Why my D chose Western Michigan

  1. She really felt a connection at her audition with the faculty and students (at Unifieds). The faculty had her sing an extra song and discussed the context of the show with her in a manner that she really enjoyed. She liked Jay Berkow's demeanor a lot. They had her discuss WMU with some students that were helping with auditions and she liked what they had to say and their attitude. She felt like she would fit in well in their program. She is all about the people in the program and how she was treated during the audition.
  2. The MT curriculum is exactly what she is looking for. It is a true conservatory-style program with 80+ hours in the major: (a) heavy dance (20+ hours, at least two per semester), (b) solid music (7 semesters of private voice, plus theory, aural skills, piano) with the opportunity to take extended classes in piano accompaniment, (c) Directing is built into the curriculum, (d) MT's can take as many Acting courses as they can fit in, (e) only 3 hours of stagecraft/design required and only 6 hours of theatre history (some schools really pad their curriculum with this stuff - some require 21 hours or more!), and (f) lots of great theatre electives.
  3. Low General Education requirements: with her AP credits, she will only have to take 5-6 courses outside her major. However, since the school is fairly large, they have a very broad selection of electives that she is interested in outside of theatre.
  4. They gave her a large Bronco Gold scholarship. If you stay through a summer, and get a Michigan Drivers License, you can qualify for in-state tuition.
  5. She reviewed their last several senior showcase videos on youtube and liked what she saw: rock/pop emphasis, lots of belting, etc. She is classically trained (although she can belt) and is looking forward to broadening her vocal skills into the pop/rock genre.
  6. The facilities are very good compared to some other programs: a 500+ seat proscenium theatre and two black boxes, one of which is similar to some mainstage theatres at other colleges (note that some programs have great mainstage theatres but only use them on a limited basis for departmental productions). WMU does at least 2 musicals in their mainstage theatre each year. There is also a beautiful 1,000+ seat theatre on campus that hosts touring shows, big name concerts, etc. All of the fine arts buildings are grouped around a central plaza with a large fountain the middle - pretty impressive for a college campus.
  7. WMU has a really solid annual theatre season of 9-10 shows per year including three musicals. Lots of cross-over between MT and Acting in casting. She liked what she saw of their set designs. Many other programs have a more limited season and more limited production scope than WMU.
  8. 15 MT majors per class. She was a little worried about programs that are really tiny (less than 10 per class) and those that are 20 or more. 15 seems to be just the right number to her.
  9. The campus is hilly and pretty, especially when you walk across the series of central plazas. Although the campus was built mostly from 1960-on, the central area is very nicely laid out and the design of the buildings is well done. It is not very impressive to drive around, but very nice when you walk through it. Very nice landscaping.
  10. There is a dedicated fine arts dorm with practice rooms and a dance studio that is located close to the Theatre and Dance buildings.
  11. A lot of WMU students are cast in shows at Kalamazoo Civic Theatre. WMU is located in the "Midwest summer stock belt" which affords lots of opportunities for summer work. WMU has a decent number of recent grads working in National Tours and on Broadway.
  12. Kalamazoo is nice small city.

Also, freshmen routinely get cast in main stage shows.

More on Freshman auditions and casting at Western Michigan. Freshman audition beginning in September for 4 weeks straight for:

  • The "Footlights" series which are student-directed shows mentored by faculty members, these are part of advanced coursework in Directing. Musicals are included in this slate of shows.
  • Spring Semester mainstage musicals.
  • Spring Semester mainstage plays.
  • Scene work associated associated with Directing classes, which includes both acting and singing.

Freshmen routinely get cast in all these shows. The process is repeated every semester.

The Freshman class also puts on a showcase.

So, if you are a Freshman at WMU, you will get the opportunity from your first month on campus for several rounds of auditions and callbacks; and chances are excellent that you will be cast in one or more productions of various types in your first semester on campus.

