EXCLUSIVE | Throwback Thursday Top Ten: The Arts

Last week we published our annual Focus on the Arts issue, which not only had our creative juices flowing, but also got us thinking about how our childhoods helped shape how we appreciate the arts today. Here are ten ways we incorporated film, music, literature, and more into our youth that have carried over into adulthood. 

1. Band Geek

FluteIn elementary school, I used to look at the “big kids” carrying their heavy duty black cases and wander past the music room, always emitting a horrific amount of noise, and wonder, what do they do in there? I found out in fourth grade, when I finally decided I wanted to know how to play an instrument. I picked up a shiny silver flute and learned how to make it sing like a pretty little bird. I spent five years in my elementary/middle school band and even one year of high school (no, not marching band). While I still remember my scales by heart and could maybe even still read music, it would just be a piece of metal in my hands today. However, it was instrumental—ha—in showing me how much dedication is required to hone a skill. These days, I love music. Who doesn’t? Sweeping film scores, Broadway crescendos, summer concerts … and yeah, that crap they play on the radio. A piano lesson and a guitar lesson are on my bucket list. Just because.—DT

2. Journaling

JournalingJournaling is one of the media that I’ve always found the most freedom in. There is something about writing longhand in a notebook that is far more personal and freeing than typing a document on a computer. When I was in elementary and middle school, I filled dozens and dozens of composition books with thoughts, stories, poems, and just general angst-filled musings. I don’t do it enough these days, but I still enjoy putting pen to paper and just letting the words flow.—JK

3. Disney Freak


Like most in my generation, my first butter-scented cinema experience was a Disney classic; none other than Walt’s timeless twist on Hans Christian Anderson’s tale of “The Little Mermaid.” I was only a toddler in 1989, but my mom says I sat completely transfixed, captivated by Ariel’s angelic voice and the brilliant strokes of color that brought the world under the sea to life. While other kids quickly grew bored and wound up running around the theater, I apparently never fidgeted or lost interest. I’ve never doubted her story because it explains why the opening score gives me chills to this day. I grew up on Disney movies and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. My love for animation quickly spread to live-action films and that addiction hasn’t wavered one bit throughout the years, despite the ever-growing cost of a trip to the theater. I tear through the WalMart $5 bin, I have to see all the Oscar nominees, and I’m a bit of a trivia queen. In fact, for my 25th birthday, my parents just got me a big basket full of movies. And to this day, I’m still crazy about The Little Mermaid.—DT

4. Bodywork


Anyone who says working on cars isn’t art has clearly never done it. My dad used to restore and paint classic cars when I was a kid. There was a steady stream of Chevelles, El Caminos, and other muscle cars in and out of our garage like a parade of Detroit’s finest. I was always really excited when he let me help sand the quarter panels of a car that he was helping get show-worthy. Some of my best memories are working on cars with my dad and then seeing the finished product glistening in the sun with a bright new metallic paintjob. It also taught me attention to detail, something that has served me well.—JK

5. Bookworm


When I was little, my mother read to me before I even knew what she was saying. Not long after I learned to turn sounds into letters, letters into words, and words into stories, I was traipsing around our local library, my arms stacked high with Curious George and Little Critter. At the peak of my childhood reading phase was Baby-sitters Little Sister (eventually Baby-sitters Club), Sweet Valley Twins, and of course, Goosebumps. I loved reading and gobbled up each new story like most kids attack a pile of Halloween candy. Not many people can say they read Little Women—a fairly sizable piece of classic literature, mind you—in the fourth grade, but I can. That love has stayed with me my entire life, and even though I don’t have as much time to devote to it anymore, there’s still nothing I love more than getting lost in a good novel for a while, especially if I’m sitting on a beach or by the fireplace.—DT

6. Tabletop Role Playing Games


Out of many geeky admissions I’ve made in print and online, this may be the geekiest. I mean, roleplaying games? Like Dungeons & Dragons? I feel like shoving myself in a locker to save bullies the trouble. Honestly though, the games were a way for my creative, nerdy friends and I to express ourselves and learn the art of storytelling. Even the dude who wrote “Game of Thrones,” George R.R. Martin, cut his teeth developing stories for his weekly Dungeons & Dragons sessions.—JK

7. Poet

asbury_park_press_image1I tell people that my first published work (outside of a school setting) was during my 2009 summer internship with IDP’s Lehigh Valley Style. I wrote a profile on NFL legend Chuck Bednarik that appeared in the Local Legends section of the magazine’s September 2009 edition. Seeing my byline appear in a beautiful glossy spread was certainly a thrill for a soon-to-be college senior—but what most people don’t know is that my name appeared in newsprint many years before that. While living in New Jersey, our local paper, the Asbury Park Press, had a special section devoted to local kids. And it just so happens that, as an eighth grader at Holy Family School, I had a handful of poems published in multiple issues. For most writers, publication is validation. I went on to write poetry all throughout high school and college, some of it appearing in literary magazines, but most of it just staying scribbled on notebook paper now buried somewhere in my closet. Every once in a while, I pull it out to remind myself what I used to be capable of and maybe could someday be again.—DT

8. Saxophone


After writing, music is my second love. I played the sax from fourth grade until my senior year in both concert and marching band. I definitely didn’t appreciate at the time how awesome learning to read music and playing a woodwind instrument was. It was a good outlet for creativity and I got to hang out with talented and interesting people. Much like a college newspaper staff, high school band has a way of pulling like-minded people together.—JK

9. Broadway Nerd

BroadwayEveryone’s got their first Broadway story. Well, maybe not everyone—just the ones lucky enough to live across the river from the greatest city in the world (and the ones that took the time to visit). This excerpt from my June POP column says it all: “I was eight years old when I saw my first Broadway show. My parents took me to New York City for my very first time to celebrate my eighth birthday with my best friend and her parents. We saw “Beauty & the Beast” on the Great White Way; I was completely captivated. It helped, of course, that the play was based on one of my favorite Disney movies. Scenes that played fondly in my head in soft animation exploded in front of my eyes in a dazzling display of pyrotechnics and choreography. Broadway has held a special place in my heart ever since…” While my dozen or so experiences throughout the years with the master class in live stage performances has never made me want to step onto a stage myself, it certainly gave me a thirst for the process. I can see myself sitting front row with a pen and a scratch pad someday, poised and ready to review the next Tony winner. Never say never.—DT

10. Short Stories

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One of the first things I remember getting praise for from teachers in elementary school was the silly short stories I wrote, emulating cartoons and children’s books I was consuming at the time. I continued to write short stories, for myself mostly, throughout my school years. I’ve found some of them recently, and while clearly aping whatever I was into at the time, they really aren’t that bad—not embarrassing at least. I’ve since stopped writing fiction almost altogether, but those handwritten stories planted the seeds for what would become my career.—JK


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