Hi! I haven't posted on here in quite some time and found myself stumbling back onto this website three years after coming to Ithaca. I am a Junior MT currently studying in London. I don't know who your friends friends are, but that could not be further from the truth. Getting cast at Ithaca isn't as easy as you'd think, I'll warrant that. But it is definitely more than plausible and no way near impossible. I haven't seen a Musical Theatre major walk through the doors yet that hasn't been given a chance to shine onstage. They even cast many freshmen and acting majors in musicals, so I am not lying when I say everyone is fair game. It is a cut throat program, so I'm assuming your friend's friends may have been underclassmen who were not cast, or maybe even upperclassmen, but possibly were used to being cast in every role they wanted in high school so it came as a shock when you had to work 10 times harder for it in the world of Ithaca's program. Everyone is coming from being the star in high school, so it does become more challenging to get the roles you want, yes. Impossible, absolutely not! I have been cast in all 3 of the fall main stage musicals, Freshman-Junior year. I have not had a leading part in any of them, but I have been cast, so it is very hard for me to see how no one is being cast in the musicals, when my friends, although all talented, are of varying degrees of talent and are getting cast.
The good thing about the school is they try to give everyone a part before they leave, even if that means a musical theatre major has a lead role in a play. That, believe it or not, is sometimes more helpful to that particular person than a musical role could ever be! I promise you, the program gives students the opportunities to perform on the mainstage and off alike, and I'm going to squash that rumor right now because it is false.
To answer the other questions (trying not to go into TOO much detail, I dont want you to have to read this for hours! lol), I think the casting is fair as can be. As I said, they try to give everyone a chance to shine on the mainstage, and generally upperclassmen are the ones given that chance before they graduate, although, if there is a freshman who deserves the part- they give it to them. It is basically an equal playing field.
The program is definitely Acting Intensive the first two years. It is a conservatory program so there are few gen eds (4 to be exact in all of your years) to get in the way of the goal, to come out a refined performer. The music school is one of the best in the country and the voice teachers reflect that. I came into this program as mainly a singer, and then a dancer/actor. I now would callmyself an singer/actor (on an equal basis) followed by dancer-not at any fault to the program however, just my own suits! The acting training is among the finest, I can say that with the utmost confidence. The dance training at ithaca is great, I will say the teachers know what they are doing and care tremendously about the students. However, I must admitt that it does sit on the backburner to Acting/Singing because I believe the focus of the program is to produce leads, and not shell out the same stereotype of a chorus girl/boy. There is nothing wrong with programs that do this, and I love dancing and have had extensive training previous to college, but it boils down to the fact that if you come to Ithaca a dancer, you will remain a good dancer and will get better. If you come with no training whatsoever, you can graduate being able to make it, or fake it, through a broadway call.
The best thing about Ithaca is the sense of family and community the whole environment conveys. It is a beautiful thing, nothing like I have ever experienced. Everyone is super welcoming and generally wants everyone else around them to succeed. The teachers are encouraging and, although tough, know what is best for you as a student and as an artist. I wish you good luck at your audition next year and if there are any other questions you may have feel free to ask! : ).