Standardizing college theatre / musical theatre auditions

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.

My head is spinning right now trying to figure out what coach to go with for my daughter. Currently speaking to one who requires a weekly commitment from September through Feb/March (adds up to just under $5,000.) Do people actually pay this much for coaching? I guess I’m having sticker shock. I assumed we could do a few sessions with someone to help with monologue choices and college choices, but we are not rich and I just don’t see how we can invest THAT kind of money for what I consider to be just advice. Any thoughts? How successful are the coaches who work ala carte such as MTCA? Starting to think its time to give my child a big “no” when it comes to applying for theatre programs. There will be no money left for actual tuition.

@collegemom2000 - My d really liked working with Mary Anna Dennard and we didn’t spend anywhere near $5,000, more like $1,500 including Moonfieds and her online coaching system. Most of the sessions were via Skype and d thought that it worked well. MTCA and My College Audition (Chelsea Diehl) offer similar programs where you can limit their services to fit your budget and work via Skype.

Applying and auditioning for college theatre programs can be quite expensive including lots of college applications (12-14 or more), audition fees, travel, etc. Its not hard to rack up more than $10,000 in expenses. However, it is possible to limit your outlay by doing some combination of : (a) limiting your list of schools to 10 or less through lots of research and very careful consideration of your student’s competitiveness, (b) limiting your school choices to mostly those within driving distance, © attending Unified auditions instead of on-campus auditions, (d) avoiding schools with expensive application and audition fees, etc. For example, you can easily do 4-6 walk-in auditions (or more) at Chicago Unifieds, pay no school application fees unless the schools show interest (for walk-ins, you don’t have to apply before auditioning), and only pay nominal audition fees. However, the schools that support this will generally not be among the most popular and competitive programs.

Mary Anna’s “Moonfied” auditions give your student the chance to audition and do live prescreens for up to 20 or so programs in one location over a long weekend, including some of the most popular programs (Baldwin-Wallace, Texas State, Point Park, Penn State, etc.).

@collegemom2000 You totally need to do what works for your family. This whole process is unbelievably expensive, even when trying to cut corners. We didn’t use a coach (though I wish we did) and being totally open - we spent upwards of 12K just for application fees/audition fees and travel expenses for auditions and unifieds. Though I wonder if we had a coach, we might have been able to spend less overall as we would have probably had a better list crafted for us, if that makes sense. Have heard great things about MTCA and Chelsea Diehl and I think they both do ala carte.

@collegemom2000 We used MTCA for my S. They offer ala carte options and we were able to use what my S needed. Our experience with them was amazing! My S feels that he will continue to use his coaches on and off throughout college because they have helped him grow as an artist. He is very happy with his end result. This entire process is very expensive even if you try to cut corners. Feel free to message me if you have questions about MTCA or anything else.

@EmsDad and @stagedoormama thank you! I’m completely in favor of the coach idea. I went back and forth on it for a while in my head but I think we need one. We definitely will not be applying to any schools that require airline tickets or expensive hotels…mainly because I want my daughter within driving distance once she is in college. Considering the odds of making a lucrative career in MT, I am really reluctant to put out tons of cash just on the prospect of getting admitted. Full disclosure: I spent two years at performing arts school myself and discovered quickly that it was a waste of two years (luckily many of those PA school credits transferred to my four year university and I got a solid BS degree three years later.)

I would estimate we spent less than $1500… for the whole thing. I would say our largest expense was the application/audition fees as we had no coach (D has a voice teacher, but we would have been paying her anyway, so not a “new” cost), minimal travel expenses (several schools within driving distance, and we could drive to Chicago unifieds for the others. My husband travels for work, so when we needed hotels we could use points). Now, D only auditioned for 7 schools, so that impacts costs as well - the people with the long lists are in a different situation. Just saying, it doesn’t HAVE to cost a fortune, though I will freely admit we had a major geographic advantage being in the midwest