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The Freshman Experience

austinmtmomaustinmtmom Registered User Posts: 2,356 Senior Member
edited September 2013 in Musical Theater Major
An idea came up on another thread that I thought was really good so I thought I would start this thread and see what happens.
Maybe I will have my son post a thread about "A day in the life.../A year in the life."

So, if you are a freshman in a BFA, BM or BA MT or Acting program (or some combination thereof program!) and would be willing to talk about what it really like on a day to day basis, please chime in. You can share as much as you like. The idea is share information now, while you are in the midst of living the freshman life, so those who are coming behind you can get a feel of what it's really like.

I really hope we will get responses from those in all types of programs and at lots of different schools. And while there are plenty of places on here to give a great "why my school/program is best" post, I hope this will be more of a "here's what my life as a freshman is really like" thread. :)

Here's the thread that got this idea going:
So here we go...
Post edited by austinmtmom on

Replies to: The Freshman Experience

  • wisdomsomehowwisdomsomehow Registered User Posts: 635 Member
    (only including theatre-relevant things)
    Semester 1 as a BA Theatre, MT minor at USC in LA
    Mon: wake up at 7 (ugh!) for my 8am acting class. Two hours with a great, talented group of young women (and one young man). Go to shop for three hours as the lab for my Intro to Theatrical Production class. Work on set pieces/props for upcoming shows.
    Tues: wake up at 7 again for Intro to Theatrical Production. This class is split into two semesters, a "crew" semester and a "shop" semester. This semester, I was in shop. We learn about the history of theatrical production, with a different focus, like lights, or sound, or costumes, etc. Three hour break, where I usually write up my homework for my Broadway class that afternoon and grab lunch. Text Studies for Production is at 12:30, with an amazing professor. In that class, we study a play a week, and talk about different ways they can be produced, focusing on language, characterization, staging, and plot. After that, I go to one of my general education classes, Types & Stereotypes of the American West in Literature & Film. It's about cowboys etc, not other countries' stereotypes of the US, like I thought when registering for classes, but it's a pretty good class, even though I'm not really a Western fan. Then I have a 40 minute break, when I usually got a snack, and go to my Broadway class, The Broadway Musical: Reflection of American Diversity, Issues, and Experiences, which also fills USC's diversity requirement, but I happen to love it. We cover the history of Broadway, from its origins up to Rent (though next semester I think she is adding American Idiot) and how the shows we study each week tackle different diversity issues like single parenthood, miscegenation, drug use, abusive partners, etc.
    Wednesday: Acting class again. I didn't particularly like my acting teacher this semester, but I think she was an anomaly--my other friends with different teachers had very different experiences. Then I usually head to Leavey Library to watch the musical we're studying that week in the Broadway class, and maybe the Western we're watching that week, if I haven't seen it already or it's not a book.
    Thursday: Text Studies for Production, Western class, and Broadway class again.
    Friday: Watch one of the campus improv groups, go to Text Studies discussion section, try to see a show that night.
    Saturday/Sunday: Try and see any shows I haven't already seen that weekend, study my lines for acting, do other miscellaneous homework.

    My schedule this semester was pretty free, which I enjoyed, and I took 18 units. I had free time, which I appreciated. First semester students cannot audition for school-wide shows, and I missed auditions for about half of the student productions due to another unmovable commitment, so I wasn't in a show this semester. :( But I'm fairly confident I would have had enough time to be in one.

    This semester will be different, because I'm only taking one class for my major, instead of three, like last semester. I'm taking two gen eds, and one for each minor (I'm also minoring in film). If I am cast in a school-wide show, I will also enroll in THTR 397 for 2 units, so I'll get upper division credits for being in a show. (USC offers a specific scholarship that covers the cost of carrying up to two additional units [for a total of 20] to people double majoring, majoring and minoring, or double degree with a GPA above 3.75 and already have at least 32 units [I brought in 28 from IB & AP, so I had 46 after this semester) This semester, though, I have awful Tuesdays, but no classes on Wednesdays, so I am hoping to work as an extra in the LA area on Wednesdays.
  • AlexaMTAlexaMT Registered User Posts: 604 Member
    I would first like to start this by pointing out I rarely have enough time to write a post like this, but the first day of classes for our Spring Semester were cancelled due to a snow storm that is teeny-tiny. But welcome to the South! So I'll use this as a good time to do this before I go to the scene shop to work on the set for "The Music Man". Anyway...

