When University of Wisconsin sophomore Hayden Muhs began his journey at UW, he worried he would have to choose between being an artist and being a student.

As a kid, Muhs was not involved in sports or any other activities. Instead, he wrote poetry.

“Poetry became my Little League,” Muhs said.

In eighth grade, Muhs began to make music, but it wasn’t until his sophomore year of high school that his love of hip-hop and poetry merged.

Muhs credited the First Wave Hip Hop and Urban Arts Learning Community scholarship program, founded by the university’s Office of Multicultural Arts Initiatives, for helping him continue his art. First Wave is a full-tuition scholarship program for students involved in spoken word, hip-hop and urban arts. Muhs found out about First Wave completely by chance, when he was doing Google searches for scholarships. If it hadn’t been for First Wave, Muhs would never have considered going to school in the Midwest.

“[Being both an artist and a student] is a hard balance, not one that I’ve mastered yet,” Muhs said.

Technology plays a big role in his involvement in hip-hop.

“The Internet makes music and art easier as far as collaboration,” he said. “That’s how I found First Wave.”

For other students who have to make the choice between continuing their art and doing well in school, Muhs advises they hold onto their art, because there is a way to do both.

“There were times I thought about not doing as much art, or not doing it at all,” Muhs said. 

For senior Ian Carroll, also known as *hitmayng, performing frequently has helped him become a better student. Because he performs at least once a week, he knows he has to plan his schedule carefully and study whenever possible.

“[It’s] a lot of studying between shows,” Carroll said. “Knowing that I have to plan in advance helps academically.”

For Carroll, academics take priority over being an artist. He will only stick around for the main act of a show he opens if it is a group or artist he really likes. A normal night could include opening up for a hip-hop act at the Majestic Theatre, and then heading straight to the library to study until 3 a.m. Carroll said he values his time at UW because he gets to meet so many new people.

“I don’t think I’ll have another opportunity to meet so many artists at one time,” Carroll said.