Shenandoah’s Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre curriculum is designed for the talented performer who wishes to prepare for a professional career in musical theatre.
The curriculum provides a balance of theatre, music and dance study with practical applications.
We’re known as the “pop/rock” school because we offer the only program with faculty dedicated to the genre. We are pioneers in the training of healthy pop/rock singing for musical theatre performers; we are leaders in preparing our performers to think of themselves as small business owners; and we take immense pride in the professional connections we are able to help our students forge within the industry. We’re also the “business of the business” school because we teach a full course on branding and marketing and offer life and survival skills beyond the arts. In addition, Shenandoah is known as the “Meisner” school as one of the only undergraduate degree programs in the country to offer two full years of the Meisner acting technique.
You’ll receive full training in acting, voice, dance, music theory and general theatre studies, as well as business training.
The field of theatre—musical theatre in particular—is constantly changing and evolving, and Shenandoah Conservatory’s Musical Theatre Program is evolving as well. We are regularly reviewing our curriculum and comparing it with the demands of the industry to be sure that we provide the most cutting edge preparation for our students to go out and have long, successful careers in theatre.
Learn More About This Program
Benefits of our Program:
- Audition and repertoire preparation taught and reinforced throughout the curriculum.
- Business of the business course that teaches branding and marketing for the performer; life and money management skills; networking; and web design for artists.
- Senior showcase that involves bringing major agents and casting directors to campus over the course of several weekends, during which students get one-on-one workshop time on their material with the industry guests, thus forging a relationship with them.
- Partnerships with Musical Theatre Programs in Europe (Sweden, Denmark, Germany) providing students with exchange opportunities to study abroad.
- Hands-on preparation for participation in professional theatre conferences so that students are encouraged to go out and work in the summers.
- Shenandoah Summer Music Theatre (SSMT), our own professional stock company, which produces four major musicals each summer.
- Ongoing partnership with the Tony Award-winning Signature Theatre in Arlington, VA, which has provided a professional pipeline for many students.
- A robust and diverse season consisting of 8-10 productions.
In our challenging program, you’ll learn:
- a variety of acting and improvisational techniques
- musicianship in solo and ensemble performance
- dance technique in solo and ensemble performance
- how to perform a variety of repertoire
- how to perform in a variety of settings
- knowledge of theatre history, music theory and musical theatre history
- other disciplines within the field of theatre
- to express ideas orally and in writing
In addition, you’ll attend a variety of public performances and events.
Minor in This Program
Shenandoah Conservatory offers minors in Music, Theatre, and Dance for all Shenandoah University students. Acceptance into conservatory minors must be approved by the Division/Department Chair, and some minors require an audition.
Declaring a Minor
Shenandoah students work with their Academic Advisor to declare a minor. Academic Advisors will continue to work with students to ensure that they fulfill all of the requirements to complete the minor.
Incoming students should not indicate their intended minor on their Shenandoah application. Applications are for intended majors only.
Most, usually 70-90%, of our seniors graduate with a summer stock or full-year contract and move to New York City after their contract is complete. Students have gone on to performing careers on Broadway, off-Broadway, national and international tours, regional theatres, cruise ships, theme parks, renaissance fairs, outdoor dramas, educational theatre and TV/film. Off the stage you can find our alumni casting for theatre, television and film; working as agents; creating new works (film, theatre, and musical theatre); directing, music directing, choreographing, and running theatre companies. A few have gone on to careers outside of the performing arts, but the majority of our graduates find work related to their field.
Our Recent Alumni:
- Perform in Broadway shows, including Mary Poppins, The Phantom of the Opera, Next to Normal, Wicked, Hair, and others.
- Perform in Off-Broadway shows, including Sistas, ImaginOcean, Dear Edwina, Iron Curtain, and others.
- Perform on major national tours, including Legally Blonde, Fiddler on the Roof, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Hair, Cats, The Wizard of Oz, and others.
- Perform in the Washington, D.C. market at theatres such as Signature Theatre, Studio Theatre, The Washington Savoyards, and others.
- Perform regionally in professional theatres such as Flat Rock Playhouse, Charleston Stage, Thin Air Theatre, and Great Plains Theatre.
- Have won Tony Awards for producing theatre in New York as well as Helen Hayes Awards for performing in Washington, D.C.
- Have networks in Chicago and Los Angeles in addition to New York City and Washington, D.C.
