A Day in the Life of a High School Senior

Brooke Garfinkel is not just any high school senior, though she speculates and fawns over her post-graduation plans and, like many others preparing for the walk across the field, has been stacking her grades since she was learning to read. Her extracurricular activities have been a staple of her time spent since her early teen years—Cornwall Public Library; Sands-Ring Homestead Colonial House; National Honor Society. Not to mention a self-started can and bottle drive for the local animal shelter—the list goes on. But, uniquely, Brooke is dreaming about the day when she can put her talents to the test and have the opportunity to show the world what she is really made of. 

She is adamantly pursuing a BFA in acting as she prepares for the next phase of education, and spent her weeks as a senior brushing up on her performance toolkit and partaking in competitive auditions across the country. She applied to SIXTEEN schools. And we were along for the ride as they waited to hear from them and agonized over her options. 

Like most young starry-eyed hopefuls of stage and screen, Brooke began singing when she was small. She started with professional voice lessons in third grade. She adored English and it became her favorite subject. Her older sister, Mara, was a dancer (now pursuing a degree in pharmacy).  But it wasn't until Freshman year when "Guys and Dolls" was performed at the school that she really became enamored with being onstage. She followed-up that performance with summer participation in Just Off Broadway Inc's production of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat". Brooke went on to study classical voice, participated in All-County and Area All-State. She was selected for All-State chorus, though unable to attend.  She took local roles with a sophisticated acting house in Newburgh and even dabbled in a bit of on-camera film work. 

This year she had a starring role in the spring musical: "The Mystery of Edwin Drood". Last year she graced the stage as Rosemary in "How to Succeed...". Brooke did double-duty as Co-President of the drama club at Cornwall High School. "It’s a family," she described it. And with 99 kids in the show, we know it must be: long rehearsals, late nights after school and months rehearsing. It was always hard saying goodbye to the seniors. Brooke remembers when she was accepted by the group. "It’s the seniors' job to make everyone feel included. I remember freshman year.  It’s big! You’re not the oldest anymore You want some place to feel accepted. Drama club was always that for me."

Now CCHS will say goodbye to Brooke. CCHS musical director, Rich Aufiero, relies heavily on the closeness of such a large cast. He, along with music teacher Tony Ravinsky, bring the production to life. It's a big task, and Brooke heavily credits them for the success of the shows she enjoyed while she was performing at CCHS. 

Brooke began prepping about a year ago for the journey of senior year and the many auditions she could need to complete. With Mom and Dad's support she hired an acting coach. A brush with Nathan Lane weighs heavily on her mind as she sits down to write her college entrance essay:

... A day earlier, I had stood in a studio in New York City.  Mirrors covered the walls, except for a huge window that overlooked the street. The sidewalks were filled with people going about their own business, unaware of the 15 year-old girl who felt like she was going to burst above them. In the reflection of the mirror I saw myself, an average teenage girl, in my yoga pants and pink shirt with my hair pulled into a ponytail. Next to me, with similar attire, stood Rose Hemmingway. I was playing it cool on the outside, but in the inside I was nearly screaming with excitement. After years of true passion, I wound up somewhere I only dreamed I would get to. In a bright rehearsal studio in New York City, I was looking at my reflection with Broadway performers next to me. I, Brooke Garfinkel, was singing Top Secret Personal Beeswax and ponying with these people. I was going to be performing at the Skirball Center for the 50th Anniversary of TheatreWorks USA the next night.

“20 minutes to places.” In one day I had met Nathan Lane and stepped foot onto the largest stage I had ever been on. As nonchalant as I tried to be about the fact that I met him, I was freaking out a little. As he was swiftly moving to the stage to perform, he a gave us a quick, charming smile and a “Hello kids.” As I stepped onto the stage for the first time, all that came out of my mouth was, “Wow.” The stage manager next to me laughed knowingly and said, “That’s about right.” The chills that went through my body were ones that I had never experienced. Heading back downstairs I felt a combination of all the things that had thrilled me before. Riding a rollercoaster, jumping off a zip-line high within the clouds, walking up to an unseen cast list, hitting that last high note in a challenging song, and looking down from the top of the Eiffel Tower. This was all of them tied within one. “Places.” ....

Brooke became emphatic about her future plans. Dad seemed a little unsure about his little girl's ambitions. Then, something changed for him. "As the process went on and I started working with my coach I think he got a little bit more comfortable with it." Dad started to notice the young lady in front of him. Though he was no stranger to her stage persona, like many parents he had a hard time segueing into the reality of her dream. Finally, he began to realize how universally talented she really was. 

Mr. Garfinkel, Mara, Mrs. Garfinkel and Booke

Mom and Dad both accompanied Brooke to auditions for Emerson in Boston, Ithaca and Purchase, as well Montclaire and University of the Arts.  She hit ten auditions in one trip while in Chicago at unifieds. She wrapped up her rigorous audition tour in early February, after 18 auditions in all. Then, she waited.   

In March she had heard back from 5 schools, nearly all wanted her for their programs. By April she was weighing her options. Then, we got this message:

I finally heard back from all of my schools, and I was accepted into 9 BFA Acting programs, and 4 BA Acting programs  I was in between Ithaca and Montclair, but Montclair gave me a large scholarship. Their program is up and coming, and the staff and opportunities there are truly excellent. The program head Heather Benton has taken extreme interest in me, and has gone out of her way to allow me to sit in on many classes and attend rehearsals for their shows. I will be able to minor in Musical Theater with my BFA in Acting, and partake in their honors program. My class will consist of about 12 kids. Along with their performances facilities being beautiful, the dorms, the campus, and surrounding town are also gorgeous. I love the proximity to both home and the city. I am so excited! It has been a wonderful process.

Brooke also wanted to share this message with Mom and Dad: 

I couldn’t have done it without them. I think it’s hard for teenagers to say oh I love my mom but I do know everywhere I am right now I couldn’t be without them. This is my journey and I need their support. 

Brooke, we could not be happier for you. We wish you luck and prowess in your collegiate journey! As you set off on this adventure, we know you will give it your all and show the world what you're made of! CCHS will definitely miss you. 

Thank you for sharing your story with Us! 

Congratulations to all of the high school seniors of the Class of 2014!

Photos Provided