    A day in the life of a BFA Musical Theatre Major at Coastal Carolina University, Fall Semester - Freshman Year:


    Get up at 7:00 am, approximately, if I can get my butt up by then. If not, more like 7:30 and take a very quick shower. You have all 8:30 am classes your first semester- trying to put your mind/body in gear for the real world, I suppose. Or just forcing you into culture-shock. ;) At 8:30 I would have "Basics of Musicianship 1" which is our ear training, sight singing, music theory, and piano class all rolled into one ball of misery. I learned a lot, but it was a tough one at 8:30 am, and not everyone passed it. But if you worked hard enough B's and C's were definitely possible- I scooted out of their barely with an A after a good final exam grade (I had an 89.8 or something ridiculous like that). We are all much better piano-pluckers now, however, and we have the class pt 2 this semester so we'll just get even better! After that we attend "Vocal Bootcamp" which is currently (but maybe not the same in the next few years) how Freshman are introduced to the voice lessons at CCU. We were split into 3 groups (after a sing-in the first week of classes so the instructors can hear our voices) and work with the private voice faculty in groups until our juries at the end of the semester where we are then assigned our voice instructor. Most people enjoyed their experience in boot camp, and were taken into the studio of the person who conducted their class- with a few minor exceptions. After that we would run to "Principles of Dramatic Analysis" at 10:30 which is basically a play-reading class with some theatre technique such as marking a script and beats included. Then it's lunch time! Thank god. We all move in a pack of freshman MT's so the commons, eat, take a quick break if we can handle it, and then run back to the Edwards Building for "Master Class" where we watch upper classman perform (not just MT majors, but voice majors and music/instrumental majors as well) and are critiqued before they have to perform in Recital Hour on Wednesdays. We'll get to that. Fridays is Common Hour. We'll also get to that.


    Another bright and early morning of getting up at 7 am (or did that just turn into 8:15?) to rush to an 8:30 morning class. This was our day of Robin Russell! For some people it was also "Two-Class Tuesdays" which was awesome. While most people had their core credit class on Tuesday/Thursdays (which was usually an English of some kind), I opted out of all my English classes because of my score on the AP Lang/Lit test, so I only had 2 classes, and both were taught by the immaculate Robin Russell, an awesome acting teacher who is often assigned to poor, lost freshman at CCU. First we had FYE (or "First Year Experience") which is usually a boring class about how to write a paper, but is instead turned into a class about every life experience you never wanted to bring up with Robin Russell. We bonded so much and learned about all the other freshman theatre majors (BA and BFA alike) and one poor communications major (Football player!) who somehow ended up in that class. We made a music video, we did the "Last Lecture of Our Life", we ate smoothies and dunkin' donuts and most people cried- a lot. After that ball of emotion most people would go to their English class and then lunch, but myself and a few others would run to cut music for stage auditions (if it was a Thursday) or just hang out until our 2nd class in the afternoon. That little break was a great time to catch up on homework. At 1:00 we had Acting 1 with Robin Russell where we studied Uta Hagen and Stanislavski as well as some other methods. We worked on character development, beats, intentions, actions, verbs, portraying animals/colors/feelings, and everything else you can imagine. Definitely a hands-on class that also taught us a lot about ourselves (and how amazing Robin Russell is) and probably the class that helped most people grow and come out of their shells. Definitely one you'd have to experience to get. If it was Tuesday, then we were done! And we usually made frequent trips to Walmart to get stuff at that point, or hung around the theatre hall and the callboard to see what was new, went up to the theatre office to print off ANY SHEET MUSIC EVER off of Steven Gross' magical hard drive- or bugged Ken Martin about SOMETHING if you were me.


    Is the same as Monday, it's just that instead of attending "Master Class" we attend "Recital Hour" where everyone is required to perform at least once for your private voice class (after Freshman first semester) unless you are in a musical. For us freshman who didn't perform at that point, you got to watch upperclassman in awe one moment and then listen to the tuba play forEVER the next. The class is a mixed bag. I loved it because I enjoyed seeing the older MT majors perform to see where I'm going to be in a few years, and it was just like a free concert every Wednesday. Some people just found it exceptionally boring, but it's only 50 minutes so either way you can survive.


