Alumni use high school arts education in their careers



Mia Minichiello '09 is working in Los Angeles, California as a songwriter after studying music at the high school and the University of Southern California. Many artists who graduate from the high school pursue a career in art and credit their high school teachers with their success.

Jake Zucker, Staff Writer

When Class of 2012 alumnus Julian Hermano started high school, he was, in his words, “legit mad shy.”

The drama classes that he took for elective credit struck a chord with him and helped transform him from a person who would go home right after school to play video games, to the confident, hard-working actor he is today.

Hermano, like many alumni of the high school, is an artist. He lives in New York City and works three jobs with the intent of eventually acting full-time. He and fellow alums Bed Hermin, an expressive artist, and Mia Minichiello, a songwriter based in LA, appreciate the role the high school played in their development as artists.

“I feel like what BHS has that a lot of other high school programs might not necessarily have is a great variety in its acting program,” Hermano said. “You have Mark and Mary putting on so, so, many shows over the course of the year.”

Mark VanDerzee, a drama teacher’s improv philosophy made a profound impact on Hermin, who was in Needs Improvment when it was a club that met during X-Block. They talked about how VanDerzee taught students to say “yes” to their scene partners, theater-speak for going along with whatever the other people in the scene initiated.

Today, Class of 2006 alum Hermin is an expressive artist. They describe expressive art as a distillation of the core concepts of what we think of as the arts, and Hermin has a practice called “OPEN BODY // HUMAN CANVAS” in which they stand on a street corner in white clothing with art materials nearby and invite passersby to paint on them.

Hermin has traveled internationally with this project, and feels that mentors such as Mark VanDerzee and Carolyn Castellano helped to form Hermin’s experience with the arts at the high school, which seemed to differ greatly from others that they have heard of.

“I’ve talked with people whose high school experiences with the arts were very different from mine,” Hermin said. “So in contrast to their stories, I feel like it was a privilege for me to be in a place that put a lot of money into the arts.”

Class of 2009 alumna Minichiello works in Los Angeles as a songwriter. She’s been working as a freelance writer of pop and film music for five and a half years now, and her credits include the theme song “Hair in the Air” for the Netflix animated series “Trolls: The Beat Goes On!”.

When Minichiello went to the high school, she took a variety of music classes, including AP Music Theory, and was president of Camerata.  After high school, she attended University of Southern California, where she studied popular music performance with an emphasis in songwriting.

Minichiello feels that the music education that she got from Director of Choirs Dr. Michael Driscoll helped prepare her for college and her career in songwriting.

“My freshman year of college all my music theory classes were a breeze for me because of what I learned in his classes,” she said. “In pop music, knowing how to read music is definitely a really advantageous skill to have. It just makes my vocabulary larger, and it’s a good communication tool, and all of my roots for that I learned at BHS.”

Like Hermin and Hermano, Minichiello was especially thankful for a mentor. She said that Dr. Driscoll was a critical part of her education.

“BHS was definitely a help in my career,” Minichiello said. “Good times!”