Who Am I? by James Perry

My name is James Perry, I’m an 18 year old male from Pittsburgh PA, and I am an artist for as long as I can remember.

Growing up, I took part in class plays and listened to artists my mom played for me, like Lil Bow Wow and Missy Elliot. I grew up in Pittsburgh’s Hill District and went to Urban League Charter School. While there, I met a lot of people who positively influenced my life and gave me the connections I needed for today as I continue to expand them.

I took part in theater throughout elementary and middle school. Although I had never taken rap seriously until I was about 13, I carried around this little notebook with me and I would write poems and raps in it throughout the 8th grade. I had friends that were older than me doing it, too, and so it stuck with me; one friend being the person I’m in a group with called High Five Productions. Throughout highschool, I’ve managed to make music, perform, and do plays around the city. I also participate in an opera at my high school every year. This year, I will be playing the role of Antonio in William Shakespeare’s "Two Gentlemen in Verona", in a production by Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts School (CAPA). Recently, I finished up the role of Slow Drag in Mark Clayton Southers’ production of "August Wilson's Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" that ran from February 4th to February 8th. In addition to working on these musical theatre pieces, I recently released a collaborative mixtape called “Rap Addicts” with my group member Lyn Starr.

During my senior year, I’ve been accepted into two universities—Seton Hill University and Point Park University. In addition to being accepted into Seton Hill’s vocal program, I also had the honor of taking a vocal lesson with Professor Mark Boyle. Vocal singing was something I picked up in middle school doing my first choir at Allegheny Traditional. I was a part of the ensemble for three years in middle school, along with a student ran mini choir before I became a vocal major at CAPA.

I started to embody my art during my Freshman year. It was then that I found that art was the only way I could live with the talents I had been given. Honestly, I didn’t know I had all of these talents in me… which is the best part! I surprise myself along with everyone watching! I believe that art gets so many kids out of trouble; ff you put your all into your art you want people to see that and appreciate it. It then creates this friendship and respect that may have not been there before. On stage, you are nothing but honest. Growing up, I had a lot of problems with wanting more attention. But, when I hit the stage and the spotlight is on me? I have the audience’s attention just how I want. They now have to listen to what I have to say and I can share so many feelings and experiences I can while I’m up there.

Art is relevant because it is an escape from being called “weird” or “different”, because your interests aren’t the majority. Art makes you strive to continue to be different and nobody can take that from you while you find your place in the world. That’s me.