozart’s “The Magic Flute;” and bouncing around the room when hearing the fervent strings of Stravinsky’s “The Firebird.”  I would get so excited about these stories that I would carry them around with me, telling my friends at school about them and subsequently sitting them down in front of the TV whenever I could to have them watch these great tales.

These stories became so ingrained into me that my father and I would take on roles of the characters in these pieces and start acting out the scenes from the operas right in the middle of the living room.  He would play Grandpapa Drosselmeier and I would play Marie from “The Nutcracker,” or he would play Figaro and I would be Rosina in “The Barber of Seville.”  I’m sure at this point that this may have been the start of my fondness for live performance.

Twenty-three years later and I am a professional actor in the DC area.  I think back to these afternoons with my dad as having a huge impact on how I live my life in terms of how I think and feel, and also how I view the world.  His introducing me to classical music really gave me the confidence at other stages of my life to tell my own stories.  The exposure to art alone, and the motivation of wanting to teach a child about art and encourage them to explore it for themselves emboldens them to create their own art.

What’s your story? 🙂

Click here to learn more.

A young Vanessa dances.

Vanessa Strickland
YPT Actor

Click on the video below to watch Vanessa explain why she believes arts education matters for DC students.

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