Background: My daughter is a brunette mezzo-soprano with good dance instincts but very little formal dance training. Private voice lessons since age 8, started musicals in middle school and took various classes and summer camps at local theaters over the years. Only had an acting coach starting senior year to get ready for college auditions. Very strong vocally, All-State Choir selection, and the featured soloist chosen by the director. Talented natural actress with a strong stage presence. A very average student academically and her only extracurriculars are theatre and choir-related.
Due to covid making her question her future plans, didn’t actually decide to go full-bore for a BFA in MT until the middle of August so we didn’t get much of a head start on audition season. After doing the typical online research we came up with an initial application list of 15 schools, but looking back this first list was much too top-heavy. It was all lottery schools like Michigan, CMU, Penn State, etc and only 1 school we considered a safety. Our original dream scenario was to apply to all the EA schools and get things locked up before Christmas and not even have to go to Unifieds. LOL. Early on, the pre-screen rejects started coming fast and furious from all of the top choices like Elon, Syracuse, etc. We started to realize that we had applied to way too few schools so as each pre-screen reject came in, we just added 2-3 more schools to the list since most of the essays were just copy-paste deals and required the same pre-screen materials. We basically went crazy and applied to almost every BFA program in the country.
Her first audition was with BW at the end of October and then we traveled to Emerson at the beginning of November. She loved the school and the audition process and claimed that this was her dream school and that she had crushed the audition. Since it was an EA school and my wife works in Boston 2 weeks a month we figured this would be the one and we would be done. This was not the one and we would not be done.
Throughout November our prescreen results always stayed about 50% so we were happily booking auditions for January and February, trying to find a balance of virtual and in-person so as to try different formats and protect from illnesses. December was a tough month because we continued to get pre-screen rejects at the same time the full-rejects started coming in from those early audition schools like Emerson, Belmont, and BW so we added even more schools. My wife and I were panicking that after all of this my D might not get a single offer so application fees just started piling up into the thousands. We wanted to finish the process with choices, to be able to pick between a few quality schools so we decided to overwhelm the process with sheer volume. A few more auditions in December of varying quality as everyone started to panic about how the new Covid spike was going to impact live auditions. We did not get the desired pre-xmas offer.
Her first BFA offer did come on January 13 from Viterbo, a target school we had identified very early on as a good fit and likely admit. Although it wasn’t a high choice given how close it was to our home, it was an amazing feeling going into the tough final stretch with a high-quality offer in her pocket.
Traveled to Coastal Carolina in January for a great day of auditioning and this emerged as a child and parent favorite due to the program but also the campus and that great beach location. At one point we were traveling almost every weekend and piling up the frequent flyer miles. Able to knock out 3 schools at the Tampa Combined Auditions and have a mini-vacation with the whole family. The highlight here was the Molloy/Cap21 audition with Rebecca Overton, who was just magical to deal with and puts most everyone else to shame with her positivity. This industry needs more shining lights like her.
Early February brought the Chicago Unifieds where she had 6 scheduled auditions over 2 days and also added 4 walk-ins, so 10 total felt like a good use of our time. For those days, she definitely got stronger as the day wore on and all of her afternoon auditions went almost perfectly. Felt like she absolutely killed the Arizona and Miami auditions but somehow those did not result in offers. By far though, her best audition experience was with Mark Hardy from Montclair on her last day in Chicago. She herself was in top form after 9 other auditions but Mark also made her feel amazing and told her immediately that he was interested in her both as a performer and a person. She walked out beaming and claimed that “I’m going to Montclair.” The end of Unifieds finished up a stretch of 20 auditions in 30 days, with just a few more stragglers to finish up in February.
Mark Hardy held true to his word, and 2 days after returning from Chicago the BFA offer came from Montclair. It’s hard to explain to parents that haven’t gone through this process how important it is to feel actually wanted by a program. Sure it’s very nice to get an offer from any program given the competitive nature of the business, but for a school to show a genuine interest in your child’s talents and then to follow through aggressively on that interest is far more important than how high the school is ranked. It just feels so good to be wanted, which is why waitlists always seem like a huge letdown to me. Many schools will take you, but how many WANT you?
One important note is that miraculously she stayed 100% healthy for every audition. Not for a single one of her 29 auditions was she ever less than 100% vocal health. I’ll never understand how given her less than stellar health history, but I think mask-wearing in schools during this time was a godsend in keeping her healthy. She did get sick, but somehow she was always ill when it didn’t matter. We were very, very lucky.
March brought 3 more BFA acceptances from Illinois Wesleyan, LIU-Post, and SCAD along with a whopping 7 waitlists. With those in hand, we made plans to visit all those we could over spring break. Viterbo is only 2.5 hours away so that made for an easy day trip and they hosted us for a great day, visiting classes and meeting with the faculty and current students. If it wasn’t for my D’s desire to get out of the midwest this would have been an excellent choice at a great price. The following week, we traveled to NYC and visited waitlisted schools MSM, MMC, Molly/CAP along with LIU. These were mostly just generic visits but wanted to at least see them in person so that we could compare them all with our final stop of the entire process, Montclair.
We visited Montclair on an absolutely beautiful sunny Friday and the campus and surrounding area immediately impressed. Just beautiful and clean and modern. We were so happy as a family to get to meet program director Mark Hardy in person and have him lead us around campus all day. He showed us absolutely everything, introduced us to students, let us sit in on classes, and allowed us to see their world premiere workshop of new material. We were all walking around campus just giggling with excitement. The school was just perfection to us. Honestly, I’m still unsure how a public university can afford such state-of-the-art facilities compared to some of the other programs we visited. My wife kept begging us to play it cool and just think about things after we got home, but my D and I were like “What exactly are we waiting for?” It checked all our boxes: NYC location, beautiful campus, state-of-the-art facilities, affordable tuition, engaging faculty, national reputation, availability of flights due to being from out-of-state. We stopped in the bookstore, bought our merch, took the fun photos we’d been waiting 8 months for, made the long-awaited social media posts, and we were DONE.
In the end, we ended up applying to 45 schools (42 auditioned BFA and 3 non-audition BA)
Prescreens - 14 passed out of 27
Total auditions - 29
Accepted (5): Montclair State BFA MT (Live Chicago), LIU-Post BFA MT (Live Chicago walk-in), Viterbo BFA MT (Virtual), Illinois Wesleyan BFA MT (Virtual), SCAD BFA PA (Live Chicago walk-in)
Waitlists (7): Molloy CAP21 BFA MT, Marymount Manhattan BFA MT, Manhattan School of Music BM MT, Wright State BFA MT, U of MN/Guthrie BFA Acting, Coastal Carolina BFA MT, Nazareth BFA MT
Pre-screen pass (14): Emerson, Point Park, Carnegie Mellon, Millikin, Coastal Carolina, Shenendoah, Roosevelt, Oklahoma City, Molly/Cap21, Nazareth, Arizona, Manhattan School of Music, UM Guthrie, Illinois Wesleyan
Pre-screen fail (13): Indiana, Oklahoma, Penn St, Michigan, Florida St, Pace, Syracuse, Ithaca, Otterbein, Elon, BoCo, Hartt, CCM
Rejected after audition: NYU Tisch, Baldwin Wallace, Webster, Ball St., Belmont, UNCSA, UArts, Emerson, Point Park, Carnegie Mellon, Millikin, Shenandoah, Roosevelt, Oklahoma City, Arizona, Miami, Western Michigan.
BA acceptances: Cornell College, Columbia College
BA waitlist: Mulhlenberg
Final Decision: BFA Musical Theatre Montclair State University