The Artist Athlete: Doing it All at NYU

Cat Richardson

Robbie Keyes transfered to NYU to balance a major in Performance Studies at Tisch and being on the NYU golf team

Portrait of Robbie Keyes

At NYU, students can explore many paths, whether they intersect or not. That’s the beauty of a university with thousands of courses in one of the world’s most dynamic cities: you can do it all. As a first-year student at a university in Ohio, Robbie Keyes realized that he wanted something more out of his education. “I used to love looking up the actors of films I watched to see where they attended college, and more often than not, it was NYU,” he says. So after one semester, he decided to shoot for his dream school—and sent in a hopeful application to NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. There, he knew he could follow his passion. What’s more, he knew that, at NYU, he could still be a varsity athlete on the NYU golf team, which was just as important to him.

“Receiving my acceptance letter was one of the happiest moments of my life,” recalls Robbie.

Breaking Into the Arts

Growing up, Robbie wasn’t initially exposed to the arts. “It was understood that you went to one of the Catholic high schools in Louisville,” says Robbie, who is from Kentucky. “Then you went to the University of Kentucky, and then moved back home and worked for one of the companies headquartered there.” But Robbie’s parents encouraged him to break the pattern, and he attended a magnet high school where he was free to explore. It was the first time that he was able to engage with the arts in an academic setting.

At NYU, the opportunities for Robbie to further embrace the arts are virtually limitless. He chose Performance Studies as his major as a way to celebrate his interests rather than seek out a single path of success. “My outlook on the undergraduate experience is that it is the only four years where you can really explore something you’re passionate about,” Robbie explains. “I feel like Performance Studies has allowed me to do that.” To that end, he also decided to pursue a minor in Creative Writing. “I particularly love the freedom of writing. There are no wrong answers,” he explains.

“I think in its roots NYU is a place that supports all kinds of thinking.”

The Freedom to Take It All In

Through both the arts and athletics, Robbie’s experiences at NYU have continued to broaden his perspective. The NYU golf team introduced him to students from all over the world. And through his studies, he continues to experience new points of view and ideas. “I’ve had classes with students from Stern who probably got a better ACT score than me by 10 points, with actors who have been taping TV shows, and with people who have songs on Spotify with millions of streams,” he elaborates. “Always start a conversation with the person next to you in class because I guarantee they have an interesting story to tell.”

For Robbie, NYU is the only place where he could engage with such a range of passions so freely. “I think in its roots NYU is a place that supports all kinds of thinking,” Robbie explains. “Just being able to pursue a career in the arts while also competing in a sport is a testament to its nature. It may sound cliché, but you can do anything here.”

Staying at the Top of His Game

Robbie’s passion for the arts grew over time, but his love of athletics has been with him from the start. He has played many team sports, but by high school, he chose to focus on golf. And as a member of the NYU golf team, he has excelled beyond his wildest expectations. Recently, they achieved a national ranking of 13—the highest spot in team history. Robbie himself won NYU’s first individual title of the year, and his teammates broke records as well. “It feels pretty surreal to be playing on what may be the best NYU golf team ever to date,” Robbie says.

His involvement in athletics definitely makes him unique in some of his more arts-focused classes. “If you were to ask my previous professors about me, I am sure the first thing they would say is ‘Oh, he was the golfer!’” Robbie says. Nevertheless, Robbie has easily worked the two into his life at NYU. “Being able to balance both of these identities has reaffirmed to me that the two worlds can coexist.”