Janie and Maya: Academy Family

By Janie Bouzek (Music, ‘84)
Mom of Maya Cross (Media Arts, ‘22)

The Chicago Academy for the Arts is a magical place. You feel it the moment you walk in: the productive energy, the inclusiveness, the caring, the passion for the creative and thinking arts. Our daughter, Maya, is a freshman Media Arts major at The Academy, where she is able to immerse herself in her passion and develop her skills in animation and digital art. Surrounded by bright, creative students who are all dedicated to putting something unique out in the world, Maya is continually challenged to do her very best work both collaboratively and independently. Most importantly, Maya feels like she finally found her “people.” In her short time at the school, she is already developing many great friendships.


The academics at The Academy offer both rigor and inspiration. The teachers are extremely knowledgeable and passionate, which makes the classes highly engaging, but also requires the development of some serious organizational and study skills (for which the Student Resource Coordinator generously provides support to anyone who needs it). In addition to her arts work, Maya is completely engaged in subjects completely outside of her major; she comes home talking about topics that had previously never graced our dinner table, including genetics, class divides in the Roman Empire, and fictional dystopian visions. This leads to great conversations.

I too attended The Academy a very long time ago. I majored in music, and graduated with The Academy’s second graduating class in 1984. Prospective parents might wonder: what do you “do” with a diploma from The Academy? Is the goal a university education? To be a professional performing or visual artist? As an alum, I did go on to become a professional musician, and then graduate from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana with a degree in Music Composition. But I then went on to do something I believe a lot of folks who graduate from The Academy do: I took all of the self-reflection, broadened social perspective, skill and self-discipline it took to succeed at The Academy, and I applied it to every other aspect of my life. I went on to a Ph.D program at the University of Chicago in Sociology. I mediated for several years at the Illinois Department of Human Rights. Presently, I have my own business as a Leadership Coach, Facilitator, and Mediator. I also continue to compose and perform. I couldn’t be happier with my life choices, and I firmly believe that my experience at The Academy launched me in an entirely new and fulfilling direction in which I would never have gone had I remained in my regular high-school.

At The Chicago Academy for the Arts, the inspiration is staggering, the challenges are immense . . . and the magic is real.