It’s not very often that a 16 year old can have a “real” college experience for six weeks before they even hit their junior year, but that’s exactly what Huntington High School’s Keenan Lyons found himself doing this past summer.
The teenager is a passionate student of the performing arts. Mr. Lyons looked at several options for the summer, but it was Carnegie Mellon University, which boasts one of the country’s top five undergraduate drama programs that proved to be the perfect fit.
Huntington High School junior Keenan Lyons.
Carnegie Mellon’s pre-college drama program introduces high school students to rigorous, conservatory style challenges. The length and depth of it often leads to a stronger determination to pursue a career in theater, helping participants to understand the work involved and providing a clear picture of what the future holds. Participants conclude the program by completing a mock audition for the Carnegie Mellon’s School of Drama.
The pre-college program is all about the “process” and not the “product.” It marked a different approach for Mr. Lyons and his typical summer experiences that focused more on performance. The full program emulated a freshman year experience at Carnegie Mellon.
Taught by Carnegie Mellon faculty members, the program included classes such as Audition, Acting, Jazz, Ballet, Acting for Film, Singing and Dramatic Literature.
“One of my favorite classes at CMU was Audition,” Mr. Lyons said. “I became even more aware of how crucial relationships, conflicts, the moment before and discoveries play important roles in producing a successful monologue or scene. Not only did it cover the basics of audition technique and all of the necessary requirements, but it was a perfect chance to take risks and get out of my comfort zone which I found very useful for future auditions.”
Mr. Lyons is a serious student of the performing arts and he made the most of every day he spent on the college campus. “Another favorite class of mine was Acting,” he said. “I really appreciated how this class taught us to trust each other on stage. We would start off the class with a warmup activity and then move to scene work. After we presented our scenes each time, my teacher would give us valuable feedback and constantly challenge us to try something new or find an inner thought or feeling that needed to come through in the character.”
As if the day sessions didn’t offer enough, there was an opportunity to attend evening workshops at Carnegie Mellon. They included things such as stage combat, Shakespeare and the Meissner technique to name a few.
While these were certainly jammed packed summer days, Mr. Lyons also took advantage of auditioning for the a cappella group and was thrilled to perform the national anthem at a Pittsburgh Pirates home game along with several other opportunities to display his talents.
An open campus allowed for weekends to explore the wonderful city of Pittsburgh. “I went there with the expectation that it would be a great experience in many regards, but it exceeded my expectations in every way,” Mr. Lyons said. “Amazing and supportive faculty and fellow students made this an experience that will stay with me forever.”
Mr. Lyons attends the Manhattan School of Music for vocal studies and musical theater in its pre-college program on Saturdays throughout the school year. A member of the English, Italian and Tri-M Music Honor Societies, Mr. Lyons is an officer in several of the organizations and also holds down membership in the Key Club. Outside of the high school the teenager continues to take acting and dance classes several evenings each week.
All of that said, Mr. Lyons is quick to point out that it is his “home” at Huntington High School that has had the greatest impact on him as a student and individual.
“I have fabulous, talented and supportive teachers in all aspects of the arts,” Mr. Lyons said. “Chamber choir, symphony and drama club productions are all near and dear to my heart and that is because of the wonderful faculty and opportunities here. But as a performer I find inspiration in many of my classes. If I learned nothing else, it is a culmination of all experiences that make for a better performer and I am so grateful to be a student here in Huntington High School.”