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Artistic academics

Phoenix High School graduate Julia Holden-Hunkins said performing in theater has made her crave knowledge across all disciplines.

"In theater, you can pull from all different subjects to help you develop your character on stage," said Holden-Hunkins, whose love of singing led her into theater at age 11. "It made me interested in a lot of different subjects. I would attribute theater to my success as a person and as a student."

Her love of knowledge is typical among students who are active in the performing arts. They often excel in the classroom as well as on stage, according to those who review scholarship applications for college-bound seniors.

Holden-Hunkins and her best friend, recent Ashland High School graduate Caitlin Campbell, have outstanding academic records. They each earned $2,000 Medford Rogue Rotary Club scholarships, in addition to other scholarships and financial-aid packages they pulled in for their achievements.

Rotary members reviewed about 80 applications from students vying for two performing arts scholarships and 16 academic scholarships. Holden-Hunkins and Campbell were as qualified for the academic scholarships as they were for the performing arts scholarships, said Ed Nicholson, who sits on a scholarship committee for the club.

"They have the potential to make a difference in society," he said.

Retired from a career as a principal and with a background in music, Nicholson said studying the arts often helps kids academically.

"Studies have shown music instruction also helps with academics because of the rigors of studying music. There is a strong correlation between mathematics and music," he said. "Music instruction applies to all academic fields. Music education many times will cause students to be more accomplished in their academic pursuits."

Holden-Hunkins and Campbell are multi-skilled performers, said Livia Genise, artistic director for Camelot Theatre in Talent, who has worked with the teens since they were children.

"They sing, they dance and they act. They are true triple threats," Genise said.

She said both teens have a hunger for knowledge. They are open to learning from more experienced performers, and are always willing to mentor younger students.

Genise said she's also noticed a strong correlation between achievement in the arts and in academics.

"People who study in the arts do better at school because they're more rounded," she said.

Holden-Hunkins and Campbell have done well at school despite grueling schedules. Both are in rehearsals for Camelot Theatre's upcoming production of the rock opera "Jesus Christ Superstar," which will run from June 24 through Aug. 2.

Holden-Hunkins said she often doesn't get home until 11 at night.

Campbell lives in Central Point but transferred to Ashland High School as a junior because of its strong arts programs. That meant driving back and forth every day, plus going to school, attending four-hour-long rehearsals and participating in other activities.

Campbell said it always has been important to her to do well academically and in theater. She has been performing in theater since she was 7 years old.

Although arts programs are often sacrificed when school budgets are cut, Campbell said students need the arts.

"Academics and the arts are intertwined," she said. "The arts have improved my public speaking, reading, writing and speech skills. The arts feed into academics in so many ways."

Campbell is headed to college in Utah this fall to major in musical theater and minor in business communications.

Holden-Hunkins will attend college in Minnesota, where she plans to major in music with a minor in political science. She said studying political science will give her a deeper understanding of social and political issues.

"I like the idea of incorporating social issues into theater, music and the arts," she said. "If I ever want to create art, I want it to make a statement — not just be entertainment."

For their high school senior project, the best friends teamed up to put on a spotlight showcase of performances. The event brought in $500 to help fund scholarships for kids to take part in Camelot Theatre Conservatory classes, rehearsals and performances.

"We really wanted to give back to the people who helped us grow," Campbell said.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-776-4486 or valdous@mailtribune.com. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/VickieAldous.

Ashland High School graduate Caitlin Campbell, left, and Phoenix High School graduate Julia Holden-Hunkins, both of whom have excellent academic records, will perform in Camelot Theatre's 'Jesus Christ Superstar' later this month. Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch