Standardizing college theatre / musical theatre auditions

@NewJeffCT Thank you, my daughter is thrilled to be heading to Hartt. She loved the faculty she met and the intense conservatory program. Oh and we are actually from California (MT = Musical Theatre) so the winters will be a new experience! Like your daughter, mine was determined not to stick close to home. But I may be bending your ear with lots of questions as it gets closer to her move-in day. Hope you don’t mind!!

@sopranomtmom No problem on the questions. I can’t really help you much on campus/dorm life, though. West Hartford itself is a very nice small city/large town with a lot of great options for food, shopping and entertainment.

Hi Everyone. Long time lurker, but I’ve only posted a few times. I’ve been reading these boards since my daughter was in 8th grade and she will start her junior year in the fall. As my name implies, we are from the midwest and I’ve often wondered if there are any solid college audition coaching services in the Chicago area? It seems like there is a strong market around here, and we would certainly be willing to drive there for a few in person sessions with a coach. So, midwest friends, if you know of any services please let me know. Otherwise, it will be mostly all skype for us (which I know is a great option, but a few in-person opportunities would be nice).

You might check with both Mary Anna Dennard and MTCA. I know they both use coaches from various regions depending on need. For example, although our D worked directly with Mary Anna (who was in Dallas) for her monologues, her song coach was in NYC. They may have people they work with in your area. Worth asking!

Great idea. Thanks for the suggestion!

Glad @CoachC is here to respond. My info was a family from years back.
If you have a moment to respond again it would be very interesting to get your opinion on these two questions:
What is your feeling about the original poster topic of streamlining the audition requirements?
and Do you think it was the competitiveness of the applicant pool that spurred the growth of coaches, or the coaches making the talent more competitive/prepared? Which came first in your view?
Thanks for taking the time here on CC!

If I read / counted correctly… 9 students who were coached by Mary Anna Dennard got into Michigan…

That is seriously impressive.

It brings up the question, which came first the chicken or the egg…where these kids already UM ready or did she create that?

@KTVoice, if you are looking at Mary Anna’s website, that is from the 2014 season onward. The results are no less impressive but those are not the results from a single season.

@GSOMTMom Ahhh I read 2017-2020 and thought it was 2017 High School Grad class. But none the less… impressive results. Thanks for pointing that out.

@bisouu I imagine it is a bit of both, and some luck. I guess someone who is in the mix all the time might know… as an example… Michigan is graduating two blonde character actors, so they could lead young people who might fit the type to audition.

I don’t know if we will use a coach… but looking at the results of several coaches, it is very tempting if you can afford it.

@KTVoice The information on Mary Anna Dennard’s site is for students accepted over a number of recent years and has not been updated for this year yet as far as I can see. Not to take anything away, because she has an impressive record. Just pointing out that those 9 are not for this current audition season so people aren’t confused.

Oops, just saw your post GSOMTMom. Great minds think alike!

Thanks, Notmath1! I started posting here in response to vocal health questions and that’s generally when I speak up. (I’m a medical voice therapist as well as the founder/Director of MTCA.) In answer to your 2 questions:

  1. As an educator, I personally like that each school asks for what they want to see in the audition process. This is one way for schools to identify students who fit their program's sensibility. I think Sheri (who wrote the article in the Huff Post) is excellent and I agree with a lot of the other things she says in the article, but her suggested audition package doesn't cover all that the industry currently demands; that depends on how you define the industry.

In my experience, the part of the process which could be streamlined with huge benefit for students and parents is the audition scheduling process. I’m not sure such streamlining is actually possible, given the app and prescreen assessments that need to take place in many cases before auditions can be scheduled, but wouldn’t it be a beautiful thing to have a centralized scheduling website, at least for Unifieds schools? C’mon, IT parents, you can develop it! :slight_smile:

  1. I have thought a lot over the years about what made the number of auditionees increase so much in the late 00's. There were 2 years college faculty referred to as the "Glee effect" years - 2009-10 and 10-11 - when the applicant pool for MT grew 20% BOTH years, meaning 20% and then ANOTHER 20% the next year. I think in addition to Glee, and probably even bigger, was the advent of YouTube. Andrew Keenan-Bolger started putting up Michigan MT videos when he was a junior or 1st semester senior (in spring or fall of 2006 - he graduated in 2007). YouTube was then in its infancy, and those videos went viral before viral in the non-germ sense was even a concept. Students all over the world could suddenly experience college MT singers, newly out-of-school performers, and exciting shows which they never would have known about before.` As more social media tools were created, the reach of shows and performers which are exciting to teens became greater and greater. For a time, I observed that televised things like The Voice and American Idol also made it seem like "fame" was within anyone's reach, although that effect seems to have diminished over the last few years and most students no longer have that uninformed way of thinking. Social media is here to stay, so teens all over the world will continue to be able to experience shows and performers who move and inspire them.

Some coaches, like Mary Anna and I and others in local programs, were simply teachers who were doing there thing already when demand for help with the college process exploded, and we were approached by happy parents with the idea of spreading the word about what we were already doing. Other coaches seem to have begun their work in response to the demand - but the only coaching genesis story I really know is mine and MTCA’s. :slight_smile:

Too late too edit the above but of course I mean “their”, not there, thing :frowning:

And I also just realized I didn’t answer your second question fully. I think all of the things I mention in #2 above have made the talent pool more competitive: more students who already have talent and skill now interested in/aware of theatre who may not have been before social media; YouTube and other media sources showing students how high the level of competitiveness is among their peers and in top college programs, so they are training more to match those levels; and the artistic training provided by some coaches, who are in large part teachers (like the MTCA coaches), increasing the the technical skill levels of auditionees.

As a parent on the other side of this process whose kid is in NYC auditioning every day I say this: Please, for the love of all that is holy, please do not make it easier for people to get into, and then graduate from MT programs!! Lol! It’s a jungle out there people! (Also, my MT-er is doing great in NYC, so this isn’t sour grapes!) Just the numbers alone are are daunting, and it’s even worse for women. A 800-900 women show up for one day at non-equity open calls!

If I were in your “pre-BFA” shoes, I too would want the process streamlined, I get that. And I also feel for the kids whose families cannot afford the financial commitment that the years running up to auditioning for programs take, let alone that year of auditioning. Streamlining would make it easier for everyone, for sure. But when your kid is on the other side, trust me, you’ll want the path to get to NYC to be a bit of a struggle just to weed out some of the competition for a TIME SLOT, not even roles!

@zebracocoa I agree with you that there are already far too many actors for the amount of work that is available. I posted recently in a discussion in the Theatre/Drama forum and I think that the discussion there is one that is also applicable, maybe even more so, to prospective MT students.

I know that we all want to be cheerleaders here and hope for the best for all the kids auditioning for college programs. I am with you, and have been for many years here on CC. I also think it’s important to know what the future may hold for kids expecting to earn a living in a performance career. Look at the number of Equity actors in NYC, along with SAG members. Same with those in L.A. Look at the average annual earnings. And don’t forget those thousands of non-Eq kids who are also out there.

I get that no one wants to hear this. I truly do. We all want to let our kids follow their dreams, and there’s nothing wrong with that, as long as they aren’t going into debt and as long as those dreams are realistic, and they are making informed decisions.

Sorry. A little late to the party here, but thanks @CoachC for answering my question!

I think when you have a child who is passionate about their desire to be a performer, it is a wonderful thing to allow them to study it in college and give the profession a try. If it is truly their passion, i think they would always live a life filled with regret, or a life of wondering “what if I had…” if they don’t at least give it a try.

The fact is, most of these kids will not have long performing careers. But the skills they develop during their college training will be useful in many fields whether they are giving a presentation in a corporate board room, arguing points of law, practicing their bedside manner or teaching a group of children. A theatre degree is useful even if you don’t end up performing. There are so many directions they can go. And if they insist on a life in the theatre, but performing is not happening, they can also find many non-performing careers within the industry, many of which are lucrative and stable.

So if your child feels that strongly about a theatre degree, I would let them go for it. Like with any degree, some will decide in college that this is not the path for them. Others will find it difficult to find a job upon graduating. Still others may have a career transition at some point. But these things are not exclusive to theater majors. This is all a very normal part of life.

So, even though the numbers are daunting, for me, I say, be realistic about the prospects. But go for it if it’s what you really want.

I agree with @vvnstar. We have had many a conversation with our daughter about the long term prospects of working as a performer. Her classmates at least seem to have pretty realistic expectations.

@alwaysamom I breathed a deep sigh of relief when I heard my S ask whether he could double major at each school to which he was admitted - he loves theatre and intends to perform professionally but is very aware of the odds…and we are so pleased that he will be able to pursue his dream, but also glad that he is going into this clear-eyed.

I find this conversation thread very interesting. In hindsight there are a few things D would have done differently prepping for the process - the biggest would have been applying to more than just 7 schools. However, she was never deterred by the varying requirements by all the programs - her vocal teacher who also teaches at UARTS had her well prepared on a multitude of song choices and cuts - in varying styles. Her acting coach also made sure she had 6 monologues she could pull from, in varying lengths including 2 Shakespeare at any given time. She felt like the variety kept her fresh and on her toes and she never complained once about the requirements (which were different for every school).

Maybe it is just me, but I don’t think every college should standardize their requirements. If our kids can’t prepare for a variety of scenarios then maybe this shouldn’t be their career path. Believe me, I recognize the stress that kids go thru during audition process, I lived it. Everyone approaches auditions differently - academics always came first in our house and my D ended up at a school where they had to be accepted academically first. As a parent, I like that. We knew that several schools were very, very big reaches, but it never deterred her from wanting to audition and honestly, you never know what kind of kid a program is looking for OR if they see something in your kid they want to work with. We knew D would NOT get accepted into CMU, however she loved, loved, loved the audition she had there. They spent time with her, gave her great feedback and she left the room feeling validated. I’m sad to hear they are moving towards prescreens, but I also realize that auditioning 3000 kids can be daunting!

I am happy it wasn’t a “cookie cutter” process - it made her have to be prepared for any situation and I could see her growing more confident through each audition. To the parents that are embarking on this process, just make sure your kids are prepared. There are no guarantees - but if they are prepared it makes the process a lot less stressful.