    Thursdays included the exact same crying fest as Tuesdays, but added the dreaded, most nerve-wracking class of the semester- Stage Auditions. After Acting 1 we'd have about 45 minutes to make ourselves look REALLY nice and professional (aka audition garb) and then we had stage auditions with the Musical Director, Steven Gross, who is too brilliant for words, but often a bit intimidating. One of my favorite classes (although the most pee-your-pants-inducing), Stage Auditions switches off every year between acting and voice and preparing you for what to do in a... well, stage audition. We worked on resumes, headshots, speaking, presenting yourself, clothes, hair, make up, professionalism, working with the pianist, identifying and writing your vocal range, how to organize your books... but mostly song selection. We, as BFA Musical Theatre majors, were required to have 2 contrasting songs (an uptempo and a ballad) from each "era" of musical theatre as defined for Steven. We first had "Big 5 and Beyond" with Porter, Gershwin, Hart and Hammerstein, Kern, and Berlin (etc.), and then we moved on to "The Golden Age" with composers like Bernstein, Jule Styne, Kurt Weill, etc. Then the last two sections we prepared for were "The Concept Musical" with Sondeheim, Kander & Ebb, Early Webber and Early Schwartz, and more. The last era was obviously "Contemporary" which was basically anything post-1985. The goal of this was to build a strong book that we can walk into any audition for any sort of musical with, and wow them with properly cut music and songs that are 200% so with nerves that they still come out at 100%. "Songalogs" were also required for every piece you performed (inside of stage auditions and in private lesson with Steven- you could sign up for one 15 minute session a week to work on whatever) so that you could always learn about "acting a song". And these dove DEEP into the song for a 16 bar cut. I know more than I thought I'd ever need to know about Squeaky Fromme. But it helps immensely. We also practiced performing for one another and learned how to mock each other’s voices and acting choices perfectly. We torture each other now with this, and people often do a great impression of me singing "Hostess' with the Mostes'" and doing a great shimmy at the end.


    Same as Monday and Wednesday, but with a theatre twist instead of a music twist at the end. At 1:30 we would go to Common Hour, which is where Ken Martin talks for a while, every instructor in the theatre department has SOME sort of announcement to make, and you take in too much information to remember, so you better bring a pen and pencil. All announcements and news updates are made here, we have talk-backs with the cast and crew of mainstage shows after they close, and sometimes (like this Friday when Steven Lutvak comes in!) we have guest instructors or performers who often do small master classes. This was also when they brought in someone to take our headshots, we had a small class on audition etiquette, and they even brought in a nutritionist to talk about diet and exercise and to get us on our soon-to-be started diet plans, which we are all very excited but groaning about. The commons has really good pizza! After the glory of common hour, most people stayed for UPstage meetings (which could be a WHOLE other thread I cannot even get into) which is the student-run theatre organization that puts on cabarets, the student-directed shows, dance concerts, improv performances, etc. After that there were 4 Fridays of dance calls for Stage Auditions class where we learned dances from the 4 earlier mentioned eras of Musical Theatre. Barbara Hartwig instructed it, and it was taught as an example of what a dance call for an audition would be- quick paced, all about looks and technique, and right to the point. We would then perform in small groups and get feedback from not only Barbara but the rest of the class about "Who would you cast?" Sometimes it was hard to hear, but it was good advice and I miss having that class already!

    After classes:

    When we are done with actual classes for the day, the day doesn't really stop. As MT Majors most of us try to take advantage of the resources that we have, so a lot of people then head off to the practice rooms to work on their songs or to the gym to keep in shape- I swear, we really do! Or we take a nap because we are so dead. But usually it's practicing, or swapping monologues, or sitting around (often whining about exhaustion) while watching musical movies. I was not in a show last semester, but if I had been I would have been able to do so, I believe. We had one freshman in a mainstage show and 2 freshmen in a 2-person cast, student directed production and they were tired, but survived. Rehearsals are typically 6-10. I worked a lot on the box office at the large auditorium on campus last semester as an usher, so that's where most of my free time went. We almost always have commons dinner at 6, and then head off to our separate things. If nothing else is going on, we attend yoga classes at night in a big hoard and scare people with our craziness, haha. It's very fun. Often there are student productions, or towards the end of every semester a lot of final presentations for classes (such as Directing scenes, Acting 1 Studio monologues, the seniors capstone projects) so we get to watch those which is a ton of fun. Then, most people go to bed decently early, unless it's Thursday-Saturday nights, but we don't need to talk about those. ;)