It is also important to note that students interested in Directing are able to take classes that give them the opportunity to cast and direct work of some substance.

Some more reasons to choose Western Michigan MT:

  • WMU is one of only eight schools in the nation and the only school in Michigan to have achieved accreditation in all fine arts disciplines (Art, Music, Theatre, Dance) by NAST, NASD, NASAD, and NASM.
  • The student/faculty ratio in the College of Fine Arts is very low at 9:1. All Fine Arts majors have to audition for entry.
  • College of Fine Arts students have higher statistics than the rest of WMU: 3.53 GPA, high percentage of honors scholars, highest retention rate at the university, etc.
  • Not only are the three performance spaces in the Theatre Department and the Miller Auditorium excellent - the Dalton Center and Gilmore Theatre Complex classroom, rehearsal, and public spaces for theatre, music, and dance are also very nice.
  • As an NASD accredited dance program, dance is very strong at WMU.

Another reason to choose WMU MT: “Fun Fridays.”

Every Friday afternoon the Directing II class stages scenes where students are cast, rehearse, and put on a scene during a three hour period. Every theatre student has to participate at least three times each semester and d has had a blast performing in scenes this year. Not only is being in the scenes fun, it is a great way to meet and bond with upper class theatre students.

Of course, for the Directing II students it is a great opportunity to practice their skills in casting and directing. Many of the MTP’s take Directing II (Directing I is required). In addition to “Fun Fridays,” Directing students also direct more significant scenework and one-acts in a more conventional manner during the semester as part of the “Footlights” series.

As always, thanks for the great info @EmsDad

Great on-campus apartments (Western View) located close to the Fine Arts complex are another nice thing about WMU. These were built fairly recently and are open to Sophomores and up (not Freshman). It seems like the majority of Theatre department students live there. Two, three, and four bedroom units are available, although its tough for Sophomores to land a 3 or 4 bedroom unit (the Juniors and Seniors snatch them up). D is excited to be living there next year along with many other Sophomore MT-ers and actors.

For Freshman, there is a brand-new dorm, Western Heights, which is really nice. However, most Freshman theatre students live in the dedicated Fine Arts dorm, Draper/Siedschlag Hall (Draper is for guys, Siedschlag for girls with connecting hallways) which is, frankly, pretty dumpy, but has a great location right in the middle of campus. D loved her time in Siedschlag because of the great camaraderie with all the other MT-ers and actors that were living there and the proximity to several dining halls, the Fine Arts complex, and the Rec center. When I asked D if she would have preferred Western Heights, she said, “even though it was really nice, I would only have picked Western Heights if all the other MT-ers would have lived there, otherwise, I would pick Sied because of all the fun we had (MT game nights, movie nights, sing outs, etc.).”

As d moves through the sequence of required acting and musical theatre courses at WMU, she has been very impressed by the faculty. They all have professional experience including TV series, Broadway shows, National Tours, cruise ships, etc. Several of them direct professional shows during the summer.

They all offer individual help outside of class to prepare for outside auditions, shooting videos for submission, etc. Also, they discuss their experience and offer advice on the world of professional theatre during classes, which d has found very enlightening. Lastly, most of them have some significant connections in the professional theatre world which they use to help students get agents, auditions, etc.

An update on my d’s journey at WMU after her Sophomore year:

  1. She absolutely loved her first year in the Western View on-campus apartments. A car is more or less required to travel to the grocery store although you can ride the city bus or get a meal plan and eat in the on-campus cafeterias. Her roommate did not have a car and rode with d to-and-from shopping. Having her own room and her own bathroom was huge.
  2. Because of her AP credits from high school and by taking an online course last summer from WMU while at home, she had extra room in her schedule and took two semesters of Guitar classes in the school of music. She is now pretty proficient on that instrument. Being able to play multiple instruments is a big plus these days in MT.
  3. She also had enough room in her schedule to work in classes in Non-Profit Administration and Entrepreneurship, both areas that build skills for the management side of theatre world. She will probably complete a minor in non-Profit Administration, although there are a couple more classes in Entrepreneurship that she is interested in. It is great that WMU offers minors in both of these areas.
  4. Her MT studio classes with Jay Berkow have been outstanding. Her spring and fall classes focused on preparing for professional MT auditions including how to choose songs that showcase your strengths, how to act the song, how to polish audition rep material, how to audition, etc. She is a much more confident auditioner now. Next year they move on to scene work in MT. She also really likes her voice teacher.
  5. Her dance training from WMU enabled her to land a job as a dance teacher and choreographer for a large summer camp run by an Equity theatre. She received lots of accolades for her work, which she chalked up to great training in dance and theatre at WMU.
  6. She has really enjoyed all of the acting training that she has received, and she especially enjoyed the rigorous Shakespeare class (Acting III).
  7. WMU hosted several on-campus summer stock auditions and d got callbacks at all of them, but did not receive an offer for this summer. However, she made a lot more money working at her theatre camp job and living at home than she would have made in summer stock work.
  8. She landed one leading role in the fall in a black box musical and was dance captain for another in the spring. This fall she will be in the ensemble for the main stage musical (*Witches of Eastwick*) and is understudy for one of the leads.

In a nutshell, she loves attending WMU and being in the MT program.

Thank you @EmsDad for the great update! My D is getting really excited about starting there soon! I hope she loves it as much as your D does!

Yes, Thank You @EmsDad for all the information. My daughter starts as a MTP major this year too and is very excited!

Some information on the campus and Kalamazoo:

Western Michigan U has posted a couple of nice videos on YouTube:

Western Michigan University Fall Campus Tour - an aerial drone tour of the campus showing off the many nice interior plazas on campus. The pedestrian-only inner campus is really nice.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zip13yoajNs

57,600 seconds in Kalamazoo - a fun video showing off-campus attractions for WMU students including my d’s favorite - the “Crow’s Nest” restaurant.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dIFmxshidNk

Kalamazoo is a really nice Midwestern college town with a quaint, restored downtown. City buses are free for WMU students. My d has really appreciated the practical, down-to-earth atmosphere on campus and around town. We love museums and if you like antique cars and/or history, the Gilmore Car Museum is a world-class museum (I am not kidding) just outside of town. I never would have believed it if I hadn’t seen it, but the facility is really nice. The Air Zoo next to the airport is an excellent airplane museum with many WWII and Jet Age aircraft, once again, if I hadn’t seen it, I wouldn’t have believed it was located in Kalamazoo. The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn is a really easy 2 hour drive and we make the trip every fall when I visit d for Parent’s Weekend. It makes for a great day out. You can also ski at several areas in the Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids area, but d has been too busy rehearsing on weekends to work in a trip yet!

One feature that d has really enjoyed is the 1,000 seat Miller Auditorium on campus, attached to the WMU Theatre Building. The Miller hosts an excellent season of traveling productions including several Broadway shows each year. Master classes taught by National Tour actors appearing at the Miller are a feature each year in the WMU Theatre Department. The ticket prices are reasonable for WMU students.

Another cool thing about KZoo is the Amtrak train to Chicago. It only takes 2 1/2 hours and stops in downtown at Union Station, adjacent to the Theatre District and an easy walk to the museums.

Lastly, I would be remiss if I did not point out that they recently opened a Trader Joe’s very close to campus (and next to Costco), which has made my d extremely happy. She loves to cook and try new foods. She buys the bulk of her grocery items at Aldi, and then tops off her specialty items at Trader Joe’s.

