The Process: Our Year-Plus Long Odyssey Getting into a Musical Theatre Program

<p>I have posted this series of experiences to give back to the Musical Theatre (MT) community that has shared so much. This blog over the past year was also a form of therapy for me, the dad of this team. </p>

<p>Son caught the acting bug at eleven when a very kind gentleman from church encouraged him to audition at the local community theater. By or during his freshman year of high school we knew he would study Acting or MT in college. He started taking voice lessons during his sophomore year, and went to a few dance classes here and there but nothing what I would call serious training. Acting has been whatever stage time he got with school plays since the 7th grade and in summer workshops/productions. </p>

<p>We’re very much upper-middle-class economically. Besides the college savings account that has in-state tuition saved, there's not much extra in the regular savings account. All vehicles are paid for and have less than 75K miles on them, though there's the mortgage that's a long way of being paid off. </p>

<p>My wife worked part-time at the beginning of this journey but took a full-time job during his senior year b/c: a) it was the right job, and b) we weren't sure if we would need the extra income to pay for the out-of-state/private education of our MT'er. </p>

<p>We live in fly-over country, or from one of the square states, thus a lot of plane flights took place on this journey. I’m purposely keeping our location vague because this is primarily about about the parental experience not my son’s. Not everything I say in this is positive - about him, me, coaches, schools - but it’s a small world and I don’t want this pinned on him. So in an ironic twist of what they say on radio and TV sometimes, “Views expressed here represent the position of management.”</p>

<p>One twist to this “giving back” is I'm deliberately posting this after our son gets into a program. We didn't want to share any info during son's senior year because we're competing with a great many posters on this board. Over the top? Maybe. We were focused on doing everything reasonably possible to help son obtain two or more financially viable offers from musical theater programs. </p>

<p>Finally, my wife and I have no experience with theater; nonetheless, I hope these musings - as long as they are - serve you in some way in your endeavors with your MT child.</p>

<p>Spring, HS Junior: Application for Summer Programs</p>

<p>At the beginning of son’s junior year we were relatively comfortable with a path of auditioning at our in-state school with an MT program then seeing what happens at Unifieds in Chicago. After Unifieds if he got any offers we would visit those schools during spring break of his senior year. Make a decision by May 1. We had read Mary Anna Austin “Moo” Dennard’s book, “I Got In!”, and figured that would be that. You people posting on College Confidential need to get lives of your own. Little, oh so little, did I know.</p>

<p>In January of his junior year his local vocal coach suggested he apply for Mpulse. Admittedly we didn’t know what that was. The deadline for applying to this summer camp was 10 days away and we hastily prepared his application: resume, prescreen videos, essay.</p>

<p>Looking back our prescreens weren’t that great. Video quality was mediocre, sound was okay, he was stiff in acting out his songs. Thus it wasn’t a surprise when he didn’t get into Mpulse. Two other local boys did get into Mpulse. A local director knew all three and said that our son should have been in that group (too bad she didn’t run Mpulse). </p>

<p>To make things interesting he was waitlisted for MPulse, thus we played the game of chicken by waiting for an answer from Ann Arbor or proceeding with enrolling him at the Texas Musical Theatre Workshop jointly sponsored by UT/TSU. We sent $500 to Austin in March then begged off having to pay the balance until May 1 (about which TxMTW was very understanding). May 1 MPulse gave us a final “no”, and before sundown we went onto the TxMTW website and handed over the $2,500 balance. We wrung our hands much too much over that situation. Eh, we were newbies to the process.</p>

<p>Tasks completed by end of March - 13</p>

<p>April, HS Junior: The ACT</p>

<p>Before we get to the fun MT stuff, need to share our testing experiences. There’s tons of commentary about the SAT/ACT on this website, so I’ll only add a couple of paragraphs or three though we consider this to be a big part of the equation of our goal of getting him two or more financially-viable MT offers. We’re big believers that the audition (50%) gets you into the program, but test scores (35%) and high school grades (15%) gets one merit scholarships and thus into (i.e., afford) the actual school. Others have written that if you’re good enough you’ll receive talent scholarships. Neither camp will know for sure because there is not full-disclosure of costs from the schools or parents willing to consistently share that information. </p>

<p>In April of his junior year he took the ACT w/o writing. Mistake on our part that we couldn’t correct (i.e., get the writing portion added in). Fine, this will be a practice test. He scored a “30” on his “practice test”. Yalza! For 12 of his 14 schools (we’ll get to that soon) that would put him in the top quartile of the freshman class (which I hope translates into merit money). </p>

<p>Though school ended on May 23 giving him time to cram for the June 8 ACT retake (with writing this time), he was burnt-out on school thus I can’t type, “I wish I would have made him take the June 8 test.” Taking the test in September was hard due to supplemental essay requirements for college applications, so very much a pick-your-poison situation.</p>

<p>Re-took the ACT on September 21st to get in the writing portion which nine of our 14 schools required. A touch disappointed that his score dropped a point to 29; however, it was still more than good enough for our purposes. Hate typing “…good enough…” regarding something like an ACT score, but there’s too many other things to do than to maximize this score which we do think accurately represents where he is academically. </p>

<p>Other kids make it a hobby to study for the ACT/SAT to see if they can push it higher and higher, our MT kids focus more on auditions while our money go towards application fees and continued voice lessons.</p>

<p>Quick tangent: the first melt-down of The Process occurred on the day of the September ACT. The night before wife and I were reviewing the detailed requirements of taking the test (e.g., “only these types of calculators”, and “no phones whatsoever”). Wife drops son off at the testing location at 7:45, then at 7:50 with a panicked tone in her voice as if she had ran over a dog she called and said, “I don’t know if he has his calculator?!” </p>

<p>“What do you mean ‘you don’t know’?”, I respond in a calm, analytical voice. Not really, b/c the tone of my voice was as if she ran over OUR dog.</p>

<p>“I don’t remember putting it back in his backpack last night!” </p>

<p>My response, which I will not quote, was in the form of asking the beautiful mother of my children if she were practicing comedy with me (using a well-placed f-bomb to boot). We could have been easily cast in Christopher Guest’s Best of Show with our performance.</p>

<p>As I’m tearing up the house not finding anything, we both collect our senses and she drives back to the school, parks the car, walks in the building, sees where the room assignments were posted, then as if she belonged there with every other teacher walks down the hall and finds him in his room with No. 2 pencils arranged on his desk along with his calculator. Her angle was such that he didn’t even see her. Exhale.</p>

<p>Okay, before you judge us too harshly we know of a family friend (not a friend-of-a-friend urban legend) whose son was dismissed halfway through the test because a proctor saw him texting on his phone during a break. Oops.</p>

<p>Tasks completed on/before April 30th - 20.</p>

<p>June: Texas Musical Theatre Workshop</p>

<p>The TxMTW was good for everyone involved. Son learned: a) the MT curriculum was something he liked/wanted, b) he could compete/interact with like-minded peers, c) while not a trained dancer, could definitely be a follower in the dance portion, and d) this going-off-to-college thing wasn’t going to be such a scary thing. We parents learned that we were going to miss our boy when he flew from the nest in a little over a year and to enjoy our time together now.</p>

<p>While we are on the subject of ways to spend extra money on your child’s MT aspirations, a brief comment or two on an audition coach. We did sign-up with Mary Anna “Moo” Dennard. Her website and particularly her instructional videos are all really good. Money well spent. Moonifieds worked for us because he was able to audition for two programs which gave him a final decision instead of making two on-campus auditions. I’ve commented further on this if you want to dig up that post. </p>

<p>Another side note this time on summer employment. The summer before his junior year I insisted on him volunteering somewhere, anywhere for a few weeks with the idea they would be references for full time summer employment a year later. He ended up volunteering at one of the summer theater camps at which he’s participated, thus around the winter-break his junior year I told him he was well positioned to get a summer job. Well, here were the wrenches in summer work plan:</p>

<p>Three weeks in Austin in June
Narrowing the list of schools from 25 to 13
Writing 14 essays for the 13 schools he was applying - don’t forget the one for the Common App.
pre-screen videos

<p>A very industrious teenager could have done all of the above and still had a summer job. I know I am making excuses for him. Fact is we did want him to enjoy some R&R prior to school starting again, thus I was content to the fact that all he was going to do for the remainder of the summer is be free labor around the house. I gave him a list of 20 things to do after the 4th of July and said I expect these to be done by the end-of-month. Six things - probably the easiest on the list - were promptly done with the remaining unfinished by August 1. I spent August telling him on a daily basis what I want done that day. Sobeit. </p>

<p>Point to this is if your kid KNOWS they want MT training and KNOW they want to spend $3K - $7K of your money at a summer program, then the summer prior to their junior year is when they should go get that job to make a $1K or so bucks to contribute to their own cause. Thus the summer prior to their sophomore year is when my volunteering plan would be been appropriate. I was a year behind my own logic, and I know all this is easier said than done. Next summer - after his HS graduation - I fully expect him to earn something. We’ll bring that up to him on May 2.</p>

<p>Adding another twist to this, looking back I wish we would have sent him to TxMTW the summer before his junior year given it is a non-audition program. The summer prior to his senior year we could have taken our shot at Interlocken or Mpulse.</p>

<p>Tasks completed on/before the 4th of July - 39. (Boy, howdy, we’ll probably cross 100 before this is all said and done!)</p>

<p>August: The List</p>

<p>“Hey, look! They have a musical theatre program. So do they! Where is Ithaca, New York, exactly?” In the spring of son’s junior year the household compiled a list of about 25 schools. In the summer after he returned from camp he narrowed it down to 16 programs at 13 schools. I arm-twisted him to add a 14th school because I thought it fit right in same groups of a couple of other schools on his list. “If Oklahoma and Penn St. are on your list, then Indiana and Florida State should be too.” I lost the FSU argument. </p>

<p>The list is top heavy, for our son took more of an attitude of “If I can’t go to school at one of these places, then I’ll do something else.” He didn’t have the “I don’t care where I study as I can SING!” attitude. He feels he’s an actor first, singer second, and can definitely keep up on the dance side. After a little while I stopped with the “…but what about this school?” or “…what about that school?” questions, and trusted that we had a good list that he owned. </p>

<p>Keeping track of pre-screen acceptance windows, audition dates, and general school application dates started here. Lot of digging on school’s websites that at times was easy - kudos to TSU - and not so easy - really, Penn St.? We - the parents - were very “generous” with suggestions about procedural/application issues. For example:</p>

<p>Apply to these four schools first to get a good spot on the Chicago Unifieds schedule
Send your Common App essay to X because he has some experience in reviewing them.
Call so-and-so for she has some exposure to the East Coast MT programs</p>

<p>On artistic issues we tried very hard to keep our mouths shut. That’s what the coaches were for. I did suggest he cut a couple of his beginning lines to his monologue because: a) not sure if he needed them to set up the rest of the monologue, and b) I wanted to get the length down to under (or closer to) one minute. He said “no”, and I said “fine”. As an FYI it was okay in auditions if he ran slightly longer than, say, the one minute they specify. </p>

<p>Son and his mother largely looked at the curriculum of each program to determine if it made it to The List of Sixteen. I asked son once what he was specifically looking at, and maybe there was a number we could track (e.g., number of dance classes). He didn’t have a specific matrix he was using, just more of a feel. Fair enough.</p>

<p>This is good time to take a step back and ask what you want out of college. Below is how one of the program heads described the various degrees all requiring roughly 120 hours of credits:</p>

<p>Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) - 30 hours of electives
Bachelor of Arts (BA) - 60 hours of electives</p>

<p>Within the BFA world there are the true conservatories (e.g., The Boston Conservatory or BoCo) where all students are studying the performing arts in some way, or conservatory-style programs within a Liberal Arts school. Carnegie Mellon was the first to do this in 1914. Some highly-regarded academic schools (e.g., Northwestern, Yale) offer their musical theatre training via a BA education. </p>

<p>What’s never discussed is the MFA. Saw where a friend’s daughter got her BA at In-StateU, then will get her MFA from the Actor’s Studio. Wife and I looked at each other and said, “Why didn’t we think of that?” Anyhoo. </p>

<p>That’s as deep as I can go for you on this subject for fear of spreading misinformation, and I don’t know anything about the CAP21s of this world. </p>

<p>This is also when you - parents, MT’er - need to ask yourself the question, “What’s our philosophy? Am I looking for the right fit or a top program?” This last question is loaded with contradictions and has been debated in so many ways in College Confidential. What is “fit”? Artistic? Financial? Do you allow your child to apply/audition for a top but expensive school hoping for scholarships? Are you ready to tell your child “no” in April if the drive-home price is too much? Are you SURE you are ready to tell your child “no” if the drive-home price is too much?</p>

<p>We largely took the philosophy of apply to where you want. No sense in denying an opportunity because the retail price was out of reach. At the end of The Process maybe they’ll come off their retail price w/ scholarships. Son met us halfway by not applying to NYU because of their reputation of only offering need-based scholarships. In all likelihood the retail price was going to stay retail. By that logic he probably should not have auditioned for Michigan. We also concentrated on schools that were at Chicago Unifieds. Moonifieds helped some, but more on that later. We wanted to save our travel money for schools that had actually extended an offer. </p>

<p>Side note: someone taking their HS sophomore on a three-state, five-campus road trip over spring break is wasting their money, IMHO. </p>

<p>Side note 2: we now regret when we were with our HS sophomore in New York City that we didn’t take a two-hour detour to lower Manhattan and take a quick tour of the Pace facilities. </p>

<p>Side note 3: one parent we met later confided that her child did get talent money offered from NYU. Michigan and Indiana were overt during the audition process about saying they don’t hand out talent money, but again, urban legend has it that UMich did hand out talent money to one girl. </p>

<p>When we were narrowing down the list I looked at three other pieces of information: 1) whose MT graduates got work, and 2a) average ACT scores of the incoming freshman class along with 2b) graduation rates. Regarding work, we relied solely on this thread:</p>

<p><a href=“”></a></p>

<p>Yes, it has material limitations in its scope; however, there is little-to-no other objective measurements out there. Regarding student test scores, there are some antidotal contradictions there too: a) the closer to the median you child is the less merit money they will receive, and b) is the graduation rate of the general population a fair measurement when most MT programs are fairly insular? Put another way using a Lake Wobegon reference, all our children are above average and we want them surrounded by equally studious, committed kids. However, it’s the outliers that get scholarship money based on academic merit. Speaking of outliers, Malcolm Gladwell’s book, David and Goliath, addresses this issue extensively. Worth the read, but I can’t say I agree with everything he writes.</p>

<p>We used this objective information to help construct The List of Fourteen Schools. They are:</p>

<p>Pace University
Montclair State
Penn State (PSU)
Carnegie Mellon (CMU)
Baldwin Wallace (BW)
Ball State
Indiana (IU)
Michigan (UMich)
Oklahoma (UofO)
Texas State (TSU)
In-state U</p>

<p>I don’t know and don’t want to know how much we spent on application fees.</p>

<p>The median ACT score was 25.5, and 5 of the 14 MT programs didn’t have anyone working on Broadway at the time MTpragmatist did his research in the thread linked above. Our hands down favorite school, Texas State, was most definitely on the lower end of all objective measurements. What ended up as our #2 favorites, Oklahoma and Ithaca, were in the top half when numbers came into play. The common theme for both of these programs was the intellectual (or was it really emotional?) connection my son made with these programs during the audition process plus some very enthusiastic existing students. His mother and I appreciated their price tags. </p>

<p>Take up jogging during this next year+ – you’ll need it. More seriously (though the exercise suggestion is solid advice) I felt like the normal parameters one uses to choose a college do not apply with MT’ers. </p>

<p>Tasks completed on/before Labor Day - 79</p>

<p>Keeping Organized
While my first inclination was to create a spreadsheet to track who needs what, when you did it, etc., I found that too many columns are necessary. I relied on Remember The Milk for tracking To Do’s for the following reasons: a) In the cloud, easily accessible, b) mobile app sycs with what you’ve done online, c) searchable, and for me the most important d) can tag tasks with school names. The tagging aspect allows one to ask, “Where are we with with IU?” The search feature allows one to pull up, say, any task with the word “essay” in it. I found it very handy.</p>

<p>Below is how many tasks are required for each school:</p>

<p>Set up the tasks required for this school/program
Ask ACT to send scores
Verify from ACT that school was sent scores
Ask HS to send transcript
Get unofficial copy of transcript to send in with MT application (if applicable)
What is the supplemental essay prompt for the school?
What is the supplemental essay prompt for the program?
What is the supplemental essay prompt for the Honors College? (if accepted)
Essay1 - draft 1 (did you actually read the prompt?)
Essay1 - draft 2 (better, but clean x, y, and z up)
Essay1 - final (hey, hey, this is a nice piece of work!)
Essay2 - draft 1
Essay2 - draft 2
Essay2 - final
create account on school’s website
submit academic application on [CommonApp/School’s website] by [date]
confirm receipt of academic application from CommonApp
confirm receipt of academic application from school
give counselor form to HS counselor (if applicable)
verify that all documents have been sent to school via their website
Should be accepted/rejected academically by [date]
Fill out program application
give Letter of Recommendation form to voice coach
Submit program application/prescreen by [date]
Confirm receipt of program application?
Set audition date
Confirm audition and/or print email receipt
book lodging
book car (or is taxi better?)
book air
put travel in calendars
put audition schedule in calendars
Prepare dossier on school/program/audition
Review dossier on school/program/audition
Send thank you note (we only did this with three of the 16 programs)
Should be accepted/rejected by program by [date]
Send thank you note acknowledging the program invite.
Accept/decline program invite</p>

<p>Repeat 13 times. Drink.</p>

<p>I know the list above is…detailed. I know you can create one to do called “make travel arrangements” instead of three (air, car, hotel), but trust me, it’s not a good feeling showing up at the rental car counter and having the agent say, “I can’t seem to find a reservation under that name.” This might appear I’m running for “martyr of the year”, but when it’s 15 different programs you will forget what was done for who. </p>

<p>Word of warning #2: for every interaction you have with Common App or the University, there should be some type of receipt (typically an email). Do not think because you have given someone $60 that you are done. </p>

<p>WoW #3: you will be tempted to share this website or your to do list with your spouse and child so everyone can all be on the same page. Doesn’t work that way. They aren’t going to go to the lengths of understanding how your system works. Even when my son did access this, he had a nasty habit of clicking something as done (as in, “Sure, I’ll get that done next”) then not doing it. I just posted on a cabinet in old-school form (i.e., a piece of paper) a seperate To Do This Week list and asked him to check off things with a magic marker. </p>

<p>WoW #4: you need to reach an understanding with your child up-front what everyone’s roles are. I was the master list keeper and travel agent. My wife separately compiled lists of what each school needed especially for auditions (nice to compare notes) and kept track of physical documents (e.g., printed receipts of audition confirmations). Our son was both the talent and the interface with the schools. Point-being is in exchange for alleviating your child of the burden of keeping track of what is next, they need to do what you tell them to do without eye-rolling, etc. Twice in the process we had to say, “Enough with the moaning and groaning. Get this done!” </p>

<p>My child I suspect is like many other teenagers who only wants to do the minimum required to escape excessive adult finger-wagging. Just gets tiring to have to publish the to do list then follow up with the numerous, “Where are you on this? Where are you on that?” </p>

<p>WoW #5: my child was not used to following-up with others to make sure they had done what they needed to do (unlike me to son). Say for an on-campus audition you need to know when everything ends to decide whether to travel home that night or stay over and travel in the morning. “Hey, Baby Magic, email UofO and find out when they wrap up their auditions.” A week passes and you ask, “Baby Magic, what time do UofO auditions end?” “I don’t know, but I emailed them!” “Well, your email is buried 50-deep in their inbox and now you need to call.” Moans and eye-rolls ensue. Please, let me beg you to get these things done so I can spend a thousand dollars and have a mini-vacation in Norman, Oklahoma, in February. Sheesh…but I digress.</p>

<p>WoW #6: Remember that in your mind it is much easier to get something done when you tell someone else to do it. In a similar vein it’s easier to edit someone else’s writing than to tackle a blank piece of paper yourself. I could have shown more empathy especially during September and October. September and October are very hard months.</p>

<p>WoW #7: that separate email address you set up to use for all the applications - make sure your child uses that address at all times. First of all, they are not used to keeping up with in email inbox - that’s what the Facebook timeline is for. Secondly, it will alleviate the panic you go through when you can find an acceptance of some sort and your child says, “Oh yeah. I think I got something from them last month. Let me check my other inbox [that I actually look at once every five days but don’t really act on anyway].” Third, your child will continue to get “It’s not too late…” emails long after a school decision has been made. </p>

<p>WoW #8: when you create a to do (e.g., write supplemental essay for CMU), put the website address somewhere in the to do. You will be going back to to these websites dozens of times. Google is great, but let’s not recreate the wheel more than we have to. Create a contact in Google Contacts too. There are fields for web addresses.</p>

<p>WoW #9: when you are finished with auditions, move on with your life and quit reading College Confidential.</p>

<p>WoW #10: it is very hard to do WoW #9. Broken in those new jogging shoes yet?</p>

<p>September and October are Two Very Hard Months</p>

<p>On Labor Day weekend my wife and I dove once again into the fourteen school websites to figure out once-and-for-all who needed what. I think we spent 20 man-hours this weekend reviewing websites, printing forms, and compiling a comprehensive to-do list. Goal was to be able to go to teachers/counselor and be able to say, “Please upload a reference to these 8 schools via Common App, give me 4 references on school letterhead, and fill out these two school-specific reference forms.” Also confirmed the need for 19 essays/supplements: 1 for the Common App, 9 as a supplement for applying to the school, and 8 for the MT application, and the cherry-on-top - the written portion of the ACT.</p>

<p>I think it is interesting that 8 of these schools require the writing portion on the ACT and only one of those eight do not require any essay as a supplement. Point being they want you to be tested on your writing skills AND they want to also pen a love letter to them specifically. </p>

<p>Told my boss who also has a high school senior about our list of fourteen schools, and he looked at me as if I were crazy. Fourteen schools is the number that Mary Anna Dennard said would hopefully translate to 2.5 acceptances (the 0.5 being a waitlist). </p>

<p>September 21 was the retaking of the ACT. That day could not have come and gone quick enough for son.</p>

<p>In October the teeth-grinding continued with supplemental essays. He’s been dragging his feet on these since August 1, and we’re all paying the price right now. While we all were very pleased with what he created with the help of his language arts teach for his Common App supplement, we didn’t expect him for the school-specific essays to run all those by his LA teach as well. Thus Mom/Dad become the proof readers, and we found a great many things that needed correcting: typos/misspellings (no biggie), repeating phrases (can’t you find another way of saying, “…next four years”?), and you-can’t-write-that! (e.g., trying to emphasize how much you admire a program’s head by writing, “…sort of been stalking her on the Internet” is a deal-killer). To make this harder he blanches at the parental critiques which I understand because a lot of what he is writing is from his heart. Plus there is an emphasis in today’s writing for the voice of the writer to come through which runs contrary to how us parents were taught to write essays (e.g., Can you take it easy on the commas? Care to back up that statement with some facts?). Chill, Dad. </p>

<p>Oh, and how are auditions then rehearsals coming for the fall play? Fact of the matter is applying to these 14 schools required 18 essays to be written, and we’ve averaged two drafts per essay. 36 essays (you get what I mean) is a lot of work that he wasn’t ready for. </p>

<p>After most of this craziness was over, I asked him if he could go back in time what would he tell himself about all the essay writing after he returned from his summer camp. He surprised me by saying, “Wait until you finish writing the CommonApp supplement [with the help of his Language Arts teacher], then tackle all the others.” I would add: a) read the UMich list of tips for essay writing (<a href=“”></a>), and b) read the prompts (not sure how many times both wife and I read his first draft and asked, “Did he even read the prompt?”), c) this will be a lot of work (see the 36 number above), and d) this too shall pass. </p>

<p>Can’t emphasize this enough - September and October were two very hard months.</p>

<p>Tasks completed 1st eight months - 79
plus: tasks completed in Sept/Oct - 150
equals: tasks completed on/before Halloween - 230</p>

<p>September and October were two very hard months. Last time I’ll write that.</p>


<p>While writing essays proved to be like pulling teeth, constructing pre-screen videos was the fun side of a very busy September. </p>

<p>Michigan made our son jump through the most hoops for the whole application process requiring a total of five essays for the university, acting, and MT programs, though I give them credit that they were the best in providing tips on how to do it. In a similar vein OU caused the biggest groan when we saw their list of audition materials:</p>

<p>Contemporary uptempo
Contemporary ballad
Classic uptempo
Classic ballad</p>

<p>One comedic monologue, one dramatic monologue
One monologue should be from the classic era (pre-1969), one s/b contemporary (1970+)</p>

<p>If you have this list covered (add a Shakespearean monologue if you want to audition for a acting program) you are ready for audition season. He started choosing material in the spring of his junior year. Though the summer camp he went to didn’t help with getting his book of music ready, for the remainder of the summer that was done with his voice coach on the song side and about three different people on the acting side: Mary Anna Dennard, an acting coach working at his voice coach’s studio, and a grad student working at his high school. From that group of work he choose the following for his pre-screens:</p>

<p>Monologue - serious
Monologue - funny (with a serious point at the end)
Song - uptempo (both a 16-bar and a 32-bar video)
Song - ballad (both a 16-bar and a 32-bar video)</p>

<p>Oh, in early October he changed his mind on his funny monologue and re-filmed another one. At the time both wife and I responded with a “What?!”, but it ended up being the right move. Did learn a lesson in natural sunlight: it is different in both intensity and length in early September than mid-October. Here’s what went into filming each video:</p>

<p>Chose piece
Get accompanist to record 16-bar version of song
Rehearse piece
Tape piece x4
Select which version you want
Edit video to trim unnecessary footage from beginning/end</p>

<p>Repeat five times (32-bar version, monologues).</p>

<p>We set up a “studio” in our basement after we taped him in 20 second increments in four places in the house. Used a lot of aluminum foil to reflect light from white LED lights (vs. soft/yellow). Also unscrewed the bulbs in the canned lights in the ceiling right above where he was standing because otherwise the shadows gave him a Frankenstein-look. </p>

<p>Using a recording of the piano accompaniment (vs. a live accompanist) was the way to go in my opinion. Allowed for many more takes and easier to adjust volume control. </p>

<p>A couple of schools wanted dance videos as well, so off we went to his voice studio where they also had a dance room. Lighting and sound weren’t as good, but by this time we started settling for a “that will work” attitude. </p>

<p>A few schools insist that the pieces you audition with are the some pieces you used on your pre-screens. With the number of kids they audition, I think they go back to the pre-screen videos time and again. You’ll hear the cry from parents of, “You mean we have to get the pre-screens professionally taped?!” I don’t regret doing it ourselves in the basement, but we put a lot of effort to find the right spot for both sound and natural lighting. I tried using our iPhone for recording, but there was a noticeable difference in what that produced vs. our four year old Lumix FZ35. If you are only using your smartphone right now to take pictures of your performer, it might be time to find out which friend/family-member has a newer digital SLR.</p>

<p>Again, a lot of work when I reflect back on this four months later. Did I mention that September and October…oops, I’ll stop there.</p>

<p>November: Let the Auditions (and Scheduling) Begin!</p>

<p>November 1 brought his first audition - hip, hip…not so fast, my friend. It was on campus at the in-state university, which for us is an one hour drive and our low-cost baseline (hopefully). While he came out of it with a positive attitude, he: a) didn’t hit a high note on his ballad, b) had to start over on his uptempo b/c forgot the words, and c) was cut-off 2/3’rds into his monologue b/c time was up. As a prospective tuition-paying parent I was disappointed - there, I wrote it. Ok, while I didn’t overtly say that to him, the next morning as the three of us were going through the “what can we do better next time” discussion I know he got that vibe. The tight-rope of encouragement is difficult to walk with optimism on one side (“you’ll nail it next time, champ!”) and negativity on the other (“this is the second time you have forgotten the lines to a song in a pressure-filled situation - what do you need to different?”).</p>

<p>The good news was: a) this same school will see him again at our regional theater conference, b) he’s not the only 17-year old who’s going to have a case of the nerves, and c) we have a couple of weeks to get things fixed before getting in front of six schools at Moonifieds. We think he’s not following a set warm-up routine laid out by his voice coach. Her turn to play bad cop. </p>

<p>The night before this audition I got mad at him (I think for the third time in his life) when he pulled songs #7 and #8 from his songbook because the sheet music wasn’t as easy to read as he would have liked. “Then let’s get some more legible sheet music?!” Not sure what exactly pushed me over the top: a) his 17-YO “eh, good enough” attitude, b) that we were dealing with this past 9 p.m. the night before his first audition, c) that he (and his vocal coach) view the in-state school as a slumming-it type choice. Their MT’ers get work and their drive-out price for us would be about $75K. Again, he gets another bite at the apple in December at the regional theater competition. Oh, for the record, they didn’t want to hear songs #7 and #8. Actually, no one did.</p>

<p>The middle of the month brought a few emails with Unifieds audition times and the calendar is slowly being filled up. My son’s procrastination is being positively-reinforced for as soon as we put on his To Do List “call X State” later in the week though no effort of his an email shows up with said audition time. Not being critical, just observant. </p>

<p>For Carnegie Mellon it dawned on my one Saturday morning, “We haven’t heard from them after applying three weeks ago.” Looking at the CMU website they state that CommonApp will send an ID number after submission. No email w/ a CMU ID number. Though it was Saturday morning, I picked up the phone anyway and called CMU admissions. Talked to an absolutely pleasant person who told me to use the CommonApp ID number. Wa-laa! Ten minutes later son has his CMU audition time at Unifieds. </p>

<p>Audition times are now booked with 10 of his 15 schools. We should hear from UMich, Ithaca, and Indiana before Christmas. </p>

<p>Also took some time this month to have my son deliver thank you gifts to his language arts teacher and thespian teacher for all the letters of reference (and general support) they have given him. In hindsight it probably wasn’t the smartest thing to send my 17 year old to his school with two gift bags of wine, but all’s well that ends well. Vocal coach gets her bottle of wine for Christmas. </p>


<p>Nineteen schools showed up at Moonifieds this year (2013) on the weekend before Thanksgiving. Schools that offered final auditions were: Pace, U Arts, Point Park, Coastal Carolina, Baldwin Wallace, Rider, Ohio Northern, Texas Christian University, Viterbo, University of Texas, Centenary, Central OK, CAP21. Live pre-screens were with Otterbein, Penn State, Texas State, University of Oklahoma, and Oklahoma City University. Son estimated about 50 kids were there.</p>

<p>For us Moonfieds represented good value for the $250 fee because: 1st and foremost) he gets a final audition with both Pace and BW, 2) a guaranteed audience with Penn St. and Texas St. - albeit prescreens - takes some pressure off Unifieds, and speaking of…3) we’ll call this a “wet” run for Unifieds. Moonifieds is a luxury than a necessity or an edge, though a luxury we’re happy to enjoy.</p>

<p>We thought the University of Miami would be hosting auditions; however, that was an overstatement on Moo’s part. No auditions - just a rep who happened to be in the Dallas area that weekend and answered some questions from the school. Maybe we’ll catch them at Unifieds.</p>

<p>My wife gets the Moonifieds trip while I am slated for Unifieds in Chicago. That works for me for I’d rather be in downtown Chicago (even in February) than suburban Dallas. In all my company travels this year I stayed at Hilton properties, thus I am super-premium-diamond-grand-poobah status. Hope my wife enjoys the free pineapple/cantaloupe in the morning and cheap wine in the afternoon in the concierge lounge.</p>

<p>I also purchased a BeltBox for my son for this trip. It looks like a high-end surgical mask made for an Arabian prince. No, even better, it looks like something Michael Jackson would have had made for him so he wouldn’t catch germs in public (it’s not too soon yet, is it?). It’s a sound muffler so that he can warm-up in the hotel room, and based on his first audition I hope this was $35 well spent. He gave it a thumbs-up. </p>

<p>Speaking of details like this, all his songs were on an iPod that was plugged into a $30 portable speaker. His iPad and laptop served as back-ups that were not needed, as did another $30 portable speaker. His audition outfit with two pairs of shoes was carried on the plane, while an identical backup outfit was in a larger suitcase we checked in. Manilla folders for each audition where carried on in his backpack, with ten additional headshots/resumes stored in the large bag. You get the idea, and fortunately I have no “I can’t believe we didn’t pack…” stories. </p>

<p>The tally from Moonifieds was he received callbacks from 4 of 4 programs and offers from 1 of 2 programs that rendered final decisions based on that audition.</p>

<p>Tasks completed on/before Thanksgiving - 298.</p>

<p>December: Pre-Screen Decisions and a Couple of Final Decisions</p>

<p>December started with a couple of more schools giving him academic acceptances. Indiana sends theirs out in a big, red envelope, and I’m sure for many homes across the Midwest it is a moment of great exuberance. MT’ers I guess largely just shrug their shoulders since we haven’t even heard about the pre-screen yet. He asked when will we get to celebrate? April, Son, or maybe March. May 1 for sure (right?). Sorry, that’s The Process. </p>

<p>In that grind-it-out fashion his regional thespian conference was that weekend. For all of us in the family this was an after-thought. The morning of the conference son was running around packing and we found ourselves saying, “Oh yeah, you have your thespian conference this weekend.” Even gave him a pep talk: “I know this is your fourth one of these and it doesn’t contain near the excitement as the first three, but there are a lot of freshman and sophomores in your troupe and this is a big deal to them so be a leader and don’t grumble too much.” How’s that for inspiration?</p>

<p>Turned out to be a great and important weekend for him. He qualified twice for nationals (monologue and song) and was one of the showcase performers. Big, big confidence booster, and I wonder if based on that showing…</p>

<p>…he received his first offer from the in-state MT program on the Wednesday afterwards. Wow! Celebrate! Happy-Dance Time! Very pleased to see how he happy he was. Happy with that school and honored they extended the invite that early in the season. </p>

<p>Prior to that I was worried he would think since the school was only 60 miles away it can’t be THAT good. I’m not spending the money on what we would save just yet. Long way to go in The Process.</p>

<p>The rest of the “Yes’s” came in on pre-screen results as well with the last one arriving a couple of days before Christmas. He was more excited about Michigan’s than I anticipated (like I wrote, not spending any savings from him attending our in-state option just yet). Insufferable proud parent moment: no one turned him down at the pre-screen phase of The Process. Enjoying that moment, because…</p>

<p>The first “no” came in from Baldwin Wallace after his audition at Moonifieds. Funny how I had them in my top four schools earlier in The Process. Threw the decline letter into the box of fliers, etc., for the bonfire in May. </p>

<p>A bit of a blunder on BW’s part to have a senior in The Conservatory send to him a personalized email regarding all the goings on in the program while the “no” was in route via the US Postal Service. They aren’t the only school that has communication issues between the left and right hands. UofO was still sending “Don’t forget to apply” emails even after they had accepted him academically. </p>

<p>Going back to the “yes” and the May 1st date I mentioned earlier, a little disappointed that the offer was an “exploding offer” asking for a response on/before March 1. This thread was a big help in how to address:</p>

<p><a href=“”></a></p>

<p>Now we know what the calendar looks like in January and February. Purchased plane tickets to Austin (TSU), Indy (Indiana University or IU), and Oklahoma City (UofO). Originally only had $2K in the budget for on-campus auditions - spent most of that budget on Moonifieds and Unifieds. Cashed in some miles so that we could squeeze the trip to San Marcos into the list of campus visits despite them being at Chicago. </p>

<p>My wife and I sat down with his vocal coach. She likes to sit down with all her students and parents semi-annually to discuss their child’s progress. It’s also nice to hear someone say positive things about one of the most important aspects of your life. With that written I am also leery of these types of conversations. Even if it were true I do not expect her to say, “Your kid has no talent, and you are wasting your money on my services.” After a little while you just have to trust your instinct on reading people, and some of the things she said about our son did reinforce that he was on the right path. </p>

<p>She could have ended with that plus hugs all around, and everyone would have left with big smiles on their faces. She ended with our time together by advocating sending our son to a MT program with more name recognition than the in-state U. Yes, it would cost more money but it would be worth it if you really wanted to give him a shot at a career in this business. Given her educational pedigree this argument wasn’t surprising, and part of me buys into her argument and part of me dismisses it as “East Coast Bias”. The Process isn’t over, and we’ll wring our hands, if applicable, when we actually have offers on the table to consider. That’s a lie - we started wringing our hands around the time Unifieds was going on.</p>

<p>With the regional thespian conference at the beginning of December, mid-terms in the middle, I pushed back some of the work still left to be done for university/program applications until the weekend before Christmas. I gave him the heads-up at the beginning of the month, but still it was no fun sitting down with him on the on the Saturday before Christmas to say: UofO MT needs a personal statement, Syracuse MT needs a supplemental essay, Syracuse University has four supplemental questions on the Common App, and we can wait until January to do another essay for Michigan’s MT program (#3 if you are counting at home). The TSU Honors Program will need one in March, but let’s cross that bridge… </p>

<p>I believe in pausing to celebrate milestones. On December 23rd my son submitted his last academic applications - #13 and #14. What started as my wife and I panicking about comma placement in supplemental essays turned into, “Son, it’s an academic application; therefore, it doesn’t matter. Just write something down and get it in.”</p>

<p>My goal for the two weeks covering Christmas and New Years is to not read College Confidential in an effort to step back and take a breather from this process. Merry Christmas, and no one gets any gift over $50 until we know how much college will cost.</p>

<p>Tasks completed on/before Christmas - 357</p>

<p>Travel Loyalty Programs</p>

<p>This is a good time to discuss obtaining “status” with various travel companies. If one or more spouses travel for business in January of your child’s junior year it’s time to pick your airline, hotel, and rental car agency of choice to amass those points for campus visits and Unifieds. </p>

<p>On the hotel side I happened to already belong to Hilton Honors which was fortunate given that both Moonifieds and Chicago Unifieds are held at Hilton properties. Mary Anna does a good job of getting a discount rate for rooms - so no points needed for Moonifieds. Getting a room in Chicago at the beginning of February is pretty easy/cheap to do as well, thus I would much rather pay cash than spend the points that the Palmer House requires. In the final analysis I did a lot of unpacking/packing when I was traveling for business to get reach Hilton’s gold level which gained me access to their executive lounge. </p>

<p>The executive or concierge lounge for any hotel chain is typically a suite on one of the top floors where in the morning they serve a free continental breakfast and in the evening they serve free beer/wine. Let’s face it - it’s a way for me (the seasoned business traveler) to feel superior to the tourists. I’m a petty person. The reward this year for my pettiness is the Palmer House remodeling their executive lounge during Unifieds thus is closed. Eh, karma’s vindictive. My wife did get to enjoy the executive lounge at Moonifieds because my name was on the reservation. </p>

<p>On the airline side I switched my loyalties early this year to Southwest, and I am very glad I did. Besides doing most of my travel with WN (their two-digit code), I signed up for their Rapid Rewards Visa. The 50,000 points they gave me at sign-up was the boost I needed to reach 110,000 Rapid Rewards points this calendar year which put me into the rarified air of Companion Status. </p>

<p>Thus son will fly free-of-charge when I take him to Chicago, Austin, and Indy. Points will get him and my wife to UofO while we paid cash for the trip to Dallas/Moonifieds. The other good thing about Southwest is there are no change fees, thus book a flight now for $x and when you see it for $50 less a month later you can book the lesser fare and use the $50 later for flight credit. Granted, it is a pain to keep up with various flight credits (not surprisingly the Southwest website isn’t too helpful), but we’ve rebooked a couple of flights so far in The Process.</p>

<p>The other thing I did with Southwest that I couldn’t do with another airline is in January book a one-way trip to Newark (EWR) for the beginning of spring break and a separate one way trip back home from EWR at the end of spring break. Plan is to visit schools whose MT programs gave him an offer as a result of Unifieds auditions, which for son numbers six in NY and PA. First of all, as I write this in December I realize that he would be considered lucky/fortunate to receive one acceptance from any of these six. It’s presumptuous to plan for visiting 3+ schools over his spring break, but by using the Rapid Reward points I have accumulated this year there’s no cost to cancel these flight(s) if need be. The hope is booking flights in January will be materially less expensive than booking flights a week in advance in mid-March. I also have this creepy feeling that I’m teasing karma again, not that I believe in that stuff. </p>

<p>Finally, on the rental car side my company steers us towards Avis (pun intended), and after every four rentals I get a free two-day weekend rental that I’m using for a couple of on-campus auditions. At minimum sign up for a rental car’s loyalty program so that the process of actually getting into your rental car is expedited. </p>

<p>To recap: a) don’t kill yourself to get hotel points/status, b) sign-up for a rental car company if you want to expedite getting into your rental car, and c) flying Southwest was very helpful for us saving approximately $2,500 ($1,300 on the Companion Pass, $1,200 in cashing in points).</p>

<p>January - Texas State</p>

<p>January started off with sending in the last MT application. Also he gave all interested parties at his school notice that he would be missing four full days plus two half-days of school in January and February. Not as bad as I thought it would be, but with every weekend in February spoken for it will be busy. </p>

<p>Texas State presented a dilemma: a) save some money and audition for them at Unifieds? b) while they don’t state they have rolling admissions, last year they offered one slot to a male at Moonifieds (2012) and did they same again at their January (2013) on-campus callbacks, c) does being on campus give one even a tiny advantage over a Unifieds audition?, d) what if he falls in love with the program and thus is lackluster in all other auditions? </p>

<p>Our trip to San Marcos was the second weekend of January. This is a bonus trip to campus because we could have done this audition in Chicago; however, as much as we preach that during The Process we do not fall in love with schools until offers come in this is the school he wants, nay, we all want. Affordable tuition - check. Hot program - check. Friends in Austin - check. Strong academic reputation - well…did I mention this was a hot, affordable program? In fact, I had to counsel Son not to convey to Miss Kaitlyn that he would stop auditioning if they offered. </p>

<p>I am a believer in a couple of similar concepts revolving around competition: a) something is only worth $1 more than what the second place bidder is asking, and b) we’ll value someone more not because of their unconditional love for us but if someone else values them too. Now this last one is no way to run a marriage, but many a courtships evolved to marriage because of this. Put another way I think Ms. Kaitlyn would value more a talented 17 year old she beat out Michigan for than a talented 17 year old that only offers their undying love/dedication. Overthinking this? Sure, but the last thing we need is for Kaitlyn to think she can show up on our doorstep on May 5 and fill her last spot with our son. I’m also sure I’ll chuckle at myself for all this over-thinking when TSU says “thanks, but no thanks” long before we get on a plane to Chicago. </p>

<p>Re-reading the above paragraph a couple of months later, and I so much want to delete it. But it reminds me how this whole process can take your mind down rabbit holes that aren’t that important. Auditions and grades, grades and auditions. Anyhoo…</p>

<p>San Marcos was great - they even cashed some chips in ordered up a sunny, 72 degree day. My son at one point said, “I know this violates ‘The Process’, but this is the only place I want to go to school.” Confided in him that if we were on the plane to Bloomington and we somehow got an email inviting us to joint the TSU MT program, I’d immediately knock on the cockpit door and ask the captain to turn the plane around (kidding, of course). Too bad that’s not our decision to make. </p>

<p>Take a look at this post</p>

<p><a href=“”></a></p>

<p>for a more detailed write-up of the logistics of the day - can’t add additional value to what this person wrote. There is a part of me that wishes we would have done the campus callback in February. No falling in love which might affect other auditions. Alas, the January callback date fit our schedule best, and it was fun doing this one alone in January and not in the crush of the four February weekends.</p>

<p>Under the heading of “Don’t Try to Correlate Audition Feedback to Actual Offers”, Kaitlyn called my son “the real deal” and Jim said “you are a phenomenal actor”. Made it past the first cut with a “priority hold”, but did not get an offer in mid-February. That one hurt a lot. In early March he was notified that he was put on their wait list. More, much more, on that later.</p>

<p>A week after we got home from Texas, UofO sent a letter with a $7K per year academic scholarship. Given that UofO allows stacking of scholarships and this is one of the more affordable out-of-state tuitions in the country, we were pleased that maybe going to UofO - remember, haven’t auditioned on campus yet - will cost as much as our own in-state university</p>

<p>Tasks completed on/before Unifieds - 401</p>

<p>Chicago Unifieds</p>

<p>On Saturday, February 1, we’re on a plane to Chicago. Some drama around the weather since Midway was shut down on Saturday morning, but given we landed at noon-thirty it was all good for us. Glad we didn’t try to shoehorn Indiana in on Saturday, then rent a car and make the 3 hours north to Chicago. Saw a mother with daughter in tow later that night around 10 p.m. looking for the registration desk and was very glad we were already settled in. </p>

<p>A couple of things about taking the subway. In Chicago the subway is called the “El” (pronounced “L”, as in “elevated”), and is operated by the Chicago Transit Authority. Thus I was thinking if you didn’t know what the acronym “CTA” meant, you might find yourself scratching your head for a couple of extra seconds after you picked up your bags wondering where to go next. Also, Google told us to take the Orange Line and exit at the Harold Washington Library then walk to the hotel. While it is the fastest way to the hotel, the Adams/Wabash station is right in front of the hotel. I know this doesn’t make inherent sense, so I guess it falls under the “trust me” category.</p>

<p>The Palmer House is a beautiful, older hotel. Lobby will make you say, “Wow.” No microwave, no frig in the rooms will leave you a little disappointed (coffee maker only by request, though no charge). The 45-can soft-sided cooler we brought was very helpful. The box of microwave popcorn we brought was not. Also glad I brought plenty of packets of Starbucks instant coffee as well as a decanter to hold hot water. My grand poobah diamond status got me nothing, nilch in the room upgrade department. Earlier in the week I even agreed to pay extra for a larger room. Nothing. Oh well - first world problems.</p>

<p>In the week leading up to Unifieds I had to scramble to find something for us to do on Saturday night. Ended up seeing a show at the Royal George Theatre which is a ten minute Red Line ride. Everything else was booked or had a late (e.g., 11 p.m.) start time. Half the fun was taking the El (yes, I’m from a small town), and we ended up walking all of three/four blocks total. I like this mass transit thing. </p>

<p>Speaking of ancillary items, the Target a block from the Palmer House was great too. Loaded up on bottled water, some Ramen Noodles, apple slices, and even Bailey’s for my coffee. </p>

<p>Son’s schedule was tight enough that he wasn’t coming back to the room very often, so staying at the hotel was more about conveniently seeing people he recognized in the lobby than an efficient base of operations. If you’re a Marriott-devotee, then staying there especially if you can have a bigger room might make equal/more sense.</p>

<p>Son was seeing eight programs in eleven time slots (i.e., dance call scheduled independently of sing/act). Only Carnegie Mellon did not have a dance call. Probably no walk-ins on this trip. This was a good schedule starting Sunday afternoon and ending Wednesday at noon. While we didn’t get every application in as soon as possible in the fall, we sure didn’t get any applications/pre-screens in just before the deadline either. Think that contributed greatly to a relatively stress-free Unifieds schedule. </p>

<p>The auditions themselves? Son generally reported back with words/phrases such as: boring, not as hard as I thought, they smiled some, okay. Sorry, no horror stories of being cut-off, being rude to, etc. Tuesday we had quarantined off for CMU and Michigan. Both were anti-climatic due to not a lot of feedback with the auditors. I’ve read the discussions about not reading too much into interactions at auditions and that’s been conveyed to son, nonetheless it’s still a let-down when you basically get a, “Thank you. Next.” response. Okay, I don’t think it was that curt, but that’s what the 17 year old feels right now. It was nice when the Syracuse head of dance pulled son aside to ask about his dance training. It’s not listed on his resume because three ballet classes just didn’t merit a mention, but evidently he kept up well enough with the movements in the audition. Fast forward to March - he didn’t even get on the waitlist from Syracuse MT. </p>

<p>Will give Michigan credit for running a tight ship. A five minute window was scheduled for his monologue, then the singing portion was another five-minute window thirty minutes later. CMU largely depended on when the (nice) lady at the receptionist table pulled your brown envelope from her arm. Just between you and me I wish we would have scheduled something, anything for later in the afternoon so we could have requested an earlier audition in the four-hour time block. </p>

<p>Ithaca was the last audition scheduled to go from 8 - 1 (five hours? really?) though he was done by 11 o’clock. They assign individual audition times in the order they received pre-screen uploads on DecisionDesk, so another reason not to procrastinate getting those videos in. The 2 o’clock check-out from the hotel helped things, and making it to our 5:30 flight wasn’t a problem. </p>

<p>Son’s voice teach had him email her notes regarding each audition every day. Maybe it was for her to learn more about the experience, maybe it was for him to document his experiences/feels for reference later. Very glad she requested this and he complied. </p>

<p>One quick, interesting story from Unifieds. Son makes it past pre-screens for Michigan, one of the best schools and one of the best programs in the country. He’s doing his dance call in a studio at the Joffrey Ballet in downtown Chicago. Mr. Wagner has given an impressive talk about the impact Michigan will have on these young people’s lives. Even I was ready to go back to college. The first words out of his mouth when I saw him on the street coming back from the audition was, “Kaitlin gave me a hug!” Texas State had their own dance call in those studios after Michigan, and they evidently crossed paths. Sort of regretting that January on-campus audition instead of the February one.</p>

<p>A year in the making and Unifieds is done. “Thank you. Next.”</p>

<p>A Gap Year?</p>

<p>The subject of a gap year was brought up after Unifieds. While he had an offer from the in-state program, son had decided he didn’t want to go to school there. If TSU or OU didn’t come through with something, and the Unified schools either said “no” or didn’t offer enough money then he would sit it out a year and try again. </p>

<p>I can think of many advantages of a gap year: </p>

<p>big difference from 17 to 18
I want him to be excited about getting (vs. having) to go to a particular school/program
unique opportunity to experience the world
come back refreshed/re-focused
maybe he would reconsider MT</p>

<p>The negatives were:</p>

<p>the potential of college plans getting derailed
the money aspect (would we be spending extra money during gap year vs. helping him his first year out of college)
not taking advantage of the opportunity in front of him (an acceptance into an audition program)</p>

<p>If we went this route we would need to iron out some details [sorry the outline formatting didn’t take]:</p>

<p>1) money - Mom/Dad pay for insurance, everything else is on son such as:
a) spending
b) gas
c) lessons
d) clothing
e) auditions (head shots, fees, travel)</p>

<p>2) job
a) need to be working at least 30 hours a week starting July 1
b) a minimum-wage job should allow him to bring home $800 per month
i) $300 for a - d above
ii) $500 in savings each month for e (auditions)</p>

<p>3) schools
a) son would need to get deferments where possible
b) retake the ACT (multiple times - I (admittedly more than him) want the best score possible)</p>

<p>4) responsibility - our three-man team would be downsized to a one-man show. We of course would still be his biggest fans, but no more pouring over websites to figure out who needed what.</p>

<p>5) Plans
a) what strategy (or is that “tactics”?) would be used on this second go around (e.g., no Unifieds in favor of fewer but on-campus auditions?)
b) what’s Plan B?</p>

<p>6) Postpone any vacation/find-yourself-trip/walk-about until next summer</p>

<p>On the last point when you hear “gap year” travel, seeing the world, comes to mind. For us - no. Get a job, build up your own war chest to pay for your own lessons, headshots, hotels for auditions, etc., secure a spot in a program for next fall then do something fun from April - August the following year. Work first, then play.</p>

<p>I thought about asking him to pay for his own insurance - auto and health - which would be an eye-opener for him. Similar to food and shelter, I’m just not ready to ask my son to cut me a check each month. </p>

<p>Finally, one challenge with all of this is enforcement - what if he doesn’t have a job on/before July 1? I might be overthinking the last point, but more broadly the question we parents have to ask ourselves is are we ready to watch him fail in an unstructured environment vs. having less visibility in a structured environment (i.e., going off to college)? Put another way, would us parents really resign from the three-man team and turn all the reins over to him?</p>

<p>When he got the offer from Ball State I moved the gap year concept to the back of my mind.</p>

<p>One other note regarding Plan B. Quite a few people were posting on CC in late March some “we only have waitlist offers” or “we have no offers”. It would have been prudent to apply to a non-MT school as a just in case. </p>

<p>Rest of February: Every Weekend an Audition</p>

<p>After the more business-like experiences he had in Chicago, he was looking forward to getting on a campus again for his final auditions. My wife and I were able to see family or friends as part of the trip to Bloomington and Norman, which was a nice bonus. Indiana was very accommodating in getting an early audition time for son so we could fetch the last flight home, thus the quick 30-hour trip was nice compared to the 4.5 day trip to Chicago. For UofO they wrapped up at 3:30 p.m. which did give us plenty of time to catch the last flight home, but we decided to stay to see a production at the school. </p>

<p>I drew the long-straw for the trip to Boulder for CU, which was the most curious of all auditions. Son was one of four kids auditioning for MT, and later found out that the program has twelve kids - total. The man running the audition and MT program, Bud Coleman, gathered all of us in a lobby of the music building and while a college couple were giggling with each other about five feet away he explained that all four kids had been accepted into the program. We’re heading to the car, and I excitedly say, “We need to call your mother!” Son iced the situation quickly saying, “I’m not coming to school here.” Okaaaaay. Well, I get it. After hearing all the pitches from schools at Unifieds, CU-Boulder isn’t in the same league nor do they want to be in the same league. Still, can we celebrate a little bit?</p>

<p>The audition at Bloomington was a half day affair with group dance and acting classes, then an individual audition in the early afternoon. The morning classes did give him a feel for their teaching techniques. On the acting side, George Pinney went through a warm-up routine with them that went something along the lines of, “Close your eyes and imagine yourself in a happy place.” That’s just not my son’s style. We could have just headed to the airport then/there. A little frustrated that my son didn’t keep a more open mind; however, we deferred to his judgement on all things artistic. Some days that’s easier said than done.</p>

<p>Later in the day his individual audition at IU it was another “Thank you. Next.” experience he had in Chicago. Again, the auditors are all very nice (and the above is a slight exaggeration), but little working with him on an individual basis. Urban legend (i.e., posts on College Confidential) had us prepared for questions (e.g., “Why IU?” or “What unique skill sets would you bring to Bloomington?”) or for the accompanist to suddenly stop playing during a song. None of that. Nicht, nein, zilch. On the way to the parking garage son asked, “I wonder what Kaitlin is doing right now?” It was meant as a joke, but I worried there’s always a grain of truth to a funny joke.</p>

<p>As far as the auditions in Norman, son enjoyed himself much more than Indiana. I guess it’s “the vibe” or “fit” which is always talked about. He did the standard two contrasting songs, one monologue, then the auditor who saw him back at the thespian conference in December asked for the song which happens to be son’s favorite. That appeared to be well received by the faculty. Not big smiles from son (we was still disappointed by not receiving an offer from Texas State earlier in the week), but definitely some smiles now that auditions are over. </p>

<p>They took in a show at UofO that night which I thought would be an after-thought. In fact, if wife wasn’t meeting with old classmates they probably would have made the last flight home that day and skipped the show. The show was very impressive, better than many professional productions we have seen. Wife told me the next day that was a turning point in his view of this program. On par with Texas State (almost).</p>

<p>It’s all over but the crying.</p>

<p>Tasks completed on/before March 1 - 452.</p>

<p>Offer Season - The First 2 Weeks</p>

<p>Day 1, Sunday, February 16 - This is the day after TSU completed all their auditions. Over coffee that morning my wife and I fell into the “what if” trap. What if TSU sends a “we regret” email later in the week before we get on the plane for OU? Should we tell son now about the two boys that have already been accepted to temper his hopes (one in November after Moonifieds, one in January after the first on-campus auditions)? We passed on a long walk with the dog on a beautiful February day because what if Texas State emailed or called today? I wish I was making this up. </p>

<p>Day 2, Monday, February 17 - Social media is buzzing with the news that Kaitlin is making phone calls today with offers in hand. Son did not receive one of those calls. One of his friends did and he was pretty disappointed.</p>

<p>That night his mother and I each gave him a pep-talk. Mine was four sentences: 1) It’s not over with TSU, but it doesn’t look good, 2) one of the TSU acceptees didn’t make it past pre-screens with Michigan and UofO (i.e., it’s a crazy business), 3) let’s focus on what we control - going to school tomorrow and going to UofO later in the week, and 4) I’m here if you want to talk, but I’ll leave you alone if need be. He said he knew what he was signing up for when he chose musical theatre, so he was okay and didn’t want to talk any more. Still hard to leave his room when you know he was suffering.</p>

<p>Remember when I wrote to respect The Process? This was a punch in the gut reminding us we were not respecting The Process. Waaaay too much fantasizing about how neat it would be to study under Jim and Kaitlyn, etc. on his part, and the same applies to me regarding the low cost of tuition. As a wiser parent should I have shut all “Kaitlin” comments and reminded my son of the long odds (i.e., be Debbie Downer), or let the 17 year old be a 17 year old? I let the 17 YO be the 17 YO with only slight regrets. I’ll comment later what I should have done as a wiser parent.</p>

<p>Day 4, Wednesday, February 18 - son didn’t go to school because of being under the weather. The real reason son didn’t go to school was b/c he was still moping about the imminent decline letter from TSU which is the message that Moo sent out to all her kids (i.e., prepare yourselves for a rejection which would go out on Thursday). We let him slide b/c of OU on Friday.</p>

<p>Day 5, Thursday, February 19 - Son and his mother got on the plane to Oklahoma carrying the burden of a rejection from TSU though technically that wasn’t the case. When he landed in Oklahoma that afternoon, I was happy to text him that Montclair State’s MT program had accepted him. They changed his application status online to “YES MUTR”, which evidently is a thumbs-up. That didn’t erase all that he had gone through this week with not hearing from Texas State, but it was a timely validation. </p>

<p>Day 9, Monday, February 24 - in the evening Ball State called asking him to join their MT program. That same day we received his academic acceptance to Ball State with merit money that made the cost of going to Muncie the same as the retail price of our in-state school. The phrase of the evening in the house was, “Four out of Five MT programs prefer our son.” I know that’s crass, and I’m glad I’m posting this a couple of months later, but you need to celebrate the victories where you can. We knew some “no’s” were coming, but not tonight.</p>

<p>Day 10, Tuesday, February 25 - Penn State’s portal awkwardly informed us he was on the waitlist for the University Park campus. Given that they had their decision Sunday two days prior, we took that to mean the MT program waitlisted him. </p>

<p>Day 12, Thursday, February 26 - A faculty member from UofO emailed saying he was on priority hold. We were happy that he was still in the running, but a firm offer would have been nice.</p>

<p>Day 14, Saturday, March 1 - No word from TSU despite Kaitlin telling all the auditioners on February 15 that she would send out notifications on/before this date. At least he didn’t get a rejection email that Moo told all her kids to brace for, but I told my son that he might not hear from Kaitlin at all. He might be in priority hold purgatory through May, and maybe it was time to start examining what acceptances he had vs. the one that he wants. Son’s high school spring musical wraps up on this night, and we had to practically push him out the door that night to go to his cast party. </p>

<p>Offer Season - The Next 2 Weeks</p>

<p>Day 15, Sunday, March 2nd - I see where Indiana is calling kids telling them they’ve been accepted. While Indiana is not a good fit for us, I was disappointed he didn’t get that phone call. This is around the same time I see UofO did offer a boy a spot in the MT program who auditioned the same weekend as my son. This is going to be controversial what I write next, but I do want one of those really good 2nd-tier programs to give him a slot in the first round of offerings. </p>

<p>Everyone’s sort of discouraged at this point. Are we greedy with four acceptances? Or is it we are learning what is a good fit and what isn’t? Maybe yes and yes. It’s been a helluva rollercoaster ride over the past two weeks.</p>

<p>Day 16, Monday, March 3rd - Ithaca changes his application page on their portal indicating he’s in. I saw some chatter on CC about offers, begrudgingly checked their website, and almost started hyperventilating. Serious. I got my wish, now how was I going to pay for it?! Or say, “Sorry, buddy. No can do. Yes, I know FAFSA says we can afford it but we’re not paying 3x or 4x for your education.”</p>

<p>Later that night I’m calling home (traveling for business for a few days), two things were told to me: 1) A welcome packet came from Ithaca offering $60K in merit money (3x is now 2x), and 2) Indiana called offering him a slot. Holy-moly, what a difference 24 hours makes.</p>

<p>Day 17, Tuesday, March 4th - Michigan website updated to reveal a flat-out “no” from the MT program but a “waitlist” for Acting. His mother and I take the philosophy that we’re not going to force him to check websites or inboxes if he doesn’t want to. Doesn’t stop us from checking websites. And for the record, we draw the line at opening mail; however, windowed envelopes can be quite revealing. Don’t judge me until you’ve walked a mile in my moccasins. </p>