Students have gone on to performing careers on Broadway, off-Broadway, national and international tours, regional theatres, cruise ships, theme parks, renaissance fairs, outdoor dramas, educational theatre and TV/Film. Off the stage you can find our alumni casting for theatre, television, and film; working as agents; creating new works (film, theatre, and musical theatre); directing, music directing, choreographing, and running theatre companies. A few have gone on to careers outside of the performing arts, but the majority of our graduates find work related to their field.
- Roman Banks ’21 – Dear Evan Hansen on Broadway
- Emma Benson & Zachary Bigelow ’18 – National Tour of Something Rotten!
- Jordan McCaskill ’17 – Australian Company of The Book Of Mormon
- Jake Emmerling ’11 – National Tour of Book of Mormon
- Jenny Ravitz ’11 – Casting Director for Chicago Fire, Chicago PD, and Chicago Med
- Kathy Voytko ’94 – Tuck Everlasting on Broadway
- Sara Ruzicka King ’07 – Beautiful: The Carole King Musical on Broadway
- Elizabeth Wyld ’13 – International Tour of Hair
- Nate Huntley ’14 – International Tour of Hair
- Ryan Green ’12 – National Tour of Flashdance
- Nick Morgan ’15 – National Tour of Wizard of Oz
- Jessie Lee Hooker ’10 – numerous national tours, regional theatre and off-Broadway performances. Also a member of the USO Show Troupe
- Harold Perrineau ’82 – Lost
Nick Nerangis ’04 is currently the lead male actor in “Spent,” a full-length film noir that premiered in Los Angeles in October. Nerangis’ most rewarding experience was being awarded the Best Actor Award at the World Music and Independent Film Festival.Nerangis’ advice to future students is, “You will succeed in a very competitive field only if you set your goals and pursue them with every fiber of your being.”
Winning an Academy Award is an actor’s dream, and SU Musical Theatre major Dorian Davis ‘20 has the chance to achieve just that. Dorian is featured in “My Nephew Emmett” based on the 1955 murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till. The film is an Oscar nominee for Best Live Action Short Film. Dorian will be attending the 90th Oscar’s on March 4th in Los Angeles, California in the hopes of winning an Oscar.
Our hands-on approach to training the whole performer/artist is unique. We cater to the individual and you’ll feel like an individual, not a number. Our program is challenging, yet still nurturing to the individual.
Training In Acting
- Four-year curricular track that includes Meisner training as well as other Stanislavski derivatives, a three-semester Acting Through Song sequence, Shakespeare, and Acting for the Camera coursework.
- Regular availability of faculty for private coaching.
Training In Voice
- Four years of weekly private voice studio.
- Classical foundation applied to the contemporary needs of the musical theatre performer.
- One year of pop/rock/country/R & B styles training under a vocal pedagogy and physiology expert for healthy singing technique as well as microphone training.
- Repertoire that reflects the unique and specific audition needs of the individual student.
Training In Dance
- Foundational work in ballet, jazz, and tap.
- A one-year Musical Theatre Dance Styles sequence in which students learn choreography from the history of musical theatre up to the present day.
- Opportunities for advanced dancers to perform concert dance as well as musical theatre dance.
Freshmen Year Experience
The freshmen are immediately immersed in our one-of-a-kind undergraduate Meisner curriculum. Designed by J.J. Ruscella and Larry Silverberg, the curriculum adapts the technique for college-age actors to unify all performance majors with a common language and technique.
Sophomore Year Experience
At the end of the sophomore year, students take their first acting through song course where they learn how to apply the Meisner work in song.
Junior Year Experience
In the junior year students take Prep for the Profession where they learn how to be an entrepreneur-artist. In this class they learn how to create a resume, write cover letters, negotiate contracts, create a website, manage their social media, and create online video content. They also explore cities other than New York that may hold opportunities for them to pursue their unique interests.
Senior Year Experience
During the senior year, all musical theatre majors switch to the voice studio of Matthew Edwards where they learn how to sing pop/rock styles. Students begin their exploration in the 50’s and travel through the decades and styles during the fall semester. In the spring, the students get to pick their focus (pop/rock and/or musical theatre) and work on perfecting their audition book and preparing for agent and casting director auditions.
