Shenandoah University’s Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre has generated a lot of heat in the social media universe, thanks to to its inclusion on OnStage blog’s list of “The Top 10 BFA Musical Theatre Programs in the Country for 2016-17.”
The Pop/Rock School
For musical theatre students, Shenandoah Conservatory is known as the “pop/rock” school, according to the New Haven, Connecticut-based blog with more than 82,000 Facebook likes and a weekly readership of more than two million, according to its website. OnStage notes that Shenandoah boasts the only musical theatre BFA program with faculty devoted to the pop/rock genre.
“Being named to any Top 10 list is always an honor, and it will certainly enhance our reputation among prospective students. To make Shenandoah a training program for true Musical Theatre Triple Threats [as singers/actors/dancers] is the goal,” said Kevin Covert, B.F.A., Shenandoah’s director of musical theatre and assistant professor of theatre. “Being the pop/rock school gives us an advantage. We train in that area vigorously while also emphasizing contemporary musical theatre and the Golden Age. Our students get it all!”
Strong Career Prep
Additionally, Covert said, “We are striving to make the curriculum more fluent and focused on post-college readiness, really emphasizing audition techniques in song, acting and dance.” The latter is getting a boost, with more required dance training being added to the program’s curriculum, Covert added. Even greater emphasis will also be placed on reality and truth in terms of song interpretation and acting. Shenandoah musical theatre students do receive training in the Meisner acting technique, studied by the conservatory’s acting students.
The OnStage blog list also pointed out how Shenandoah offers a Prep for the Profession class, which teaches students how to market themselves and run their own careers. It covers resume and cover letter writing, contract negotiations, website creation, social media management, and more.
Current musical theatre students are also studying with Shenandoah’s top-notch faculty, which includes the “Broadway Three”: Covert, who appeared in the original Broadway productions of “Spamalot,” and “Memphis” and the original Broadway revival cast of “How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying;” Theatre Division Music Director and Assistant Professor of Theatre Rick Edinger, M.A., who appeared in the 2004 revival of “Pacific Overtures,” and Assistant Professor of Jazz Dance and Musical Theatre Styles Jacob Brent, M.F.A., best known for his portrayal of Mr. Mistoffelees in the Broadway, London and DVD productions of “Cats.”
“The Broadway and industry experience that Rick, Jacob and I provide will be an incredibly important and valuable asset as we work to guarantee the ‘Shenandoah University musical theatre’ name is on everyone’s lips in New York and beyond,” Covert said. “I speak for everyone when I say that in addition to providing rigorous training for these students in our fields of expertise, we will all exhaust our resources outside of the university level to assist these musical theatre students in any way possible.”
Other highlights of Shenandoah’s program, as noted by OnStage:
- That it’s home to the Shenandoah Summer Music Theatre professional stock company, and the ongoing partnership with the Tony Award-winning Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia;
- A vibrant performance schedule, with two main-stage musicals and one black-box musical each year. All musical theatre students must audition for these shows, as well as for the three black-box plays and one main-stage play produced each year.
- That it’s an incubator for new work, with students forming off-campus companies, including Margin Theatre and Your Act Theatre.
- The rich culture of the conservatory, which produces more than 400 performances annually. (Also, following the publication of OnStage’s list, the conservatory announced the creation of two new innovation initiatives: the YouTube channel, Brink, and student development grants supporting student professional development and creating performances in nontraditional spaces in the Winchester, Virginia region.
- An alumni population that includes Jake Emmerling, Kathy Voytko, Sara Ruzicka King and Jessie Lee Hooker.
Want to know more about Shenandoah’s Musical Theatre program?
Visit us here, or come see a performance (check out the Conservatory Performs schedule). The fall 2016 musical, directed by Covert, with Edinger as musical director, is “Spring Awakening,” which runs from Sept. 30 through Oct. 2, 2016. The spring musical (with music direction by Edinger) is the classic, “Guys and Dolls,” which runs from Feb. 24 through Feb. 26, 2017.