IU 2020 Series: Broderick Balsley

You know how your parents always tell you to cherish your time in school?

They say it goes by in the blink of an eye? It’s not that I didn’t believe them, I just couldn’t have ever planned for it to go by so quickly. I feel as though I just got through my freshman year; one long, busy freshman year, and just like that I’m going into my senior year.

The past three years have been the most exciting, taxing, and fulfilling years of my life. When going back to school means going back home, you know you’re at the right place. Truer words could not be said about my experience at Indiana University. What can I say? I’m a Hoosier through and through.

As seen on TV

When you’re a graduating senior in high school, you imagine your entire college experience. Seeing as how I am the first in my family to go to college, most of my expectations came from the never-ending pool of college films and television shows we are spoon-fed by Hollywood. But college is not a cookie-cutter experience. Sure you can find some stereotypes at a Big Ten University like IU. However, you get out of college what you put into it. IU certainly isn’t lacking in endless, diverse opportunities to immerse yourself in college life, depending on what that means to you.

I knew musical theatre was for me. This small, rigorous performing arts program inside a large university offered me the experiences and instruction that I craved, while still being a part of something outside the realm of the arts. I get to work with industry professionals every day, participate in a plethora of performance opportunities, and absorb art in more ways than I thought imaginable in the entire state of Indiana.

From one of the largest art museums in the Midwest to Broadway national tours, as well as some of the most talented music groups Bloomington nightlife has to offer, art is surely in no short supply.

Go to the Hickory Ridge Fire Tower. You will not regret it.

That Hoosier pride

Being born and raised in Indiana, sports have also been a huge part of my childhood. Though I am by no means great at playing sports–and believe me, I tried–watching games and tailgating have been some of the most memorable events that brought my friends and family together. Like much of the art on campus, sports are a part of what makes Hoosier pride come so naturally. I’m going to miss heading out to the tailgating fields on those early Saturday mornings to root for my team.

Some believe Indiana to be a rather conservative state, and I can’t necessarily argue with the whole of that statement. I will say there is no place in the entire state quite like Bloomington. For those who have ever felt a lack of representation, whether it be due to your race, sexual orientation, gender-identity, religion, or any other number of identities that diversifies us, Bloomington offers you the room to fully embrace your whole self, discover your real self, and grow from your past self in ways you just can’t imagine until it happens.

The culture in Bloomington is everywhere. Some of the best foods from around the world is condensed onto a square block. Festivals and events pop up throughout the year. Some of my favorites; Bloomington Pride, Culture Fest, and Garlic Fest. There is always something new to do if you look for some adventure. The nature surrounding the town is a playground in itself. Places like Cascade Falls, Hickory Ridge Fire Tower, and Lake Monroe are just a few of my most memorable experiences. You can picnicking by a waterfall or rent a pontoon for a day with friends!

It sounds pretty basic, I get it, but I really have grown into a new version of myself since getting to college-a better version of myself.

Sure, people are always learning and growing in life. It doesn’t stop once your formal education ends. Beyond belting and dancing, IU teaches me how capable I am as a human. You go from living at home with your family to being thrust into self-sufficiency and, yes, it can be a bit overwhelming at times. Are there things I would do differently? Absolutely. Would I trade the experiences I have had in the past three years? Not for the world. My experiences, my friends, my professors, and my jobs have all helped me to define exactly who it is I want to be and everything it takes to become that person.

Who doesn’t want to be in the Jets? Here I am playing the role of Riff in West Side Story.

Indiana to NYC

The last three years have been full of sleepless nights, exhausting schedules, and seemingly impossible amounts of responsibility. The last three years have also been full of creating life-long friendships. It’s the most fun I’ve had in my entire life. And I’ve had the satisfaction of knowing that I am capable of doing whatever I put my mind and heart into.

As I type away at this final blog post, I’m forced with facing the end of an amazing chapter in my life, but relieved knowing I have one last year to do everything it is I have taken for granted.

I’m typing this from Logan, Utah, home of Utah Festival Opera & Musical Theatre, where I have spent the entirety of my final summer break performing with professional actors, dancers, and singers in putting up three musicals at once. I’m even lucky enough to be the youngest leading actor in the summer season, playing Riff in West Side Story, a small testament to IU’s training.

Putting up West Side Story, Newsies, and Mary Poppins all at once would have seemed an impossible feat before college. Knowing now where I want to be and what I am capable of, I’m facing my life’s next chapter head on. In fall of 2020, I’ll be in New York City to making childhood dreams a reality, a challenge and adventure that wouldn’t be possible had it not been for my family, friends, teachers, and above all, Indiana University.

Broderick Balsley head shot
Broderick Balsley

Broderick is a senior studying Theatre and Drama in the Department of Theatre, Drama, and Contemporary Dance. He's one of 12 Indiana University students featured in the IU 2020 Series, a four-year documentary film produced by student interns in the Office of the Provost for the IU Bicentennial.