Where HU Takes U: Ashley Dawson

Once a part of the Heidelberg family, always a part of the Heidelberg family – but after graduation, our Student Princes are now the hard-working and ever-learning leaders of a new community. In our new web series, we’re checking in with our recent grads about their Heidelberg journeys, and asking them Where HU Takes U.

Ashley Dawson

Ashley Dawson, born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, graduated in 2021 after transferring to Heidelberg with an Associate's degree from Anne Arundel Community College. Ashley’s path as a non-traditional student studying Theatre and Music demonstrates the joy that these passions continue to bring to her life. Ashley currently lives in Tiffin and works in the surrounding areas, including Tiffin, Fostoria, Clyde, and Findlay.

What is your current position and when did you begin?

I am currently working in three arts education positions. I began a summer musical theatre program in 2021 through Geary Family YMCA in Fostoria, OH and this year I am implementing a new curricular theatre program at Bridges Preparatory Academy here in Tiffin, OH. I also am an instructor of voice for the Heidelberg Community Music School.

What has been surprising about your new position or the process of earning it thus far?

It was really surprising to me that I had an interview in my field before I had even graduated. I actually heard about the job posting for the YMCA Musical Theatre Program through Pat Page. She forwarded it to me during my final semester at Heidelberg. I interviewed via Zoom in between class and rehearsal for Heathers! I've also been happily surprised at the continued support of the School of Music and Theatre. I have been able to rent costume, set, and props for my summer program all three years. My hope is that this connection will help some of my summer camp students to become Student Princes. 

What knowledge or skills do you rely on most in your day to day life?

Organization, communication, and humility definitely. 

Organization is somewhat obvious; with juggling so many moving pieces in a musical, I have to have developed a system that works for me and my needs. I have built the YMCA Musical Theatre program up from nothing. With that, I have had to keep files, records, budgets, contracts, and more all at easy access. I'm lucky I have someone to write grants for me through the YMCA, but they still contact me for all the relevant information. 

Communication is essential because I am working with all ages, from K-adults. The way in which you have to communicate with elementary students is vastly different from the way you communicate with junior high students. I also have to be able to clearly and effectively send information to my production team members as well as the parents and families of my students. 

Lastly, humility. Being able to admit and accept fault when it falls on you is a huge one. As an educator, I am a big proponent of admitting my wrongs and apologizing to my students when appropriate. They deserve to have that modeled to them. If I made a mistake that caused rehearsal to come to a standstill, I will own it with respect and dignity to show them that not only is it okay to make mistakes (and not be perfect) but also adults do it, too. 

What experiences or individuals were particularly impactful during your time at Heidelberg and in what ways?

Three experiences/individuals stick out to me: 

First, Carol Dusdieker was hands down the most impactful person in my time at Berg. As my voice teacher, she consistently pushed me outside of my comfort zone. There were times that I was so far outside my comfort zone for performing that I thought I would drown, but she always made sure I was safe to experiment with music and musicality. She knew just how far she could push me to help me grow, even if it meant tough love. She showed me what a positive voice teacher could be. I'm thankful every day for her guidance and I strive to make a positive impact on my students in the way that she made an impact for me.

Second were all the opportunities we had to work with guest artists in the theatre department. Having industry professionals come in and talk to us one-on-one about anything -- how to reach your goals, tenacity, life, even acting and singing coaching -- was amazing. Our guest choreographer for Heathers: The Musical (Wesley J Barnes) changed the way I looked at my performance and the way I speak to my own actors. He was the first person to truly look at me and ask how we could collaborate as artist and choreographer. Getting to work with one of our guests (Julia Goretsky) for the Embracing Eve concert was the first time I saw someone like me on stage doing the things I wanted to do. I wouldn't have gotten these one-on-one, personal experiences at a big competitive university. I wouldn't have gotten the change to experiment and try and fail, but Heidelberg empowered and supported those journeys.

Finally was my internship with Elizabeth Tracy and the Community Music School. Working under her for a semester gave me invaluable information on how to run a program, how to organize everything, recruiting techniques, and much more. I would not have had as much success beginning my program with the Geary Family YMCA in Fostoria had I not interned with her.

What advice do you have for current undergrads trying to find their next step?

It's okay to not have it all figured out. It's okay to move outside your comfort zone (or even to a new state!) Be open to all possibilities and constantly have your eyes and ears open for them. It's possible that when you least expect it, the perfect next step will appear. Your time at Heidelberg is only the beginning of your journey. Continue on living your life of purpose with distinction, and know your Sweet Alma Home will be there behind you always. 

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