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Meet Katy Jacoby

Today we’d like to introduce you to Katy Jacoby.

Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
Like most, there are many twists and turns that led me to where I am right now, but 3 pivotal points seem to stand out to me; my dad, arts education and becoming a mom.  I was that kid who fell in love with theatre at the first show I saw.  I remember every single  thing about that first show.  I was hooked and I have my dad to thank for that. 🙂

My dad loved theatre and music. He had season tickets to local theatres where we would go most weekends to see a show, it was our thing.  He passed away suddenly when I was 13 and we were quickly a family of three. My mother, a flight attendant for United Airlines, was out working hard and doing the best she could to provide for my sister and I. In all this, theatre became a second home to me. It was a safe space for me to be me, to feel whatever I wanted, and to express those feelings without judgment. It became a way to escape, feel accomplished and gain confidence.

Still trying to navigate adolescence and grief, I entered high school.  I was lucky enough to attend the Orange County School of the Arts (OCSA).  Little did I realize then, what an impact this school and its founder, Dr. Ralph Opacic, and the teachers had and would continue to have on my life.  It was a school filled with kids who had the same love for the arts, we created a family that we still call home today. I learned discipline, competition, failure, and compassion. I was made accountable for my actions, challenged every day, and pushed to exceed my expectations.  My teachers became mentors, they saw, they listened, they supported and celebrated all kinds of kids and their talent.  We were all in different places.  They lifted us up just as we were.  I truly believe because of them along with the unconditional love and support my mother always showed, this was the beginning of finding out who I was.  This was the start.

Flash forward through college and travel, I moved back to LA to pursue acting. I spent my days taking classes, auditioning, rehearsing… and bartending late nights to make ends meet.  There was no plan B.  I joined a theatre company and became the managing director for 10 years.  They held chapters in Los Angeles and New York, and I was the type of person who raised their hand for every project.  Oh, you need help? ME! I’ll help you!  It kept me occupied and I was convinced that this was what I was good at.  Why try anything new?  It gave me a feeling of accomplishment, and I became the go to person.  I was really good at making other people’s projects and dreams come alive. I enjoyed building and watching other people’s ideas become a success but later realized that I used it as an escape… from the fear of failure in making my own projects and dreams a reality.

Then, pivotal point number 3 happened! I became a mom of two beautiful boys within a two-year span and my life as I knew it changed. My passions and priorities changed. Everything that I was scared of when I decided to have kids,  became a reality.  I changed. I was no longer able to help others as freely.   Taking acting jobs for no money became a serious discussion in the household.  My husband would move mountains to make the things I wanted possible but I knew my free time was very limited. I was dedicated and focused solely on my kids. But these very things that I was scared of, were the actual things that catapulted me, freed me, and opened me up to this next phase, which has been the best phase so far!

During that time, watching my own kids’ imagination run wild was mind-blowing. Watching my words sink in and how it made them feel, whether that feeling be happy, sad, angry, self-conscious, or strong.  They received all of these feelings just from a tone or the way something was phrased. It was so eye-opening.  Kids are so impressionable, they need to express all their emotions right away.  Its my job to guide them and allow them to do so.

Around this same time, one of my first acting teachers, Heather Stafford, from OCSA, offered me a job teaching acting. Having never thought of teaching before, I struggled with whether I would be good at it, whether I would be able to connect with the students, and mostly, what this path meant for my future as an actor.  But after the first year, I was hooked.  My heart was full and teaching became as fulfilling to me as acting. I found joy and inspiration in teaching the kids at OCSA, in the same way that I found joy and inspiration in raising my own children. I feel like I learn from them every day. This is where I really realized the impact my teachers made on me.  The thought of being able to give that back, even if just to one student, overwhelmed me.  Teachers made a difference in my life and 25 years later, these same people continue to give me opportunities and lift me up.

This is what inspired me to open my own business and create a studio in Los Angeles.  I wanted to reach more kids! I went to one of my best friends and Broadway star, Matthew Morrison, and said, “Would you come teach a class with me?”, his answer with no hesitation was “YES!”.

I mean, how hard can this be? Haha, oh man, well the road to my little business has been filled with a ton of challenges and every emotion in the book.  Though the road gets bumpy and the hills feel very high sometimes, the end results are rewarding.  I am lucky enough to have successful friends in the business who are extremely generous and who love to give back to arts education.  They join the team whenever they can, and it keeps growing and getting better.  With each stride, I feel like I am accomplishing something and with that, comes more hope and drive.

Please tell us about your art.
I opened my own business in Los Angeles called J&O Creatives where I, along with a team of Broadway and industry professionals teach Musical Theatre & Acting Bootcamps as well as classes to kids ages 8 – 17 years old. Our kids range from having never sung in public before, to kids auditioning for national tours.