    So... there you go! Saturdays and Sundays are filled with way too much to even explain, but they are always a lot of fun. This semester (Freshman year, Spring 2011) I am taking Acting 1 Studio, Basics of Musicianship 2, Private Voice, Master Class/Recital Hour/Common Hour, Intro to Costuming, Intro to Ethics (my core class), and Ballet 1. I am also in the ensemble for "The Music Man" and playing Dinah Lord in "The Philadelphia Story" for 20 performances as well as participating in the Freshman Showcase (organized by the freshman, starring only the freshman, and performing new works from Musical Theatre), doing 50 required hours in the shop for costuming class, and working at least 10 hours a week. I'm going to die, basically. Glad I had time to fill this out before my semester of hell starts. But I wouldn't have it any other way. I love it here, I love all of the people, I love being busy, and I really love being "forced" to do what I love 24/7.

    If you have any specific questions, please ask! I plunged through this the best I could- attempting to give the best/most helpful information without overloading with too many unnecessary details. Feel free to PM me as well if you don't want to ask on here, I am always willing to help- questions about CCU or the audition process/MT process in general.
  • classicalbkclassicalbk Registered User Posts: 767 Member
    Wow. How exhausting but in a very good way! Thanks for that!
  • theatrelvrtheatrelvr Registered User Posts: 100 Junior Member
    WOW...thanks AlexaMT...it's great to see the details of your "normal" day...you guys sure are working hard but i am sure none of you would have it any other way! I'm glad you are loving CCU as much as my D! Congrats on a great freshman year so far!
  • mommusicmommusic Registered User Posts: 8,301 Senior Member
    Alexa--LOL about early rising and the real world! I thought Broadway Babies slept til noon! ;)

    Amazing, exhausting, interesting schedule!
  • AlexaMTAlexaMT Registered User Posts: 604 Member
    No problem everyone! Glad to see it's interesting to some. I find it interesting but I have to live it, not read about it.

    mommusic- Once you hit the big time, I'm sure that's true, but I know whenever I've gone to open calls/EPAs I have been up at the crack of dawn to sign up early on that sheet! :)
  • beenthereMTdadbeenthereMTdad Registered User Posts: 496 Member
    It would be great is someone can post a day in the life of a BA MT freshman so people can compare.
  • arrdadarrdad Registered User Posts: 192 Junior Member
    Thanks to wisdomsomehow and Alexa for sharing their experiences. Good stuff.
  • theatremommatheatremomma Registered User Posts: 500 Member
    Wisdomsomehow- Was there any audition to BA Theatre/MT minor? I understand there is only an audition for BFA? Did you audition for that? Is there and audition for MT at some point?
  • wisdomsomehowwisdomsomehow Registered User Posts: 635 Member
    There is no audition for the BA at USC. I think a lot of students audition for the BFA and are placed into the BA program, but I knew I couldn't be a BFA, because I wanted to study musical theatre and film. I offered to audition for them, but they said I didn't need to. I did do a phone interview in which I expressed considerable enthusiasm, though.

    Once I got here, I did audition for the musical theatre minor. It wasn't too bad, and it seems like the most of the people who auditioned got in. It's a pretty self-selecting program, though, I don't think more than 15 people auditioned.

    I'm currently in the middle of audition madness! I'm in a frenzy running to and from classes, my dorm, the cafeteria, the audition locations, and my sorority house (it's also recruitment time). It's crazy but that's my life. :)
  • theatremommatheatremomma Registered User Posts: 500 Member
    So you got in with just great grades and then were able to select MT classes? Are you from the So Cal area? Were you're grades 4.0 or higher? Sat?
  • nightingalnightingal Registered User Posts: 27 New Member
    Freshman BFA Musical Theatre Major at Otterbein University


    8-9:20 Western Civilization which is my Integrated Studies class (our one general education course for the quarter).
    9:30-10:50- Musical Theatre Dance, where we study a new style of musical theatre dance every two weeks.
    11-12:20- Modern Dance
    1-1:50- Fundamentals of Music, a keyboard and theory class created especially for musical theatre majors.
    2-3:50- Acting Class where we're currently working on Shakespeare sonnets and soliloquies.
    4-4:50- Freshman Musical Theatre Ensemble. A class that combines relevant musical theatre rep, acting, and choreography into a showcase for uniquely for the freshman class.
    5-6- Voice Studio. An opportunity for your voice studio to share what they've been working on in private lessons in order to get feedback, share ideas and show progress.


