Humans of Harker: Breaking the fourth wall

Alex Kumar incorporates artistry into his community

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Esha Gohil

“That exchange of information is to me the purest form of human connection, and that communication makes humans, humans. When I’m on stage giving a performance to an auditorium of people, or when I’m in a classroom in front of a group of kids teaching them something, that exchange of information is multiplied. Every single person in that audience and I are exchanging energy, feeding off of each other,” Alex Kumar (12) said.

Clad in a crisp officer’s suit, Alex Kumar (12) reaches out into the audience as he confidently belts out a note that resounds throughout the Patil Theater during the 2019 spring musical “Urinetown.” As he finishes his solo, the crowd applauds raucously.

Alex, who began his musical journey at the age of 3 when his parents enrolled him into piano classes, has always been eager to try new things. A natural performer, Alex never shied away from the idea of a crowd.

“I don’t remember ever having stage fright,” Alex said. “To me, there was no difference between performing a piece in a rehearsal with my piano teacher and performing it in a suit and tie in front of 100 parents.”

After joining Bucknall Choir at the Harker lower school in fourth grade, Alex realized how much he enjoyed singing. As he traversed through the various Harker choirs, he began to accumulate various talents, such as acting and dancing. To Alex, the audience plays just as an important role in a performance as those onstage do. He delights in the enthusiasm of the audience, helping him give a more spirited performance.

“That exchange of information is to me the purest form of human connection, and that communication makes humans, humans,” Alex said. “When I’m on stage giving a performance to an auditorium of people, or when I’m in a classroom in front of a group of kids teaching them something, that exchange of information is multiplied. Every single person in that audience and I are exchanging energy, feeding off of each other. ”

The current captain of Kinetic Crew and vocal percussionist for Downbeat, Alex exudes passion for his craft, his gregarious nature shining through all of his activities.

“I do everything that I do in the hopes that it touches somebody, somehow. In every performance, I have different goals for the audience,” Alex said. “Sometimes you want to leave them thinking, sometimes you want to leave them crying, sometimes you want to leave them feeling good. In any case, whatever the goal might be, it’s positive.”

As an extrovert, Alex found that quarantining from his friends during the COVID-19 pandemic was a difficult and trying experience, affecting his mental health. A strong leader, Alex had to learn to accept help from others when he needs it.

“Building up a support system and learning to rely on it was difficult for me because I had a lot of ego wrapped up in fixing my problems myself,” Alex said. “I’m learning to trust my support system, and they’ve all helped me get to a much better place.”

Alongside his stable support system, Alex uses various tactile methods to mitigate the toll that mental health issues can take on a person.

“I meditate, and I do yoga, and I work out every day. I make sure to keep a healthy diet. All these things, those small, little concrete adjustments, they make dealing with the problems easier, even if they don’t impact them directly,” Alex said.

When Alex was 11, his father passed away, leaving him to navigate through various internal struggles. Over his middle and high school years, he has actively advocated for mental health awareness and has helped others manage their grief as well. After attending as a camper one year, Alex began working summers as a grief counselor for children at Camp Kara, an organization that holds summer programs for children who have lost somebody close to them.

“Losing a parent at a young age forces a child to mature emotionally and intellectually way faster than others, and I think that happened to me too. I was forced to mature past my 11 years of age, and I think that probably contributed to a lot of the problems that I had,” Alex said. “But at the same time, being a very mature preteen helped me become the person I am today.”

Alex has always maintained a strong moral and ethical code, and he uses his experiences to think analytically about the world around him. Alex refuses to be a bystander and uses his struggles with mental health to help facilitate discussions and help support those around him.

“He has taught me so much about humanity and the value of every human life. He would defend his friends to the death, trusting and prioritizing the victims, and he holds himself to that standard,” Topaz Gao (12), a close friend of Alex’s, said. “Not a moment goes by where he doesn’t surprise me by pointing out something in society that doesn’t seem right to him, and I feel like I’ve become a better person because of it.”

His experience teaching reflects his desire to make a difference in the lives of his community. He always tries to put others first and be a role model for those around him.

Daniel Wu (11), who has known Alex since he was in seventh grade, notes Alex’s upbeat and admirable qualities.

“He has such a positive energy that he brings to everything, he’s really able to inspire everyone around him not only with his talent but also his work ethic and focus,” Daniel said. “He’s made me a lot more confident and helped me with my arts and singing and acting. His confidence definitely rubs off on you.”

Ultimately, Alex believes that everyone can always learn more. The driving force behind many of his actions and accomplishments, Alex’s willingness to learn has helped him become a better teacher, friend and performer.

“No one is 100% infallible, so I hope I’m always putting my best self forward and growing from my mistakes,” Alex said. “With that, I hope that I can become a role model for someone else to look up to someday.”