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.
Established in 1973, the Shenandoah Conservatory musical theatre program is the second oldest in the country. We offer a comprehensive curriculum designed around current industry practice with a focus on contemporary methods of storytelling. Although we are known as “the pop/rock school,” we actually focus on all genres and periods of musical theatre. The best part is, you will learn from some of the nation’s best pedagogues, including five Broadway veterans who know what it is like to work at the highest level of the profession.
Admission to the Shenandoah Conservatory musical theatre family is highly competitive, but if chosen, you will have the experience of a lifetime and leave not only a better artist, but also a better person. The tabs below will help you learn more about our program and faculty. When you are ready to apply, visit our Admissions page to submit your prescreen. We look forward to meeting you and getting to know you and your work!
Minor in Theatre
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.
Career Preparation and Alumni
Most (usually 70–90%) of our seniors graduate with a summer stock or full-year contract, and then 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. Here are just a few examples of our successful alumni:
BROADWAY AND NATIONAL TOURS
Dear Evan Hansen (Garrett Long and Roman Banks*)
Kinky Boots (Kelsee Sweigard)
Beautiful: The Carole King Musical (Sara King and Jessie Hooker Bailey)
Once On This Island (Anthony Wayne)
Waitress (Jessie Hooker Bailey)
Tootsie (Anthony Wayne)
Wicked (Laura Woyasz)
The Book Of Mormon (Jake Emmerling, Jordan McCaskill)
The Phantom Of The Opera (Kris Koop, Aaron Galligan Stierle)
Something Rotten (Ian Campayno, Emma Benson, Zachary Bigelow)
Cinderella (Lauren Monteleone)
Jersey Boys (Mauricio Perez)
Fun Home (Garrett Long)
Next To Normal (Tony Award Nominee J. Robert Spencer-Best Actor in a Musical, Kathy Voytko)
A Gentleman’s Guide To Love And Murder (Kathy Voytko)
Anything Goes (Anthony Wayne)
Pippin (Anthony Wayne)
Ragtime (Aaron Galligan Stierle)
South Pacific (Garrett Long)
Hair (Sara King)
The Pirate Queen (Kathy Voytko)
The Frogs (Kathy Voytko)
Nine (Kathy Voytko)
Oklahoma! (Kathy Voytko)
Evita (Kathy Voytko)
How The Grinch Stole Christmas (Aaron Galligan Stierle)
Legally Blonde (Jessie Hooker)
Jekyll & Hyde (Mark Alpert)
Side Show (J. Robert Spencer)
Cats (J. Robert Spencer)
Chicago (Ian Campayno)
The Wizard Of Oz (Ashleigh Thompson)
Thoroughly Modern Millie (Gregg Goodbrod)
White Christmas (Aaron Galligan Stierle)
Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert (Anthony Wayne)
A Chorus Line (Erika Conaway)
Memphis (Erika Conaway)
Sister Act (Nick Cirillo)
Flashdance the Musical (Ryan Neal Green)
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat (Marc Ciemiewicz)
Footloose (Marc Ciemiewicz)
Les Miserables (Nigel Huckle)
Legally Blonde (Lauren Monteleone)
Hair (Nate Huntley, Liz Wyld)
Rent (James Schoppe)
We also have alumni working in TV and film, as agents and casting directors, composers, singer-songwriters, and in many other aspects of the theatre both on and off-stage.
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. Students have acting and dance courses every semester along with a 50-minute private voice lesson. There are six courses taken outside of the conservatory that are designed to expand students’ minds about the world. Students, including freshmen, are required to audition for all musicals and plays every semester.
Stanislavsky is the base upon which all modern acting techniques are built. His American successors, including Uta Hagen, Lee Strasberg, and Meisner built on his core concepts to adapt the techniques for various types of theatre and on-camera work. In order to ensure that every student in our program receives consistent training, we have designed a one-of-a-kind Meisner training program for our students. We believe this drill-based training system helps students hone their instinct, making them more effective in a wide range of styles. To make sure our graduates are well rounded, beginning in their sophomore year they also study a wide array of other techniques including Uta Hagen, Stanislavsky, and Chekhov just to name a few. We also offer an Acting for the Camera course since many musicals are now being filmed and/or broadcast live on television. Additionally students further their exploration of diverse approaches to storytelling through student-run groups including Shut up its Shakespeare, Playwrights, The Loaf Comedy Improv Group, and many others.
Even if you are the best singer/actor in the world, it can be difficult to catch a break if you do not know how to nail a dance call. That is why we have designed our curriculum with two tracks for dancers: an advanced track and a mover track. Movers can switch into the advanced track as needed, but the goal is to give both skill levels the individual attention they need to succeed in this business. Students take a dance class every semester and cover ballet, jazz, tap, and musical theatre styles over the course of their four years. Elective classes are also available, allowing students to customize their training to fit their needs.