    9-10:50- Ballet Dance
    11-12:50- Tap Dance
    2-3:50- Speech, where we're learning the International Phonetic Alphabet to help with any speech issues and to prepare us to be able to learn any dialect.


    8-9:20 Western Civilization which is my Integrated Studies class (our one general education course for the quarter).
    9:30-10:50- Jazz Dance
    11-12:20- Modern Dance
    1-1:50- Fundamentals of Music, a keyboard and theory class, created especially for musical theatre majors.
    2-3:50- Acting Class where we're currently working on Shakespeare sonnets and soliloquies.
    4-4:50- Freshman Musical Theatre Ensemble. A class that combines relevant musical theatre rep, acting, and choreography into a showcase for uniquely for the freshman class.
    6-7- Private Voice Lesson


    9-10:50- Modern Dance
    11-12:50- Tap Dance
    2-3:50- Speech, where we're learning the International Phonetic Alphabet to help with any speech issues and to prepare us to be able to learn any dialect.


    8-9:20 Western Civilization which is my Integrated Studies class (our one general education course for the quarter).
    9:30-10:50- Jazz Dance
    11-12:20- Modern Dance
    1-1:50- Fundamentals of Music, a keyboard and theory class, created especially for musical theatre majors.
    2-3:50- Voice and Movement, where we study different techniques, including Alexander, Feldenchrist, and Fitzmorice to work on body awareness and vocal health.
    4-4:50- Freshman Musical Theatre Ensemble. A class that combines relevant musical theatre rep, acting, and choreography into a showcase for uniquely for the freshman class.

    If you're looking for an intense program with a lot of individual attention from amazing professors, Otterbein is a wonderful place to be. As one of 10 musical theatre majors I am confident that not only myself but all of my classmates will be prepared for real world of life after college. The head of our department, Dr. John Stefano personally post on College Confidential so if you ever have any questions he can always help.
  • wisdomsomehowwisdomsomehow Registered User Posts: 635 Member
    So you got in with just great grades and then were able to select MT classes? Are you from the So Cal area? Were you're grades 4.0 or higher? Sat?

    I did have pretty good grades (though I had two Cs from junior year and a handful of Bs). I am not from the Southern California area at all, I'm from the Washington, DC area, actually! But I was born out there, though we moved a long time ago. I believe my GPA was 3.73/4.05 uw/w when I applied and 3.78/4.09 when I graduated (full IB Diploma). My ACT was a 33 and my SAT was 2110 (740 CR, 690 M, 680 W). I had a lot of extracurriculars, including a major leadership position in one of them, and I expressed a lot of interest in theatre in my application and interview. Once I arrived, I took the Broadway class for fun, but it turns out it actually fulfills the diversity requirement that USC has and it is a required course for the MT minor. I auditioned for the minor & was accepted into it in mid-November. But for my private voice lessons, which I am starting this semester, I needed departmental clearance, which I was only able to obtain because I am an MT minor. Only music majors and minors can be in my class, MPVA 301, but I don't know whether non-Thornton (the music school) people can obtain D-clearance for other classes, like MPVA 153 or whatever. I know they can take group voice, though.

    Sorry if that's overly detailed, but the general gist is some classes for the MT minor have open registration, but others are restricted to only MT students or only music students or only theatre students.
  • theatremommatheatremomma Registered User Posts: 500 Member
    Great Info. Thanks! I think your route is a great option. My son just needs to keep his grades up and do well on the SAT.
  • mema123mema123 Registered User Posts: 92 Junior Member
    What a fun thread! This is a great idea. Really interesting to see what students at other programs do on a daily basis.