Learning support services are available to all students in every course at Shenandoah. Free peer tutoring with a student who has previously succeeded in the course is available for any course across the university. The Writing Center is available for every stage of the writing process from thesis development to proofreading and bibliography assistance. The Math Enrichment Center is available for math and science assistance. Professors and Academic Advisors across the university also have office hours and open door policies to ensure Shenandoah students succeed academically.
Performance Opportunities and Ensembles
Shenandoah offers numerous performance and travel opportunities, and connects you to the industry by bringing in guests from well-known musical theatre hotspots such as New York, D.C., and L.A.
There are two main stage musicals each year and one black box musical that all students (freshmen through seniors) are required to audition for. There are also three black box plays and one main stage play that musical theater majors are required to audition for. If a students is not cast in an academic production, there are numerous student produced performance opportunities including: directing projects, student playwrights performances, The Loaf improv troupe, Shut-up Its Shakespeare, and the student film club. Students have also formed their own theatre companies off-campus (Margin Theatre and Your Act Theatre) as well as web series, most recently The Dream Team.
Shenandoah Conservatory produces more than 400 performances each year. Enroll in a dynamic curriculum and start preparing for a meaningful career in the arts. You will practice your craft in front of audiences and develop a plan for your professional launch into the industry that focuses on your personal desires and aspirations.
Embrace extensive performance opportunities with top-tier facilities from theatres, concert halls and dance studios. Unite with fellow artists and join an alumni family that takes center stage from Broadway to the concert halls of Europe.
Shenandoah Conservatory is home to more than 20 instrumental, vocal, and dance ensembles that present numerous performances every year. These performances take place throughout Shenandoah University’s vibrant campus on its various stages, including a concert hall, recital hall, proscenium stage, black box studio, outdoor amphitheater and more, to venues and performance spaces in the Northern Shenandoah Valley and around the world. Ensembles constantly engage with Shenandoah’s dynamic faculty and an array of distinguished guest artists through residencies, workshops and unique performance opportunities.
Experience the world-renowned Shenandoah Conservatory. Study with master teachers – more than 100 professionals in music, theatre, dance and arts management.
Shenandoah Conservatory’s prestigious faculty is dynamic, creative, and passionately committed to the highest levels of artistic excellence. A deeply caring community, they mentor students with a wealth of professional expertise, balancing rigorous expectations with compassion and wisdom. At Shenandoah, you will study with, and perform for, Broadway veterans, professional performers, scholars and pedagogues in the classroom, and the mounting of productions. Shenandoah Conservatory’s faculty embodies the highest levels of professional accomplishment and the deepest commitment to furthering the artistic growth and creative aspirations of students in every discipline.
Visiting Music Director; Associate Professor, TheatreFull Biography
Coordinator of Musical Theatre Dance; Assistant Professor, Jazz DanceFull Biography
Coordinator for Recruitment; Assistant Professor, TheatreFull Biography
Coordinator of Musical Theatre Voice; Associate Professor, Voice (Baritone) and Musical Theatre Styles SpecialistFull Biography
Application and Audition Information
Shenandoah University works on rolling admissions. Applications are reviewed individually and holistically; however, the Musical Theatre program has additional requirements. See below for more information.
Submit your application, review required admissions materials, and find our admissions standards.
Admission to Shenandoah Conservatory’s Musical Theatre program is highly competitive. Not only must students be academically admissible, they must also complete a video pre-screening and live audition that evaluates acting, singing and dance in order to be considered for admission. The program seeks an incoming class of approximately 18 students per year. Audition dates are limited and may fill and close well in advance of the audition date.
Global Experiential Learning (GEL) Program
The Global Experiential Learning (GEL) Program offers Shenandoah students a short-term, faculty-led, study-abroad experience for academic credit. Each spring there is Musical Theatre GEL trip to New York City and London, England to experience the theatre scene! These short-term, credit-bearing, faculty-led programs are offered winter break, spring break, and during the summer. If a course is not within your major, it might be used as an elective.
Fast-Track to Arts Management
Accelerated PALM Program
The Master of Science in Performing Arts Leadership and Management is designed to provide future performing arts executives and artistic leaders with the industry skills required in the 21st century.
The accelerated program in Performing Arts Leadership and Management is available for current Shenandoah Conservatory undergraduates who, upon completion of their undergraduate degree, wish to obtain a Master of Science in Performing Arts Leadership and Management in just one year. Students who are accepted into the accelerated program will begin to take arts leadership and management courses during their undergraduate studies and register for internship during the summer between senior year and their final year of graduate study.