Tara Sechrest, new Idyllwild Arts dean of admission, stands in front of her father’s (Roger Dutton) art work hanging in her office. Photo by J.P. Crumrine

Tara Sechrest is the new dean of admission at Idyllwild Arts. Not only is she an Idyllwild native, but also a 1994 graduate of the private arts school.

Except for the brief period when she left for college and the following five years, Sechrest has been an Idyllwild resident. But the magnetism of Idyllwild pulled her back.

Idyllwild’s attraction may have been stronger for her than others. Her parents and grandparents are and were Idyllwild residents. At various times, her grandparents owned the Fern Valley Market, Village Market and even the liquor store. Her father, Roger Dutton, is an artist whose work has been exhibited in town.

Now Sechrest is responsible for bringing others to her mountain hamlet. “It was something that kind of happened. When it did, it was the best thing for me. I love it,” Sechrest said. “I’m very excited with this opportunity.”

But she earned the title, receiving a master’s degree in education from the University of Redlands in 2005. Part of her work included an internship, which she completed at IA. Upon graduation, she began in the Admission Office. In 2008, she was appointed associate dean and now she has full responsibility for recruiting nearly 300 new students to the campus each year and is replacing Marek Pramuka.

The admission decision is not simply based on an applicant’s grades. Not only do potential students need to possess academic credentials, they must audition to departmental chairs, or prepare a portfolio of their art work and demonstrate an understanding for life away from home.

“I’m looking for passion,” Sechrest said. “Do they really want to be here? I want to see if they are excited about the possibility of pursuing art in the future.”

While a student at IA, Sechrest studied dance, which she continued at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Unfortunately, an injury prevented her from pursuing a professional dance career.

“I miss it,” she lamented. “But I still enjoy moving to music. But it’s always good to have a Plan B, especially as a dancer.”

Once she returned to IA, Sechrest said she was surprised to discover how much work and effort is required to ensure a boarding school is operating. “It’s 24/7. The faculty, staff and parents are so dedicated,” she noted, adding students have very little understanding about what’s needed to provide meals, cleaning, transportation and many other services.

Not only does Sechrest recruit teens to live in Idyllwild, she is continuing the family heritage. Miles, her 20-month old son, is the fourth generation of the family to live here. She and her husband, Brent, love Idyllwild. She feels there is much more available to individuals and families in her age group. “It’s a great place for young families to raise children,” she said proudly. “There weren’t as many young professionals here when I grew up.”