Campus: Newport Students Shine in Arts School Season Finale

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OCSA student Josie Johnston performing at Intermission
OCSA student Josie Johnston performing at Intermission

Ever wonder where the next generation of singers, actors, musicians, poets, chefs and filmmakers will come from?

Locally, there’s a good chance that they’ll be graduates of Orange County School of the Arts.

According to the schools website, “the Orange County School of the Arts (OCSA) was established in 1987 and provides a creative, challenging and nurturing environment that offers bright and talented students preparation for higher education and a profession in the arts. This premier public charter school currently serves nearly 2,000 students in grades 7-12 from more than 100 cities throughout Southern California.”

A profession in the arts? Yes, such a thing is possible, especially given the training available at OCSA. Even if students decided to pursue a different career, having an arts background is a plus for any endeavor.

The school’s annual Season Finale was held last month for a rapt and boisterous audience of family and friends at Segerstrom Hall, and showcased every arts discipline at OCSA.

The evening was impressive. Impressive to experience the variety of arts performances, and impressive to see the level of artistic excellence achieved by the students.

After the Season Finale, I spoke with two of the OCSA students from Newport Beach that performed in the show: Sophie Neely, a Junior in the Creative Writing Conservatory, and Josie Johnston, a Junior in the Commercial Music Conservatory and a singer in MONTAGE!.

“I’ve always been interested in writing,” said Neely, 17, who has attended OCSA for five years and

Sophie Neely performing at Season Finale
Sophie Neely performing at Season Finale

taken such writing classes as fiction, short story, screen writing, playwriting, and magical realism. She’s also been studying playwriting, and one of her short plays is in the school’s 2015 Ink Blot, a collection of prose, poetry and art.

“Writing as a career is a difficult choice,” admitted Neely. “I want to minor in playwriting. Writing is a valuable tool, it’s applicable in so many areas.”

Neely also speaks French and Spanish, and is learning Mandarin because she has her sights set on being a UN ambassador.

“I’m going to China for six weeks and will speak and write only mandarin,” said Neely, who added that she did not consider herself a strong poet yet got cheers from the audience when reciting her poetry.

Johnston, 17, is a vocal major and has been singing since she was a young girl.

“I grew up in Texas and had a friend that went to an arts school in Dallas,” she said. “I wanted to try it but it was not in a very good area, so we researched schools and I auditioned for ,musical theater at OCSA.”

OCSA Commercial Music Conservatory students perform at Season Finale
OCSA Commercial Music Conservatory students perform at Season Finale

Johnston was accepted to OCSA and performed in a variety of musicals. She also sang in Montage!, the school’s premier performing group.

“I like performing as myself instead of as a character,” she admitted. “I was in a band for a while, but had to stop to focus on my vocals at school, and my songwriting. We had an original showcase, which was nerve wracking, but it went really well. I want to go to college and pursue a career in music business, and I want to continue performing. I’ll see where it can take me.”

Both girls said their parents are supportive of their endeavors, and they offered advice for any young students considering enrolling in an arts-based school like OCSA.

“At OCSA you can explore many things, but it’s important to be sure you want to pursue an art form,” offered Neely. “It takes dedication and energy and sacrifice, but the reward is really great.”

“It takes a lot of your time,” said Johnston. Everyone else is out of school early, but I’m here until 5 p.m. on Fridays. It takes a lot of time management.”

The girls failed to add that it also takes a healthy dose of talent, which both girls, and the other OCSA students, have in abundance.

For more information on OCSA, visit


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  1. As a local career counselor, I wish young adults had more training as to how to bridge their natural aptitudes to careers.

    Sophie Neely should not have to look far for a career in writing. We weave through many occupations throughout our career and writing jobs abound – I wish her the best of luck in activating and monetizing these creative skills into a meaningful career!

    I always encourage students and young adults to follow their interests and build skills along the way. Skills are way more transferable than you might expect, so you might as well build them doing something you like.

    (Yes, History majors…I’m talking to you too!)

    Good luck to Sophie and all her talented peers.