Caroline Tonks knew what she loved at a young age. So the teenager doubled up on her classes and graduated a full year early from Huntington High School, winning one of the most prestigious scholarships given by Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music where she is pursuing a major in ballet performance.
“I’ve had a great first semester at Indiana,” Ms. Tonks said. “I was challenged in the fall by world class teachers who were brought in a week at a time from different [ballet] companies across America. Our program has great connections that brings in new teachers and choreographers who have different styles and give a new perspective on our ideas of ballet.”
Prior to the conclusion of the fall semester and the holidays, Ms. Tonks and her classmates staged a production of The Nutcracker. “It was an amazing experience,” she said. “I have performed in The Nutcracker every year since I was five years old and it was incredible doing a new version. Our director, Michael Vernon choreographed the whole production and when everything came together, it was definitely one of my favorite versions ever. The whole company and department came together in a really inspirational way, with everyone supporting each other and helping out during the two months of rehearsals.”
The Huntington grad will perform in three more pieces during the spring semester, including Fanfare by Jerome Robbins, The Steadfast Tin Soldier by George Balanchine and Giselle (Act II) by Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot.
“After that we have a choreographic workshop where the students compose pieces on each other and perform them for a live audience,” Ms. Tonks said. “We jump into rehearsals right away once we get back from this vacation for spring ballet. We’ll have rehearsals for two months and then be in the theatre for a week for tech and dress rehearsals before we have a series of performances.”
The teenager is enjoying every minute of her time at Indiana University. She is the recipient of the Jacobs School of Music’s Premier Young Artist Award, which includes a generous scholarship component.
“There are so many amazing performance opportunities here and I feel so honored to be part of such a prestigious program that gives experiences like this,” Ms. Tonks said. “The faculty is amazing and I have made so many close friends, not only in my freshman class, but also within the whole department. I’m excited to see what is to come.”
The transition from high school to a top tier university has been relatively smooth. “The academic aspect of Indiana has been going really well, too,” Ms. Tonks said. “It was hard trying to balance school, ballet and social aspects with friends, but in the end it all worked out and I had a lot of fun. Indiana has a beautiful campus and is a really tight-knit community, despite the huge enrollment, with lots of school spirit for its programs and sports teams. The campus really comes together to support each other. It’s amazing to see something like that and be a part of it.”
Ms. Tonks was presented with the Otto Kahn Award for Excellence in the Performing Arts at OHEKA Castle during the annual garden party of Friends of OHEKA last June.
Although she graduated a full year early to pursue her dreams at Indiana University, Ms. Tonks retains her affection for Huntington’s Class of 2017 members, who she studied with for more than a decade before heading off to college. “I wish my best to my grade on their senior year and to everyone else at the high school,” she said.