Student trustee Abby Salling and president and chair of the Students' Union Malik Drawhorn-Pauldon prepared a special message for Friday's graduation ceremony.

CalArts students graduate

Future Academy, Tony and Grammy award-winners and a host of other artists from California Institute of the Arts achieved a dream Friday they sought to accomplish when they first auditioned for the distinguished school years ago.

More than 400 undergraduate and graduate students received their degrees in art, critical studies, dance, film, video, music and theater Friday during CalArts graduation ceremony.

The theme is “There is Art,” and there certainly was.

A band, orchestra, multiple jazz and salsa ensembles represented but a sampling of the planned festivities.

“It’s weird because I’ve been thinking about the event from a producers standpoint,” Malik Drawhorn-Pauldon said. “It only just hit me this morning that I’m set to graduate.”

The president and chair of the Students’ Union said he has been busy finalizing the graduation activities, including speakers, honorary doctorates and a customary processional led by the school’s African Music and Dance Ensemble.

“It’s not your average graduation,” Abby Salling said, comparing Friday’s event to her sister’s college commencement ceremony she attended last year.

Part of what makes the commencement special is each student is able to pick a 9-second musical clip that’ll play as they walk across the stage.

“Some people compose their own,” Drawhorn-Pauldon said. “Others just submit a song about Beyonce.” Salling, for example, proudly submitted a selection from Beyonce’s “Grown Woman.”

“CalArts is all about freedom and artistic expression,” Salling said, as she offered up tales of inflatable costumes, mannequins, cans of rosé and spunky walks across stage.

She recalled the first time a faculty introduced her to the unique culture of CalArts. Using different words, the faculty told her that there was no need to be nervous at any time for any reason.

“That stuck with me ever since,” Salling said, talking about how the culmination of emotions hasn’t quite set in, yet.

“Going out knowing I have secured a job and that I can pay rent certainly helps,” Salling said, “but tonight at 6, I’ll be on stage and everything will probably hit me.”

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