‘Hungry’ artist knows her pathPublished 12:00pm Sunday, June 10, 2012
In the eye of the storm of production week for the Funkin’ Rock Orchestra’s Studio 376 show, I went off-grid for a half day to help a longtime peer and new friend, multi-Emmy-winning composer and music inventor, Brian D. Siewert. A 25-year resident of Nashville, Siewert had asked me to sit on the jury and help choose the 5th annual recipient of his Artist In Motion Arts Scholarship at Lakeshore High School, his alma mater.
About a month previous, I left Brian a voicemail asking him to send any associated paperwork I needed to fill out ASAP as I was being swallowed whole by 8.5-by-11-inch sheets of paper for my June 2 show and was afraid that shortly I wouldn’t be able to open the door to let his package in. Brian wrote back (too afraid to call at that moment, I think…) and said it sounded like I was pretty busy and, if I needed to pass he’d understand. I can’t tell you how glad I am that I didn’t even for a moment consider his gracious offer to bail.
The competition featured a great group of nine students aspiring towards careers in graphic design, filmmaking, acting, conducting, singing and dancing. Some were pretty focused in their skill set, such as two competing filmmakers, and some were more diverse, such as an actress who also sang and had theater experience.
But among all this talent, there was a hands-down standout, which I didn’t expect. Her name is Brittany Millham, and she took home the $10,000 scholarship with only 15 minutes of deliberation among the jurors.
Brittany was at once young and old, strong yet vulnerable, talkative and engaging yet admittedly withdrawn. She is an avid follower of Korean and Japanese popular culture possibly due to her partial Asian heritage and has a goal of living and working in Asia for a time. My nickname to describe her in the deliberations was “The Devourer.” When she took part in theater as an understudy, she also worked stage crew. She has to understand how things work. She dances. She plays violin. She draws exceptionally good anime. Her art is filled with perfectionism and hints of anger and sadness and wicked humor.
One of the determining factors that earned my vote was not just the ability to win 10 large and get a financial boost, but to continue with a career in the arts. What would happen when the applicants get hit with a nice slap of “real world?” Would they shrink back into a safe job and give up on their dreams? Would they give up their career aspirations for a man or a woman in their life? Or would they do what was necessary to keep pursuing a career in the arts? If there was any doubt, they were taken off my list. Siewert asked the three jurors to advise him who could go the distance as a kindred soul and would eat, sleep, breathe, dream of and make art no matter what. Brittany was the best example of that person hands down, with no close second.
I believe that Brittany will be wise enough to recognize any door opened for her, and, if the door doesn’t open, she’ll burrow through the foundation. Passion is so paramount in succeeding in the arts, and rightfully underscored by the original Latin, it’s something you suffer for. Brittany is filled with passion and it’s something I could see in her eyes when asked at the conclusion of the interview why she should win Brian’s $10,000. She turned inward for five or more seconds and thoughtfully replied in only three words:
“Because I’m hungry.”
I felt those words like a pang in my gut. Like vampires, artists can always recognize their own, and once bitten, you can never go back. Welcome to the fold, Brittany and never give up.
Dave Carlock is a 25-year veteran of the entertainment business whose work as a recording engineer and producer, touring musician, and songwriter made him Googleable.
His continuing work as an Independent Content Creator of Sound and Image has earned him a Grammy Award certificate, two Platinum Record Awards, and a Paragon Award in advertising. Currently, he brings national and international artists to make records and music videos at his production studio in the Benton Harbor Arts District. www.davecarlock.com.