Why I Do What I Do...

Overall, my career choices make sense. The child of two educators, born into a family of musicians, it's not a stretch to imagine how "arts and education" would become a major part of my life.

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I've been a teacher, in one form or another, from the time I was in my late teens. My first paid job was teaching piano, and at age 20, I taught a music appreciation course at my own former high school. A couple of years later, I developed a musical theater program at a Boston-area youth center for teens who were experiencing problems at home, at school, and often in the courts. Although the program managed to attract state and federal funding for several years, it wasn't until much later that I grasped what was really going on inside those kids. At the time, I knew only that they always seemed angry and emotionally guarded, and yet I could somehow get them to act, sing, and dance.

Shortly afterward, I was accepted into the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where I focused on adolescent development and counseling. After graduating, I moved back to New York City and started coaching kids active in Broadway, TV, and films.

That's when I made a major realization: I learned that the kids who were most "marketable", to use a trade term, weren't necessarily the best-looking or most talented or even the most verbally expressive. The word I heard most from the agents and casting directors when describing what they were looking for, was "real".

From my graduate studies and my experience with Boston kids, I realized it would be almost impossible for a child with poor self-esteem to open up and show who they really were. It would be as likely as owning a sweater they hated, holding it up for everyone to see, and expecting approval.

Likewise, if they didn't feel good physically, they'd have to fake it, since otherwise their discomfort would be apparent and unpleasant to those they were trying to please.

In short, it was all about who these kids truly were, emotionally and physically.

Today, we have a generation of kids who are, on the surface, quite "marketable".  They are A students, high achievers, involved in all sorts of extra-curricular activities, and surrounded by inspired and gifted educators, and devoted parents.

They're also in serious trouble.  Many don't like themselves, don't take good care of themselves, and are engaging in a myriad of self-destructive behavior. In other words, there's a huge schism between what's shining brightly on the surface and what's festering inside.

I once asked a very wise man what the point was in acquiring wisdom, since it doesn't take place until very late in life. He said without hesitation:

"You pass it on."

In that spirit, I dedicate this site to you. May it prove useful where desired, and life-changing where necessary.

Thank you.

Peter Sklar