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The battle of creative expression and academics

Students' majors may not always be reflective of their passions


The battle of creative expression and academics

Students' majors may not always be reflective of their passions

The years you spend in college are a time of boundless exploration and personal development. However, there is often a stigma around pursuing creative interests as a student. This stigma stems from the many who consider passions such as music or film to be just a hobby and nothing more. 

For many years, the norm has been for students to get degrees in business, science or other fields deemed professional and reliable. This expectation has hindered the expression of many college students who struggle to balance their creative passions with academics. 

Pursuing lifelong dreams

“Ever since I was little, I loved to sing, dance and entertain,” says Arizona State University information technology freshman Ryan Moreno. “… As I grew up, I would freestyle for fun and write songs in my journal, hiding all of it from everyone.”

When he first entered college, Moreno had very little experience in producing his own music, but he knew it was something he wanted to try. Moreno knew he could not continue to put aside this lifelong goal, so he began to work on producing his own music. 

On Dec. 28, 2017, Moreno released his first song on Spotify titled “Poppin” under the artist name Rmo. The song now has over 1,000 listens, and less than three weeks later, he released his second song, “Lost.” 

“The process for releasing my first song took forever,” Moreno says. “I was trying to figure out if I should make a mixtape or release a single. I was sitting around one day at a family party upstairs in a room, and I decided to record myself singing with my Apple earphones into GarageBand. A month later, I re-recorded the song on my friend's microphone he got for Christmas and decided to release it the next day.”

Moreno says that the feedback he has gotten so far has been almost entirely positive. 

“People have been more than supportive of my every action as an artist, and it’s incredible,” Moreno says.

After the encouraging response to his work, Moreno has considered making music his main focus by switching to a music production major to help him advance his technical skill set. 

Working outside the classroom

Richard Hart, an ASU instructor in the English department, spent his post-secondary years as a musician, after deciding that college was not the right decision for him at the time. Hart comes from a family of musicians and believed this was the lifestyle he wanted to pursue. Like many young artists, success did not come as quickly as hoped. Hart, at times, found himself in a state of financial turmoil that, at its peak, lead him to homelessness. 

He decided that he needed to go back to school and pursue a new, more stable career path.

“Looking back on it, it is unbelievable to me how rigorous, excruciatingly rigorous, my life had become,” Hart says. “I was fortunate enough, however, to find redemption in teaching.”

Having written all of his own songs, Hart was no stranger to the world of literature and rhetoric, making it easy for him to approach teaching with the same creative state of mind that he approached music. 

“I have such great respect for students who understand that they must feed their artistic soul while at the same time not losing sight that, at the same time, life is about options,” Hart says. “My experience is why I have such admiration for students who allow themselves to pursue a life in the arts and why I have the same respect for the parents who support and nurture that.”

Beyond ASU

18-year-old Claire Grimes is also taking time off of school to follow her creative ambitions. Grimes began her freshman year at ASU last semester as a business tourism major but has since decided not to return for the spring semester. Instead, Grimes moved to Costa Rica and is working as a video blogger on YouTube, commonly referred to as a “vlogger.”

“I knew that YouTube was something I wanted to do full-time ever since I knew how to make a video and upload it,” Grimes says. “It has probably been almost two years now since I realized that.”

Claire’s channel on YouTube has gained almost 5,000 subscribers in the past six months, with one video reaching over 150,000 views. Even with this growing success, telling her friends and family that she was dropping out and pursuing this full-time was not an easy task.

“Telling my family about wanting to drop out of college and move to Costa Rica seemed very daunting at the time,” Grimes says. “Luckily, my parents were not disappointed at all in my decision. I knew that they would support me and help me with my decision, even if they disagreed with it."

Having spent time in college beforehand, Grimes confidently says she has learned more in the first three weeks of living in Costa Rica than she did her entire first semester at ASU. 

“I think a lot of people are too scared to go with the flow and take risks,” Grimes says. “I will work extremely hard to make this lifestyle work for me, but if it doesn’t, I go back to college – just go with the flow.”

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