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This high school trains Baltimore’s students to be artists

At the Baltimore School for the Arts, students are admitted solely on their artistic potential; notable alumni of the pre-professional high school includes Jada Pinkett Smith and designer Christian Siriano. We meet some of the educators and current students who bring passion and dedication to every school day.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Now to a school training the next generation of great artists.

    At the Baltimore School for the Arts, a pre-professional high school, students are admitted solely on their artistic potential without a review of any academic grades. Still, the school's students have some of the highest tests scores in the state of Maryland. Notable alumni include actor Jada Pinkett Smith and fashion designer Christian Siriano.

    We followed the students before the recent protests and unrest in the city and found their combination of dedication and focus, inspiring. Take a look.

  • MATEEN MILAN, Student:

    My family isn't in the arts. I'm the only person who really does, like, classical music. I'm the only person who like takes lessons and goes to a school like this. My name is Mateen Milan. I'm in the 12th grade and I go to Baltimore School for the Arts.

  • MAURICE MOUZON, Student:

    It all started out when I was just on my own doing street dance. My friends went and told my teacher that I was dancing. I showed her and she told me that I should try out for Baltimore School for the Arts. My name is Maurice Mouzon. I'm a 12th grader at Baltimore School for the Arts.

    CHRIS FORD, Director, Baltimore School for the Arts: Kids enter by audition. We don't look at their academics at all, which is an interesting piece. And they follow a pre-professional arts program, as well as a college prep academic program.

    My name is Chris Ford, and I'm the director of the Baltimore School for the Arts.

  • MATEEN MILAN:

    I play the bassoon. And I love every second of it.

  • MAURICE MOUZON:

    I'm still trying to figure out what I want to do with my life. But, right now, my main focus is dance.

  • CHRIS FORD:

    Students, when they're passionate about something, and they become passionate about theater, or visual arts or something like that, it's easy to spread that passion out into other activities, like geometry or English literature.

  • MAURICE MOUZON:

    My friends were very actually happy for me. Most of them play sports like football and basketball. And that's actually where I came from. And it was kind of difficult changing.

  • KATHERINE FISHER, Director:

    Some of the kids I'm working with in this project, I know that they're coming from extremely difficult home lives.

    My name is Katherine Helen Fisher. I am a director, choreographer, and producer.

  • MAURICE MOUZON:

    Kate Fisher, she's an alumni from the school and she's here teaching us how to use our bodies more and to just, like, feel the music.

  • CHRIS FORD:

    There's a tremendous amount of diversity. There's people on the very bottom of the economic scale and people right at the top.

  • KATHERINE FISHER:

    People that come from families that are well-to-do and people that come from families that have nothing here in this city.

    MARCOS BALTER, Baltimore School for the Arts: This school is sort of like a hidden gem. But professional artists have known about this institution for a long time.

  • KATHERINE HELEN FISHER:

    It's really inspiring to know that they're getting the tools that can take them to great places.

  • MARCOS BALTER:

    I'm Marcos Balter. I'm a composer. I love things that you can almost understand, but you don't quite get at first, which is what I try to do with my music.

  • KATHERINE HELEN FISHER:

    I myself, in terms of being a Baltimorean coming from a single mother, family struggling, have gotten to see the world many times over, and had experiences that I think I would never have been afforded had I not had a career in the arts.

  • MARCOS BALTER:

    My favorite age group to work with are teens and preteens, and kids because they don't have a preconceived notion of what is possible and what may not be.

  • KATHERINE HELEN FISHER:

    I feel that the majority of the students here at the school know that they for sure are going to dedicate their lives to their craft in one way or another.

  • MATEEN MILAN:

    I find myself maybe once or twice a week questioning myself, do I really want to do this? Am I actually good at what I do?

  • MARCOS BALTER:

    It seems like music education is not in its best period right now.

  • CHRIS FORD:

    It's a diminishing resource environment, and we're trying to figure out how to deal with that.

  • MARCOS BALTER:

    A lot of budget cuts, a lot of canceled programs, a lot of focus on just sort of like the more scholastic side of education, which I think is a shame.

  • MATEEN MILAN:

    I think of art as a tunnel, a tunnel that gets you from one place of understanding to another. I wouldn't know about many cultures if it wasn't for the art that comes from those cultures.

  • MAURICE MOUZON:

    I am worried about making a professional career out of dance, because, in the dance world, it's very difficult, because you have so many people who want to be a dancer, and not everybody can make it.

  • MARCOS BALTER:

    The only way that you can actually persevere is if it's not really a choice, but a calling, that you know that you cannot do anything else.

  • CHRIS FORD:

    If you have never seen a play before, how would you know you're an actor? If you have never heard a violin, how would you know that you were really made to be a violinist?

  • MARCOS BALTER:

    Art is not a luxury. Art is not an accessory for the well-to-do.

  • CHRIS FORD:

    Unfortunately, in our city, there's a lot of kids that don't have that opportunity to just have that initial experience.

  • MATEEN MILAN:

    At this point, I have understood that music is something that I love, it's my passion, it's what I do. And no one can take that from me. And I can't wait to see where that takes me in life.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Mateen the bassoonist will attend the Peabody Conservatory at Johns Hopkins University. And Maurice the dancer will join the State University of New York at Purchase.

    PBS NewsHour coverage of education is supported by American Graduate: Let's Make it Happen, a public media initiative made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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