<p>I’m burying today’s lead: Kaitlin sends an email via Acceptd that says he’s waitlisted. Ah, but there’s a twist: “I want you to know you are at the top of the waitlist…” Is she being nice or literal? The numbers she shared: they saw 600 kids, son made it to the top 20, and they offered 14. I presume that means six waitlisted. </p>

<p>Through various sources I triangulate that one boy from Georgia has been offered but not accepted. I’m now that kid’s second-biggest fan. Come on Michigan, how can you not love this kid? Barbara Mackenzie-Wood, you know you love that guy! Tempted to send this kid a note asking if he knows how hot it gets in Central Texas…in October.</p>

<p>Day 18, Wednesday, March 5th - Son officially received the emails from both the Michigan MT and Acting programs. He wasn’t disappointed with the “no” from MT, and the “maybe” from Acting was nice. </p>

<p>I was looking at it all from a different angle: Did my 2nd-favorite MT’er from Georgia get into Michigan? A friend I made on CC knew that one of the girls offered at TSU had a preference to attend Michigan (how does she know this stuff?), thus when the MT’er posted on a FaceBook site that she had been accepted to there I started wondering, “Do we need a boy to pass on TSU, or do we need anyone to pass?” I’m normally the pessimistic one in this process; however, today I told my wife, “It is 7 p.m. on March the 5th, and while I do not KNOW anything I think our son will be attending Texas State University.”</p>

<p>Back to Michigan I’m going to ignore the lingering fear I have of the Acting Department calling in late April saying, “You’re in. Drive-out price of $260K, but it’s MICHIGAN. You have 48 hours to decide.” If Kaitlin does call, then Michigan is a slam-dunk no-go. If she doesn’t, then I could potentially need to start searching the couch cushions for a quarter-of-a-million dollars.</p>

<p>Day 20, Friday, March 7 - Social media is buzzing with Pace today. Evidently Amy (Rogers, Head of MT) is making phone calls. Looks like my second favorite MT’er (from Georgia) received one of those phone calls. I presume by the way he posted so quickly on FB about the Pace offer that he did not get an offer from Michigan. We’ll call this a good news/bad news day.</p>

<p>Day 22, Sunday, March 9 - Three weeks after anxiety set in during that Sunday morning coffee, we’re all now a bit calmer and optimistic. Optimistic what our spring break trip will teach us, and optimistic that one of his wait lists - Penn St., UofO, Texas St. - will give us a call in April. Even though Carnegie Mellon, Syracuse, and UofO are making phone calls this week, not finding myself checking social media five times a day. </p>

<p>Right now in March, in our house, the belle of the ball is Ithaca College. Wife and I are both products of Big State University (BSU), lived at home during part of college, and we both can’t believe we’re on the verge of sending our child east to a liberal arts college. Yes, the price tag is about $85K more than our original budget of what it would cost for on-campus living at BSU, but we came to the conclusion on this day that it would be worth it. </p>

<p>Many factors go into that last sentence. The job she took last fall is going well. Our daughter is doing well though her mother isn’t picking her up each day from school. Ithaca is high on my numbers list: good ACT scores, high out-of-state student population, good graduation numbers, and their MT’ers get work. Only schools higher on my numbers list are NYU, Michigan, and Carnegie Mellon. Penn State, Baldwin Wallace, and Syracuse share the same neighborhood (almost literally as well as figuratively) as Ithaca. Oh yeah, son wants to go there too.</p>

<p>Day 27, Friday, March 14 - This was a big day circled on the calendar. Syracuse would release their first wave of decisions via email, Carnegie Mellon would be making phone calls, and UofO should as well. I think I checked CC and Facebook ten times during the day to learn…nothing. All’s quiet on the electronic front.</p>

<p>Funny thing is when I am at a bus stop I privately ridicule people who look down the road to see if the bus is coming. “Really, is that going to make the bus get here faster?” I’m not only craning my head to look down the road, I’m in the road and jumping up to see if that can help me see further. I’m not proud of myself right now.</p>

<p>Offer Season - Week 5</p>

<p>Day 36, Sunday, March 23 - My second favorite MT’er (from GA) got into CMU. Presuming my son didn’t because he didn’t get a phone call today or this weekend. More excited about the former than disappointed in the latter. </p>

<p>Nothing from Syracuse and don’t care anymore. Talked with some acting parents as we toured Ithaca together and they said their experience there was not good. Between the seven offers we have and Syracuse’s reputation for not handing out a lot of money make that school an easy write-off. </p>

<p>The only school we haven’t heard from is UofO. Wife thinks that simply means that our priority hold turns into a waitlist, I think it is more dire but neither of us know. Time for son to reach out to them b/c we view them as a (relatively) low cost #2 school.</p>

<p>Day 41, Friday, March 28 - Email came from Syracuse indicating a “no” for MT and a “waitlist” for acting. See two paragraphs above. Son’s status page on CMU officially shows that he was declined by both programs. Official decline letter was in our mailbox a couple of days later. </p>

<p>Campus Visits</p>

<p>To keep this blog in something of chronological order, I am inserting the trip we took to visit schools that had extended offers to him. We are fortunate that our spring break is the last week of March. While we have a couple of schools we haven’t heard from, it’s time to schedule visits with those we have heard from. So on the Ides of March (we don’t believe in bad omens here) we put together an itinerary of a road trip out East: 4 schools in 5 days, 800 miles, 14 hours of driving, another couple hours taking the train in/out of NYC. Really not a bad way to spend spring break.</p>

<p>But first wife took our son last night to a production at our local in-state college which did not do much to improve his view of their program, though it does seem that we’re back to working The Process and dealing with what we have vs. hoping for what we want.</p>

<p>Took a look at the map again and realized that 14 hours of driving over five days is a bad way to spend spring break. My first suggestion was to make Ball State a separate trip after spring break, but my wife pushed to make this a separate trip before spring break. She wisely knew that after spring break son was going to be fed up college tours. I was thinking the same thing and hopeful we could save the $900 and cancel Ball State altogether. </p>

<p>Left Thursday evening before spring break and flew to Indianapolis. Drove the 1.5 hours to Muncie (the Indy rental car center is connected to the airport - quick/easy) and got ourselves tucked into bed before 1 a.m. EST. Handed him off to Andrea Sadler at 8:45 a.m. She’s great. She had his day full from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m., and he enjoyed it all a great deal. I thought he would go into overload but it further proved that musical theater is what he wanted to do. At 4 p.m. I gave him an option: drive to the airport immediately and sleep in your own bed tonight, or stay on schedule and fly home in the morning. He surprised me when he said he wanted to stay to observe the kids prepping for their showcase. Turns out 20 minutes later they were done and so were we, but he left Muncie saying, “I very much could see myself going to school here.”</p>

<p>Two days later we’re on a plane to visit Pace, Montclair, Ithaca, and Penn State. When son reached out to these schools a week prior about the visit both Ithaca and Penn State showed that they had been through this drill before. Itineraries of the day were received a day or two later. For Pace he ended up piecing together his own tour with a couple of people. For Montclair State we didn’t hear back from them until I interceded by calling Clay James directly. Once I got him on the phone he was a prince and helpful.</p>

<p>Regarding Pace my son realized that he’s not ready to live in NYC, and that he wants to the college campus experience. Fair enough. </p>

<p>Regarding Ithaca my son ended up liking that school/program a great deal. Actually I was happy it was cold/windy that day, and that didn’t discourage him. </p>

<p>Montclair State - we didn’t even make it halfway through the campus tour before he leaned over and said, “Don’t make me go to school here.” The acting scene study class didn’t change his opinion. Pity - the city of Montclair is quite nice and even has the train depot near the entrance of the school. Seeing the Manhattan skyline from the campus was cool, but more practically speaking Clay James emphasized how his kids are all active in NYC and summer stock. It still was a no-go. This is a good example of “fit” or the lack thereof in our case. You MT’er might love it there.</p>

<p>We scratched Penn State from the tour to make room for some last minute scheduling at Montclair State. Given that they waitlisted him I get that we needed to make time for a school that had actually accepted him. I still regret not doing the tour because I suspect he would have liked it as much as Ithaca.</p>

<p>Two themes I saw emerge during these tours: sitting in on acting scene study classes was the best barometer to determine if he liked the program, and he appeared to like the schools in inverse order of their average incoming freshman ACT scores (i.e., smarter the kids, the more he liked). As an FYI he was ignorant to those ACT scores before the tours. </p>

<p>The exception to this ACT theme was Texas State. When we auditioned on-campus in January school was not in session yet, thus the only kids he was exposed to where all the MT and Theatre students. </p>

<p>Tasks completed on/before April 1 - 486.</p>