Congratulations to our Exceptional Students – Fall 2021



As the holiday season approaches, we’d like to thank all of you–our dedicated, adaptable and brave community–for helping us persevere through our 1st Semester back to in-person learning, as well as 18 months total of online learning. You’ve joined us on this journey with open hearts and minds, with joy and resilience. We could not do this without you, and we’re humbled to have such wonderful students.

We wanted to officially announce and congratulate our amazing TKActors:  Bryce Foley, Fernando Mateo, Hanna White, John Hogan, Kalynn Chambers, and Or Gal on being selected as Exceptional Students Fall 2021!

These 6 students continually bring the utmost courage, joy and authenticity to the room day in and day out. We’re so grateful to honor their unique & powerful growth over this term.

Help us send them some much-deserved love and congratulations.

What does being an artist ‘committed to excellence’ mean to you while training at TK Studio?




I’ve come to understand that Committing to Excellence is a choice. The choice to fully surrender to this work, and let go of the comfort of control. The choice to have faith that through surrender, I’ll evolve into something organic, honest and undeniable. The choice to slow down. To listen. To breathe. To learn. All of which requires passion, persistence, and patience.

I have to understand that excellence isn’t an instant transaction, but a lifelong lay-a-way that needs to be paid every single day with consistency and love. I know that I can always do more, but I also understand that doing more doesn’t always mean I’m getting more done. There’s a fine line that separates the quality of excellent work, and the quantity of shallow work. TK studio (and life) offers the option to fail toward something greater, and I’ve chosen to do so. 


Fernando Mateo Headshot


In order to be “Committed to Excellence”, you must be up for the challenge in studying at TK Studio. Especially given the difficulty of the past two years. My class had the dubious honor of being one of the first classes to go from in-person to virtual in our first year. I think it had a bit of a different meaning this time around.  It means digging deep to find courage to dive into the new unknown world of Zoom, separated from our sanctuary in which we first started at the beginning of the pandemic.  

It means trusting Terry, his staff and faculty to steer this new ship and creating a safe space as they so carefully curated in Industry City.  It means meeting up to rehearse or take class with partners at their homes when all you want to do is go home and crawl into bed.  It means showing up prepared and ready to work each and every day that the camera goes on.  It means being ok being going through artistic growing pains and discomfort. It means not passing judgment on the characters you forge because even monsters had people or pets that loved them.

It also means great sacrifices will be made for your dream.  There were many days and nights I had to flake out with friends and family in order to work on my craft in some way.  I came to realize that those who understood, accepted and encouraged my sacrifice were my truest friends.  Those who faded away…their loss.  So in a way, commitment to excellence gave me clarity. Being “Committed to Excellence” for me was also simply continuing on when my depression rolled in like a hurricane and told me to quit and that I would never be a success.

As I dove deeper into what “Committed to Excellence” meant to me, I found that it was SO much more than a motto that TK Studio students are taught.  I realized that it doesn’t just apply to me as an artist but more importantly as a man.  My relationships are better now than they have ever been. I am a better listener, have a greater sense of empathy and even have a renewed interest in people (my classmates will surely get this!).  I can honestly say that I am a better human being as a result of being “Committed to Excellence”.  



Being an artist committed to excellence means showing up for yourself every day and planting seeds in a garden that will one day bloom. It is understanding what your body needs so you can be present and do your best while realizing that some days you will need to rest and refuel. I’ve found knowing what that looks like for my body is an ever-evolving process. Doing all of this, specifically at Terry Knickerbocker Studio, means having a supportive, informative, and safe community to learn and thrive. I constantly look for creative ways to stay motivated and remind myself of my why. I have done that through several activities, including but not limited to visiting museums, watching self-help TikToks, reading books, and reflecting on meaningful quotes. I leave you with some of my personal favorites.

“I am the captain of my fate; I am the master of my soul.” – Invictus by William Ernest Henley


“We are what we think, as we desire so do we become. By our thoughts, desires, and habits, we either ascend to the full divine dignity of our nature, or we descend to suffer and learn.” – J. Todd Ferrier


“Rest if you must, but don’t you quit.” – Don’t Quit by John Greenleaf Whittier



To me being an artist committed to excellence means showing up with reliable, and consistently meaningful work. It means pouring my soul into my crafting. It means orienting myself to do the work especially when I don’t feel like it. It’s about playing boldly and unapologetically. It’s about being a worker among workers, learning from and being inspired by my peers and teachers. It’s about striving to know myself so well that I can slip into any role. It means having a hunger to understand humanity. It’s about invitation, and it’s about courage to free the parts of myself I thought should be kept hidden so I can tell more stories. It means seeing all parts of the human experience as having equal value. It’s about working hard and putting in the hours. 

I go about my work with these things in mind, and I fall short often. And that’s also important to me; to investigate where I missed the memo and then pick myself up and try again in a way that’s more helpful to me. And to just let it all go and say fuck it and go for it. Because this is my only life. So why the hell not?




A former Muay Thai coach of mine once said – “When you win no big head, when you lose no little head. “ I try to maintain the same flavor of curiosity when given feedback in class, regardless of whether it stings or feels nice at first contact. It doesn’t work all the time, but on average, it helps me focus on being present in the process rather than occupied with an outcome. 

To me, excellence comes down to consistency. Doing the work in class, paying attention, and doing what’s asked of you outside of class with the same level of intensity, regardless of what kind of day you’re having that day or what kind of feedback you received in class, or how your classmates feel or perform on a given day. It’s natural to feel complacent when things feel nice, and it’s equally natural to feel defeated when things aren’t going as smoothly. “No big head, no little head” helps me strive to approach the work consistently, and maintain curiosity with the process. 




Being an artist committed to excellence means that I wake up each morning gently demanding more from myself than I did the day before.  

More truth. This work is a life-long exploration of who I am and what makes me feel. It means asking myself “what stories do I want to tell?” and then allowing my work to be molded by external influences, all while staying true to my artistic filter shaped by my unique, individual experiences.  

More clarity. This means using the least amount of effort to move, feel, and communicate. It is a commitment to understanding the essence of a story, a relationship, and a character. It means a greater understanding of what each word is intended to communicate and delivering each phrase with deliberate intent and emotion. It means removing distractions both inside of the work and outside in preparation.  

More meaning. To be true and clear, I have learned to understand what drives me as an artist – where each emotion lives inside of me and what brings them each to life. It means being attuned to my instrument and knowing what it looks like when stripped of all external influences. It means asking myself “why do I have to tell this story?” and listening to my intuitions. 

More permission to fail. This is perhaps the most powerful lesson I continue to learn each day. Giving myself permission to fail has liberated me. It has allowed me to grow in ways otherwise not possible and has translated into tremendous changes in my work. Most importantly, being an artist committed to excellence means that I never forget what I came here to do. Play! 


Want to be more like our Exceptional Students?
Terry Knickerbocker Studio offers a comprehensive Two-Year Conservatory Program rooted in the Meisner technique, in a state of the art facility in Brooklyn, New York, and Online.
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