NAMT members Baldwin Wallace University, Pace University, and the NYU Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program are discussed in this great article from American Theatre that looks at how musical theatre training is changing to meet the demands of the current marketplace.
Meanwhile in Berea, Ohio, another school has adapted to the changing marketplace, though in a slightly different way. At Baldwin Wallace University’s Conservatory of Music, musical theatre students take an additional year of music theory and piano and graduate with a bachelor of music in musical theatre rather than a bachelor of fine arts, since the latter degree doesn’t exist at the conservatory. The program has morphed in other ways: Seven years ago, it beefed up the dance curriculum, scheduling additional dance classes and making all dance classes longer. Students now participate in “ballet boot camp,” which consists of 7 a.m. ballet classes four days a week. Still, the central emphasis is on the “musical” part of musical theatre. As program director Victoria Bussert puts it, “Our students have advanced musical training that has served them very well in making their careers.”
Some of these changes were discussed at a panel at this year’s Fall Conference on the challenges of making a living (and having a life) while working in theatre. The educators on the panel shared stories of their students creating their own work rather than waiting for the proverbial phone to ring.
Instead of encouraging students to follow this old script, programs are now aiming to prepare students for the current market, in which actors increasingly write their own shows, classically trained singers must master hip-hop dance breaks, and dancers are expected to act. From performance to playwriting, it is the interdisciplinary artist that is now the goal of educators.
What opportunities will NAMT member theatres have for these students — both onstage and off — when they graduate?