CLASS OF 2020: Featuring Neha Ramakrishnan. Creative! Committed! Courageous!

Student Interviews on the Impact of the Arts

The Burbank Arts for All Foundation is proud to highlight students in the CLASS OF 2020 who have been part of the robust arts community in Burbank Unified School District classrooms. We hope you enjoy reading about their experiences and getting to know them as we celebrate an important milestone in their lives: high school graduation.

Today, we present to you Neha Ramakrishnan, who sang Western music and danced through the Burbank schools’ performing arts programs and sang Indian Classical Music on her own time. Neha will attend the University of California in Berkeley this fall, where she plans to major in Data Science with a possible double major in Economics or a minor in Dance and Performance Studies. Congratulations Neha!

“The VMA is a support system that makes me feel comfortable while carefully pushing me out of my comfort zone to help me grow. This program has taught me more life skills than I could have learned in any other way. Yes, I have developed my singing and dancing skills, but more than that, I have cultivated traits through this program that will enable me to welcome new ideas, collaborate effectively, and present myself confidently to others for the rest of my life.”

Neha Ramakrishnan
Neha pictured above. Photo courtesy of Neha Ramakrishnan.

My name is Neha Ramakrishnan and I am seventeen years old. I sing Western music and dance through the Burbank schools’ performing arts programs, and I also sing Indian Classical Music on my own time.

What was your first experience with the arts while in the Burbank Unified Schools? I was first introduced to the arts in the third grade at Roosevelt Elementary School, through the Variety Show. I, along with a bunch of my friends, decided to dance to Jai Ho, a Bollywood song. Although I was terrified to perform in front of so many people, this experience helped me discover my love for performing and caused me to continue participating in the Variety Shows every year after that. As one of the few Indian students at the school, I was also able to show pride in my culture by sharing it with others!

What art experience in the schools are you most proud of and how did it impact you? I am most proud of my time in the John Burroughs High School Vocal Music Association (JBHS VMA).

When I entered this program, the sheer talent that everyone had was terrifying. Still, as soon as I met everybody, the kindness, and care that I felt radiating from my peers instantly made me feel comfortable and safe. I knew right away that I had a family that would support me endlessly.

The VMA is a support system that makes me feel comfortable while carefully pushing me out of my comfort zone to help me grow. This program has taught me more life skills than I could have learned in any other way. Yes, I have developed my singing and dancing skills, but more than that, I have cultivated traits through this program that will enable me to welcome new ideas, collaborate effectively, and present myself confidently to others for the rest of my life.

Throughout high school, I have also been learning Indian classical music, known as Carnatic Music. After ten years of learning this art, I graduated from my school of Carnatic Music by giving a concert (called an arangetram). I sang alone, only accompanied by a violin and a mridangam, a type of drum. The year of constant practice it took to prepare for that concert significantly helped me improve my time management skills, while also teaching me more about my culture through the various languages and subjects I sang in and about. Additionally, through this experience, I was able to share my culture with others through the arts.

What advice do you have for younger students interested in doing something like what you do? I think the most important thing is if you have any desire to perform whatsoever, I would suggest just giving it a try! The Show Choir programs at all the middle schools and high schools are so phenomenal and provide a place where you can be silly and experiment with yourself! Because I chose to go out on a limb and join choir in the eighth grade, I have been able to meet the most caring, talented, wonderful people who I am so lucky to call my best friends. I have also been given an amazing platform for self-expression that I genuinely believe is unmatched. I have been able to learn from the various cultures we have portrayed, and as a result gain a more global perspective on everything, making me a more open-minded and empathetic person. Overall, I would just highly encourage everyone to give it a chance because you really never know how much fun you may have unless you try!

Please share your plans for your future after graduation. Are you going on to college? If so, where and what do you hope to study? After graduation, I will be attending the University of California in Berkeley. I plan to major in Data Science with a possible double major in Economics or a minor in Dance and Performance Studies. 

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Do you expect the arts to continue to play a role in your life and if so, how? In five years I hope to be a data scientist at a tech company such as Facebook or Google or work for a company in the entertainment industry, such as Warner Bros. or Disney. I also hope to keep dancing and singing on the side because the arts have become an essential part of my life.

Neha pictured above at one of her high school performances. Photo courtesy of Neha Ramakrishnan.

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