Menlo Park Renaissance: Laura Tuthall

Mid-Peninsula High senior creates to make life make sense.

In the main entryway of Mid-Peninsula High School hangs a painting that combines all four of student Laura Tuthall's creative passions: singing, songwriting, painting and ballet.

During her sophomore year, the now 17-year-old senior spent months scrawling hundreds of words worth of original song lyrics across the canvas of the painting, which she named, "My Life in Three Stages." Tuthall then dipped her pointe shoes in red paint and danced her tall and slender frame across the canvas, creating bright red splashes. The large X in the center of the painting she chose because of its symbol in math as an unknown value.

"I always incorporate something with lyrics or a song, or an image of a song, into my artwork. That's how I define myself," said Tuthall, who wrote her first song when she was five and started playing guitar when she was eight.

When she became a sophomore at Mid-Pen, Tuthall realized the importance of songwriting in her life. "When I was a kid, I thought I was going crazy because everything was really confusing," she said. "But then as a sophomore, I started writing songs that were more about my life and more about my issues with who I am."

"She's something of a Joni Mitchell," said Barbara Brown, the director of admissions at Mid-Peninsula. Tuthall says that she relates to Mitchell as a folksy guitar-playing singer, but that often when writing songs, she just wings it.

"Songwriting is more my thing. Art not so much," said Tuthall, who is currently enrolled in a studio art class at Mid-Peninsula." Usually when I'm writing a song, it's about some issue I'm dealing with in my life. It's just what I need to do."

For Tuthall, songwriting is a cathartic experience that she mainly practices in the comfort of her own bedroom, although she has written in such bustling places as the New York City subway and while traveling nationwide to participate in ballet workshops.

In addition to writing music, singing, playing guitar and painting, Tuthall dances ballet, too—in fact, she plans on making it her career. For the past five years, Tuthall has attended the Ballet San Jose School, and the San Francisco Ballet School before that. "I go through a pair of pointe shoes a week," Tuthall said while pointing out a sculpture made entirely of painted pointe shoes with lyrics written on the ribbons.

Tuthall grew up in Mountain View but attended The Peninsula School in Menlo Park for grammar school. "My dad's a computer nerd and my mom's an ESL teacher and a freelance voilinist," said Tuthall, who has an older sister at the University of California, Berkeley.

"I've never really been a 'have people tell me what to do' kind of person," said Tuthall. "Except during ballet class." Tuthall took the standard art classes in school but cannot point to a singular creative muse." It was always more of a thing that I did on my own," she said.

Tuthall also does not indicate a specific time in her life when she started to call herself an artist. "When did I decide that I like art? I still haven't decided that I like art," she said with a grin. Like many of her classmates at Mid-Peninsula, Tuthall's interests are vast and the school caters to them.

Tuthall appreciates the small classes, getting to know the teachers and the variety of students. "I like how everybody's weird. You don't have the cool people and the uncool people. Everyone knows everybody and it has a very friendly family-type atmosphere."

Upon graduating high school this year, Tuthall plans on attending a ballet conservatory program and purusing ballet as a career—while continuing to sing and songwrite.

greg October 23, 2010 at 12:43 AM
Vanessa Castañeda October 23, 2010 at 03:07 AM
Barbara Brown November 30, 2010 at 09:25 PM
third. This is a great article about a wonderful student. We love having Laura at Mid-Pen. We give tours to anyone who is interested in learning more about our school.


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