From the moment she picked up a violin bow four years ago, Kari Bragg knew. From the first time she watched a live performance of "Cats" at age 9, Catherine Moreton knew.
Maybe it's the adrenaline rush of being on stage, or maybe it's the self-expression that music and acting allow. Either way, the two 16-year-old Central High School students knew at a young age that they were destined to perform.
Kari, a musician in Central's orchestra and band, and Catherine, an actress in the school's drama club, are among 205 students selected to attend the Missouri Fine Arts Academy this summer at Southwest Missouri State University in Springfield, Mo.
The girls will spend three intense weeks in June studying their respective fine arts with SMSU faculty and guest instructors. They'll receive private tutoring, take college-level courses and listen to guest lectures.
In the meantime, both girls are preparing for what they love most: performing. In Central's upcoming spring musical, "South Pacific," Catherine will play the part of Bloody Mary and Kari will serve as concertmaster for the orchestra.
"Acting gives you a chance to be someone else, to see the world from a different perspective," said Catherine, a sophomore this year. "It's taught me how to be someone else."
Through school and theater camp, Catherine has been in a variety of plays since her junior high days, including "Beauty and the Beast," "Annie Get Your Gun" and "The Diary of Anne Frank." For her, the best thing about the stage is feeling the audience's presence.
Kari, who plays the violin in the orchestra, the flute in the band and the dulcimer, guitar, piano and lap harp on the side, has a different perspective on performing.
"When I perform, I concentrate on the song, not the audience. When it's over, then I can concentrate on the audience," Kari said. "It makes you feel like you've done something for someone else."
About 350 high school sophomores and juniors from across the state were nominated for the 2004 academy.
Most of them had to go through a school-level selection process before becoming academy nominees because schools are limited in the number of students they can nominate each year.
'Expands their vision'
Steve Schaffner, the Central High School music department chair who helped choose the school's nominees, said the academy is much more intensive than regular classes.
"It really expands their vision," Schaffner said. "Most of the kids who go there enjoy being pushed and seeing their abilities stretched to the limit."
Kari and Catherine were selected from a pool of seven candidates at Central High School. The nomination process requires a series of essays, questionnaires and a videotape of the student performing.
Both Kari and Catherine are the first members of their families to pursue music and acting to such an extent.
The girls both say they want their passion for performance to be part of their careers, although they shy away from the idea of working professionally in their areas.
They've settled on the idea of becoming teachers, Catherine because of the difficulty of having a career in acting and Kari because of the painful tendinitis she developed two years ago.
"Music is just something I picked up and I love it. I can't see myself doing anything else with my life," she said.
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