This past weekend was one of the main competition days for this year’s Distinguished Award Program. Students interested in Albion attended from nationwide radiances to present their individual passions to Albion professors. The total number of prospective students invited to compete ranges from 100 to 150 each year.
Within this program, there are two main competition weekends that are separated into the Distinguished Scholars Program and the Distinguished Artist Program. While the DSP focuses on the academic fields of science, math and history, the DAP consists of art, music, English and theater. The five categories that were presented over the weekend centralized the DSP program from which a student may provide materials including theater, music, creative writing, art history and art. Each participant is advised to choose a topic in which they can express themselves and their creative and intellectual abilities. Albion professors, often assessing the overall quality of the presentations, also observe and note smaller details. Some of these factors include the unique individuality of the art and the passion the student demonstrates concerning their chosen topic.
On these particular weekends, students arrive on campus to compete for several awards. Although only one student is given the grand award of a full-tuition scholarship, many students walk away with a few smaller scholarships that are greatly appreciated. A $1,000 participation award is earned by each student who presents at the program. This one-time award can be used all at once or gradually throughout the student’s time at Albion.
A past participant, Molly Benson, a first-year from Portland, Oregon, commented on how she “would love to see more students involved with ‘strange’ or non-traditional mediums” throughout the different programs here on Albion’s campus.
In other words, the DAP is a chance for students to show off their individuality with their unique passions. It isn’t just Albion professors, but also current students who take interest in welcoming new perspectives.
DAP was “very nerve-racking but a lot of fun,” said Lesley Ortega, a first-year from Dallas. She decided to compete in the music portion of 2017 DAP event. Attending her church as a weekly Saturday event inspired Ortega to select a few songs that held meaning to her. Since DAP took place on a Saturday, she sang a selection of church songs in Spanish to acknowledge her background and religion.
Another current first-year, LaRhonda Richardson from Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, competed in the art category of last year’s DAP event. Presenting a mixed media portfolio, including 15 pieces ranging from painting to jewelry making, Richardson claims that her selections showed her true self. Due to experiencing enjoyment in the overall event the previous year, Richardson chose to attend and provide her service as a room host for the theater portion of this past weekend’s DAP event.
Common yet helpful advice from Richardson to future participants is, “just breathe and be yourself.” The idea that a student can make and keep connections with professors and other students on campus should be comforting. After all, everyone acts the same as when they are first introduced. The people of Albion are down sincere and very helpful. Similar advice comes from Ortega, who calls home a further ways south.
“I had some colleges I was looking at back at home in Texas. They were all too big though, and I didn’t feel like I was getting the same attention individually,” said Ortega. “Albion always sent the emails and was super considerate of everything else I was going through.”
Several past participants had the same views regarding DAP, as Logan Bohlinger, a sophomore from Grand Rapids, Michigan, who loved the chance to get his foot in the door here at Albion. “I was just impressed by the program. I really enjoyed it. I like how it was a celebration of art and it felt like it was a celebration of me and my fellow artists.”
As a previous DAP award winner, Bohlinger still helps out with the DAP event and is always thrilled to hear about the presentations of the “brilliant, phenomenal, awesome, passionate students” who are invited. Bohlinger excitedly stated how it is so cool to be able to really converse with the participates. The educational event is a time for people with similar interests to geek out in the excitement of comparable passions.
The repeated advice of “don’t be nervous” comes out again. Bohlinger explains how every artist should be unafraid to present. After all, “you know your art. It’s your art. You have nothing to be afraid about. You get to talk yourself up. You get to talk your art up. You get to put it out there and you get people who are passionate about the same art.”
In Ortega’s words, “be confident. When you feel confident the more likely you are to do better.”
Of course, there is always the chance mistakes will happen. However, DAP is yet another time to learn from them. As Ortega described, she messed up with one of her songs and yet still kept going and the judges thought highly of the persevering attitude. In Bohlinger’s case, “there’s no such thing as a final state, just the state that it was currently in,” when referring to his poetry he presented in the 2016 Creative Writing section of DAP.
There will always be something to improve upon, and yet Albion’s DAP event is a program focused on each and every participant’s way of learning.
“I didn’t go thinking I was going to win, I went because I thought it would be another great opportunity to get feedback. It would be another good learning experience,” Bohlinger states. He is correct. The Distinguished Artist Program is focused on allowing you to present something you love and have a passion for.
Photo by Jessica Behrman