The Class of 2021

Grade 12 was not what they imagined: no prom, no varsity teams, no senior trip. But these teens survived the quadmester system and made their way through online school. Here’s how they coped—the good and the bad—and what they’re doing next

Lauren Wasik, 18

School: Etobicoke School of the Arts
Neighbourhood: Oakville
What’s next: Vocal studies at Juilliard

I heard about studies that showed if you got Covid, even a mild case, there could be long-term effects on your lungs, vocal cords and breath support. I was a musical theatre major at ESA, and as a singer, I was like, “Oh, I really can’t get Covid.” I didn’t want to take any chances. So I decided to do virtual school for my senior year, at least at the beginning, while we saw how things went with the pandemic.

The Class of 2021

In virtual school, everybody was like the new kid. On the first day of class, we all introduced ourselves and said what home school we were from. We exchanged Instagram handles and made a group chat where we’d share memes, talk about random stuff or ask questions. It was helpful to have that platform because you can’t pass your classmates in the hallway and ask them about a project.

In early February, my theatre friends who stayed at ESA put on a recital, and I hopped on the Zoom call to watch it. Seeing what they produced was bittersweet. Obviously I missed them so much, but I was also thinking, I wish I could do that. I finally went back to ESA in April for the last quadmester to take the music theatre course. It was so heartwarming logging on to that first Zoom call with everybody saying, “Lauren! Oh, my gosh! Hi, we missed you!”

We do a final musical as part of our curriculum, which is super cool. This year we did a revue of all the musicals that were on Broadway before everything shut down, like Moulin Rouge, Come From Away and Wicked. We recorded our songs and dancing parts all on our own. Our music director put all our voices together and mixed the vocal tracks so we were actually singing together, just not performing on stage.

Up until last year, I was determined to go to university for music theatre. But I started working more on my operatic voice, and I kind of fell in love with classical music. So I decided to pursue a vocal music degree. I applied to Juilliard, just to see what would happen, and I almost missed my callback audition. I got an email in the morning saying my callback was that afternoon, but it went to my spam folder. When I saw the reminder email in my inbox, I saw that my callback was supposed to be at 12:30 p.m.—and it was 1:30 p.m. I emailed them back and was like, “I’m so sorry!” and the panel agreed to let me audition. I was still in my PJs, so I threw up my hair and put on a nice outfit in like five minutes.

At the end of March, I got an email from Juilliard saying that my status page was updated. My dad and I waited for my mom to get home from work. I thought, There’s no way I’m going to get in. I totally butchered that callback. When I opened the page, confetti popped up and the first word was “Congratulations.” I was like, No way. When I called my vocal teacher at ESA to tell her, she said I was her first student in 20 years to get into Juilliard. I’m moving to New York City in August.

—As told to Samantha Edwards