Love Letter to Douglas Anderson

All of the photos in this post were taken by me when I was in high school, and represent (somewhat) my experiences.  

So, I have a secret. It's kind of a guilty pleasure and definitely an alienating kind of thing, as most people do not share it. At all.
...drum roll?

The fountain

I loved high school. There! I said it! I loved loved loved it, I am a completely goob about it and if my high school were a person I would have the hugest crush on it. Inevitably in semi-adult life we will all gather and have bitchfests about our high school experiences, and I can't really contribute anything. I mean, I was just as nerdy and awkward as the next girl but I was in an environment that really allowed me to grow as my own person. It was beautiful.

The courtyard

Of course, I didn't go to your average high school. I went to Douglas Anderson School of the Performing Arts, which is a nationally (and internationally!) recognized arts school. It started off as this piddly little arts school in podunk Jacksonville, Florida and has grown tremendously. Again, it was beautiful. This post has kinda taken a sort of goofy tone, but I am really serious in my passion for this place. I am passionate about everything that the faculty and administration does for its students, and about how every person there seems to be electrified. Just a teeny bit, as if everyone really wants to be there and knows what an amazing thing it is to take part in.

Let me back up. I've been surrounded by music all of my life, as I've mentioned in other posts (here, and here). From the day I was born music has been a part of my everyday life. My parents divorced when I was 10, and I have a very vivid memory from that time of my dad sitting me on his lap and asking me if I would want to try to go to the arts middle school. He explained to me how much music had changed his life for the better, and how much it would mean to him for me to get into the musical lifestyle too. I remember this moment so vividly because I can still see the look on his face, the love in his eyes for both music and me, and when I told him I really wanted to try out a single tear rolled down his cheek. This singular event changed my life more than anything else that has happened to me.

I ended up getting into Landon Middle School, and then I went on to Lavilla when Landon closed. From there I auditioned for DA, and got in with no questions asked or hesitation.

The next four years were a whirlwind of rehearsals and goofiness and teenage angst. From late night poetry readings to parties on the beach in St. Augustine, from crazy [literally insane] Latin teachers to frantic kisses with the first boyfriend out by the portables...I feel like my high school years could have been a book ala The  Perks of Being a Wallflower. I came out a completely different person that who I was when I went in. I just...I wish I could explain better how much I adore those years. Who I was, what I listened to, the exciting feeling of discovering it all. Discovering music, from A Perfect Circle to Radiohead to Broken Social Scene to The Strokes, discovering books like The Catcher in the Rye and The Sound and the Fury, discovering my love for language and my love for geekiness (I was in Brain Brawl and its Latin equivalent, Certamen). Discovering what it felt like to walk to the playground after school with your friends and play on the swings in a light drizzle. Volunteering for anything, everything, just to stay a little later. I remember days where I'd play french horn for an hour and a half in the morning, with an hour and a half rehearsal after school, with a break only to have to perform for a concert. I remember when we would have the big events (like Extravaganza) where we'd be taken out of class for a dress rehearsal, then another rehearsal, then bus downtown for soundcheck and another rehearsal, and then showtime!

I was never as ambitious as a lot of the kids I was in band with as I was mostly there to enjoy the music and the experience, not to become the best player in the band. As a result of that I stayed in the lower band for the first three years at DA. My senior year, however, found me in the top band. My experiences in the top band at the best arts high school in the state deserve an entire post all for themselves, but suffice it to say that the music we played has wormed its way into my heart forever. The friendships I forged as a part of the band's five person horn section have withered but I will never forget what it felt like to be a part of that dynamic group, or the sectional rehearsals we had, or the way it felt to feel the floor shake beneath us during one particularly memorable performance in Indianapolis. There's nothing quite like being one part of a 60-person unit, moving in perfect unison, shaking the ground beneath us. I haven't felt anything like it.

Me (on the far right) with the 3 other senior horn players, right before our last concert

I haven't played my horn since I played at my own graduation, but I can feel the music calling me back.

I spent so many hours right here, perched behind my music stand

And I miss it. Sweet god do I miss it.

I miss coming home with my cheeks on fire from playing all day. I miss having loads of music theory homework, and I miss being ridden with teenage angst. Is that weird? One of Margie's friends that is still in high school was telling us about a fight he had with his dad, and it actually filled me with longing. I miss fights with my parents over my bedtime. I miss them telling me to clean up my room or I couldn't go to my friend's art show, or telling me that no child of their was gonna practice Buddhism in their house! I didn't, by the way. But it amuses me now to look back on what a huge deal I thought that was. I miss the hour and a half bus rides to and from school each day- even though we lived 10 minutes away, I had to ride a shuttle bus from our neighborhood school. I hated it (hated it) at the time, but now of course I miss it. I listened to music the entire ride, alone with my thoughts and my notebook. I don't have time like that anymore, time that I can't be doing anything productive to just sit, with my thoughts.

It's weird now to stop and remember that I had this time, those years, at DA. I keep myself involved in art and artistic pursuits, but to imagine a time when artistic immersion was mandatory? It really seems unreal. I regard those years as time spent in the rabbit hole, I fell in with no idea what I was getting into and then abruptly I was popped back out into the real world.

I am incredibly grateful that Margie ended up going to DA as well- she entered as a freshman the year after I graduated. I got to go to concerts and events and drive her there pretty regularly, so I feel like I was kinda weaned off of DA. I feel like a pretty big nerd going on about my high school like this, but I really do geek about it. I'm trying to get my little stepbrother Kevan excited about it, because I feel like a) if he auditioned for writing he could definitely get in and b) that he belongs there, and it would change his life like it changed mine.
I am forever grateful that I had the opportunity to go to DA, and I am grateful for everything that has happened to me since as a result of my time there.

I'm going to stop writing now, and finish this post with pictures.

 Science projects in a sunlit lab

Being artistic (ok goofy) with my best friend Alex

Yeah, we had jam sessions at the bus stop...didn't you?

Being a dork after school...with a shirt I made from a stolen Bush-Cheney sign. Yeah, my parents weren't really happy about that one...
The school was TP'ed the last week of school...and us seniors had to clean it up

Yeah, this is how we spent our time during English class...and yes, those are beanbags we sat on

Our library, a mishmash of art projects from years gone by

And I'll end on this picture, one of my favorites. I feel it epitomizes my life as a DA student...looking at my room in the background, you can see all of the different pieces of art that I made/collected, there's a CD mobile and a Ren & Stimpy shirt, and all manners of different posters and things.

I'm pretty sure I was wearing earrings that I got from the thrift store, and I'm wearing my Harvard sweatshirt that I got on the piano department's field trip to Boston. Young and confused, but ultimately very content.
Good times, man. Good times.


  1. I enjoy that this post includes Jesus in my crotch...

  2. man, i wish i could say the same thing. i haaated highschool with such a passion!


  3. omg! Seriously the best post ever! I feel the exact same way about being apart of the LaVilla/Da experience. The whole thing made me so homesick to walk down the halls again towards the band room and just sit and listen to everyone warming up before class. Thanks for the awesome flashbacks. It really was an amazing time wasn't it? Love you!