    MONDAY (General ed day)
    8-9:15: Writing the Essay- Art and the World. Very challenging and time consuming but also very interesting (I had a great professor). Since the class is only for Tisch students, there is a focus on studying and writing about art. We review movies, analyze visual art, listen to songs, and have a lot of discussions. My class only had 12 people in it, so it was very intimate and discussion-based. Very interesting to connect the art form that we are studying to the world around us. Also nice to meet kids from other Tisch programs-everyone is so talented!

    10-11: Private Voice-Hour long private vocal coaching with local instructors (all of them are AMAZING). We spend about 20 minutes doing warm-ups and vocal exercises, 20 minutes doing classical music, and 20 doing music theater (I come from a classical training background so this was important to me)

    12:30-1:45: Intro to Theater Studies- Basic background to the academic aspect of theater, required of all Tisch drama students. We read a lot of plays and had a lot of discussions and in-class presentations. Again, a small class allowed for very in-depth work.

    TUESDAY (Studio)
    9-10:15: Yoga- Basic yoga class. REALLY helpful in allowing the body to feel grounded and relaxed, made dance classes much easier. Also allows for a nice relaxation time. (Next semester I am taking Eskrima, Spanish martial arts, instead of yoga-we switch off)

    10:30-11:45: Contemporary dance- Mix of Latin, Modern, contemporary movements. Huge focus on rhythm, the beat, drums. We have learned 3 or 4 routines in the first semester and have also focused on building technique. First half or so of class is a warm-up/muscle-building workout, then we take a short break and do the routines.

    11:45-12:30: Lunch

    12:30-1:45: Song Performance- Taught by Tony winner Sutton Foster. We have focused a lot on acting a song and also exploring creativity. She generally gives us an assignment (bring in a song that represents you, etc.) and then we perform them and she workshops it with us. Very interesting work.

    2-3:15: Sight-Singing- Learning the fundamentals of rhythm, intervals, pitches, etc. as they relate to sight reading a piece of music. Tough class, but everyone has improved immensely.

    3:30-6: Acting- Oh, acting. It's intense, but often pretty incredible. We began with basic self-exploration exercises, moved on to meisner repetition and variations on it, and are now doing scenes. We are required to keep a journal and do a lot of reading so it's pretty time consuming, but it's so worth it. NSB believes that strong acting is imperative to the success of any MT performer, which is why it's twice as long as our other classes.

    WEDNESDAY (general ed)

    exactly the same as monday, with no voice lesson

    THURSDAY (Studio)
    9-10:15- Yoga again, same thing

    10:30-11:45- Ballet. This is a basic introduction to ballet- a lot of the students are more advanced then this class teaches (our dance classes aren't leveled as of yet), but the rest of us are developing a pretty solid technique. We do a lot of barre work and short combinations, and we also just had the project of choreographing and performing a short piece ourselves.

    11:45-12:30- Lunch

    12:30-1:45- Music Theory- Our teacher is AWESOME. One of the most musically intelligent and talented people I have ever met. This is meant as an intro to theory, and again some students are more advanced, but even for them it is a fun and educational class.

    2-3:15- Small Group Voice- We generally get assigned a song by our professor, workshop it, and then do a final performance. We've had some pretty cool people drop in to give us feedback on our final performances- Anthony Rapp, Cheyenne Jackson, Mandy Gonzalez, Karen Olivo, and Shoshana Bean among others. We also do small ensemble pieces, focusing on harmonies, blending, etc.

    3:30-6- Acting again, same thing

    FRIDAY (studio half-day)
    9-10:15- Speech- We are learning International Phonetic Alphabet, and we just did a dramatic reading of a poem for our final. We focus a lot on the physicality of speech and we do a lot of great warm-ups and things like that.

    10:30-11:45- Broadway Dance Styles- Again, we spend about half the time doing a warmup/workout and half the time learning routines. Right now we are working on the original broadway choreography for All That Jazz. We just did Nicest Kids in Town from Hairspray- it's a really fun class. Our dance teacher, Byron Easely, is BRILLIANT.

    11:45-1- Lunch

    1-2: Keyboard- Basic piano. Split into levels. We have a room full of keyboards and we just plug in our headphones and play whatever we want to work on. It's a very fun and relaxing way to end the week.

    WOW that was long, but I hope that gives an idea of what we're doing over here at NYU! I'm sure there's something I left out, so if anyone else wants to chime in or ask questions, go for it!
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