I believe that knowledge is power and that pushing with positive reinforcement is the key to building confidence and success. All our instructors are working actors today.  They are Broadway and industry professionals, who are also auditioning daily and who continue to work on bettering their craft. We pride our workshops being very “one on one” so each student can grow at their own pace, yet feel challenged to raise their own bar. We prepare the kids for auditions, college and high school admittance, awareness of the business, and professionalism.  We thrive on providing them with the tools they need. We set them up for success.

We provide a safe space for kids of all levels to take risks, to fail, to overcome, to be themselves, to express and to grow. We work on giving them the courage to walk into any room, feel confident and know that they are enough. I want our students to walk out of our classes feeling like they accomplished something and yearning to go home and work harder.  I feel that if I can inspire and help just one child the way my teachers and mentors did for me at OCSA, or if I can use arts education to make one child feel like they belong and can accomplish anything, I am accomplishing my dream.

We are currently in the works of becoming a non-profit organization in order to bring writing, acting and singing programs to schools and communities where it is not available. I believe in arts education, I believe it heals and I believe it can enrich and even save lives.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing artists today?
This is a tough question. When I think about it, I can really only answer from my personal perspective as an artist and share some of the challenges that I have encountered.  We are all so unique, and our journeys are different.  My struggles will look different than someone else’s.  One of the biggest challenges that keeps rearing its head is myself.  I think we get in our own way a lot and the fact that this town can feel very lonely sometimes.  As artists, we are extremely emotional human beings. We dig up all these feelings, we constantly relive moments to be able to connect to material. When we walk off a stage, finish writing a story, a song, or any time that we are putting ourselves or our material out there, we are in our most vulnerable state to be liked, to be disliked, to be accepted, to be validated and to be judged. We go from being filled with the highest form of adrenaline to becoming extremely vulnerable in a matter of seconds, and although this is the greatest feeling in the world, it can sometimes feel exhausting and lonely. We often compare ourselves to others who have what we think we want, yet those same people wishing they had what someone else has. It feels like there is no ending point sometimes.  To some, this is motivation, to others, its daunting.

When we approach a new scene, song, script, writing job or a new business endeavor, we are looking at it and discovering it like it’s the first time. I think finding a safe creative outlet to express yourself and work is important. Sometimes you have to try a few out before you find the right space, that’s ok, trust becomes more of a challenge the older we get, especially trust in other people and in ourselves.

Challenges that have been silenced in the past are starting to be addressed. Although we have a very long way to go, movements such as #metoo are helping to awaken and start conversations with artists and businesses causing awareness and the importance of what’s acceptable when finding theatre companies, classes, creative homes and work environments, helping to create safer spaces. Equality movements are helping to support gender, diverse, and LGBTQ artists and are starting to create more opportunities.

The lack of substantial arts programs in public schools is also a challenge that we face. How do kids learn how to express themselves or experience what it feels like to be moved by something?  For me, the arts was pivotal in my youth.  I truly believe that the arts can heal.  Many families do not have the money to enroll their kids in arts classes and children’s theatre. Nurturing kids from the beginning when they are the most vulnerable and impressionable, that’s the time to act!

In my head, I wanted to be an actor there was no plan B. I still want this but my purpose has grown and I’ve found a love for teaching and working with kids as well. Allowing yourself to grow, change and try new things later in life is scary.  In my experience, releasing judgement of what others might think and most importantly, releasing judgment on yourself is really hard but something to strive for.   It takes courage to be an artist and often times we lose that courage and faith, we have to get out of our own way.  Knowing your worth is incredibly important and its worth fighting for.  All these ups and downs are learning curves that bring us to a better, stronger self.  Surrounding yourself with a good group of supporters and friends, who pick each other up and help each other move forward is a must.  I believe in family first, if you are lucky to have a mom, sister and husband like mine, keep them close.  I am forever grateful to them for never turning their backs on me, for forgiving me and walking along side me in all my crazy ideas, in all my mistakes and struggles, there are many and I’m sure there will be many more.  I will spend my life walking alongside them too.  Trusting that you are imperfectly perfect, that you are enough and that this is the path you are supposed to be on while leading with kindness and gratitude is what I try to remember daily.  The arts can come in many forms, knowing and believing that we have an opportunity to make a difference through art, no matter what form it takes, or how big or small is what’s important.  We are built to do many things, we absolutely CAN be a successful and loving mommy, dad, wife, husband, teacher, friend and colleague all the while being a thriving, fulfilled artist in whatever form we chose.  To me, this is what it’s all about.

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Image Credit:
Arthur Marroquin
Doren Sorell

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