If you listen to the way revivals are performed today, it is a very different approach than used in the original productions (listen to a few examples here). Therefore, we train students to perform the classics with a contemporary approach so that they can be competitive upon graduation. While the classics are great, research from our Janette Ogg Voice Research Center shows that 55% of New York City auditions ask for a contemporary pop or pop/rock audition song. It is because of the shifting industry standards that we were the first school to fully embrace pop/rock vocal training. Students spend the first three years of their training focusing on traditional and contemporary musical theatre repertoire. In the freshmen year, they take a vocal styles course to learn how to stylize songs from all the genres they will encounter as a musical theatre performer. They also have the opportunity to work with their teacher on pop/rock songs for auditions and assignments in acting through song. To compliment their coursework, we program our season to include a wide range of traditional, contemporary and pop/rock repertoire so they can put those skills to use. In the fourth year, students work with Matt Edwards one-on-one for an in-depth study of pop/rock styles. To train singers to be this versatile, our voice faculty use an evidence-based, functional approach to vocal training. This is the way speech language pathologists and NYC’s top musical theater voice teachers train their clients. Finally, we take vocal health very seriously and are happy to say that new vocal injuries caused by misuse are non-existent in our program.
All of the skills above may help you land the job of your dreams, but then you need to know how to keep it and pay your bills. Through workshops, masterclasses, and our Prep for the Profession course, students leave Shenandoah thinking of themselves as a small business. By graduation, they have a website that is coordinated with their headshot, resume, and a strong social media presence. They know how to contact agents and casting directors, how to find and interpret casting calls, the benefits and pitfalls of unions, and how to navigate a lifelong career in the arts.
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, Washington, 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 theatre 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.
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. While we do accept transfers, students should expect to spend four years at Shenandoah for this degree due to the four-year progression of dance and acting classes.
Meet the Faculty
Faculty are the most important component of a student’s education. That is why we have put together a team of some of the best pedagogues and working professionals in the business.
Kevin Covert, Director of Recruitment and Charles B. Levitin Chair of Musical Theatre, is a long-time Broadway veteran who is excited to have returned to his hometown to join the Shenandoah University faculty. Covert has performed on Broadway in “How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying,” the Tony Award winning productions of “Memphis” and “Spamalot,” and in national tours of “Oklahoma!,” “CATS,” “South Pacific,” and “Grand Hotel.” In addition, he has been an associate choreographer for the pre-Broadway productions of “In Your Arms,” “Funny Girl,” and the Broadway production of “South Pacific.”
Patrick Brady is a Tony and Grammy Award-winning music director who is world-renowned for his work on the Broadway, West End, Australian, and film versions of “The Producers.” In addition to his work on “The Producers,” he also music directed and/or conducted the Broadway productions of “Young Frankenstein,” “Fosse,” “Triumph of Love,” “King David,” “Big,” “Crazy for You,” and “Nick & Nora.” You can hear his work on the cast recordings of Big, Triumph of Love, Nick and Nora, Young Frankenstein, Fosse, Closer than Ever, and the film and Broadway versions of “The Producers.”
Coordinator of Musical Theatre Dance, Jacob Brent, is best known for playing Mr. Mistoffelees in the Broadway, West End, and movie version of “CATS.” He has also choreographed off-Broadway (“Matthew Passion,” “The Ticket,” “Jackie’s Kosher Christmas,” regionally (Diablo Theater Company, Merry Go Round Playhouse, Indianapolis Symphony, South Bay Music Theatre, Weston Playhouse), and for the national tour of “Frankly Ben.’
We are also fortunate to have Mary Robare (Broadway productions of “Wind in the Willows,” “Singing’ in the Rain,” “On Your Toes,” “Little Me”), and Shylo Martinez (Broadway Tours of “Wicked” and “Movin’ Out”) on our adjunct dance faculty.
Coordinator of Musical Theatre Voice, Matt Edwards, authored “So You Want to Sing Rock ‘N’ Roll” and over twenty other articles and book chapters on training vocal athletes for musical theatre and commercial styles. In the last nine years, he has given over 100 presentations, masterclasses, and workshops for performers and teachers throughout the world. As Artistic Director of the Contemporary Commercial Music (CCM) Vocal Pedagogy Institute he has trained hundreds of voice teachers, many of whom are on the faculty of major musical theatre programs.
Not only are our faculty transformative educators, they are also great mentors who love building personal connections with students. Students are urged to adopt a growth mindset and are motivated by the positive atmosphere created by the faculty. Finally, with more than 50 years of collective Broadway experience, their connections to the top level of the industry are second to none.
We also frequently bring casting directors and agents to campus for workshops. Recent guests include alumnus Zachary Durand (Agent, Talent House NYC), alumna Jenny Ravitz (Casting Director, “Chicago PD,” “Chicago Fire,” and “Chicago Med”), Steve Bebout (Associate Director, Broadway productions of “Book of Mormon,” “Something Rotten!,” “Sister Act,” “The Addams Family”), Jamie Harris (Agent, Clear Talent Group), Joe Barros (Artistic Director, NY Theatre Barn), Alison Franck (Alison Franck Casting), Marcia Milgrom Dodge (Director, “Ragtime” on Broadway), Justin Bohon (Casting Director, Binder Casting), Kirsten Walther (Agent, CESD Talent Agency), and many more. In short – students get to learn from the best of the best.
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.