I found some PA schools that are accredited in all four fine arts disciplines:

Temple and Slippery Rock University

And several that are accredited in three fine arts disciplines: NAST, NASAD, NASM:

Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Bloomsburg University

Messiah

Junior Year update: d continues to love her sojourn through the MTP program at WMU. Highlights from her Junior year include:

  1. Leadership opportunities: d is the TA for the sophomore MTP studio class and loves helping with repertoire and acting choice suggestions. The class emphasizes audition prep and d has enjoyed sitting "on the other side of the table" as the sophomores practice in a professional audition format, including getting to play several different types of audition panelists (the distracted person, the couldn't-care-less person, the very intense person, etc.). She has also been the assistant director for one of the spring musicals, and got the opportunity to run some rehearsals as well as witness all the details that go into being a good director (lots and lots of note taking and review!).
  2. Agent Workshops: WMU hosts NYC agents 4-5 times a year for workshops on all aspects of preparing for life as a professional including: detailed reviews and comments of resumes and headshots ("your eyes are too dead," "it makes you look heavier than you are,"), recommendations for repertoire, lots of analysis of cast-able type, advice on acting choices for songs and monologues, etc. For seniors, the workshops also include auditions for representation.
  3. Staged Workshop Musicals: in the spring, the Juniors do two, fully staged workshop musicals. This gives them great practice in what professional workshop shows are like, which are a staple of life in NYC. They have to cast, learn the shows, learn the blocking, rehearse, and perform the entire shows with limited rehearsal time (while they are also rehearsing and performing in the mainstage season shows).
  4. Professional Work: there are many opportunities for professional and semi-professional work in the Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, and Battle Creek area. Many of the upperclass students get booked doing professional gigs. At a minimum, they all usually get calls to audition and get a chance to gain experience auditioning at the professional level.
  5. On-campus Summer Stock Audtions: as noted in a previous post, several summer stock companies audition on-campus, which makes it much easier to audition for summer work.

@EmsDad Western Michigan ended up on D’s list because of your information! You should work for the school :slight_smile:

I really hope mine gets a maybe at this point! Would love to drive up to see it all. Thank you for the good info over the years.

@EmsDad I would love to hear an update on your daughter and her senior year.

@EmsDad -very very helpful, thank you…what if any negatives or " needs improvement" areas would you note as nothing is perfect, right?

@MI3rdClosingAct - Senior year for MTP’s at WMU is focused on their showcase which they perform on campus in December and then in New York during Spring Break. All seniors participate (some schools require auditions for showcase and not all seniors are able to attend). The on-campus performance includes working with a Broadway star and the show is part of the WMU Theatre Season, called “Next Stop Broadway.” This year’s class worked with Brenda Braxton (Cats, Dream Girls, Jelly’s Last Jam, Smokey Joe’s Cafe, Chicago). D learned a lot from working with Brenda. The seniors do cabarets after all WMU mainstage shows to raise money for their trip.

The fall semester voice lessons are completely focused on fine-tuning each student’s repertoire for professional auditions. The new Assistant Professor of Music Theatre Voice, Jeremiah Downes, is awesome at preparing the students for the professional arena, including not only vocal training but also how to build a website, advice on which markets to target when you are starting out, etc.

The MTP curriculum is set up so that seniors may graduate in December and get started on their professional careers in the spring while still being able to attend the showcase in NYC in March. This year I think 3 of the MTP’s graduated early, which is typical.

For those staying to finish in the spring semester, there is an elective class in Professional Preparation that focuses on auditioning, digital marketing, etc. My d is taking several additional electives including Acting V, Directing II, and Acting for the Camera.

It has been very interesting to see the growth in d’s classmates from wide-eyed, optimistic freshman who fret over landing a part in a school show to grizzled summer stock veterans who are very focused on “finding the next paying gig” and spend lots of time hunting audition slots and sending out submissions.

@NYYFanNowMTdad - I asked d about any negatives associated with the MTP program at WMU and she only mentioned the following things:

  1. Winter in Michigan.
  2. Course scheduling can be a pain at times, but you can avoid most of that by being in the Honors Program (Honors students register first) or by having a lot of AP credits (the more hours that you have, the earlier that you can register).
  3. As mentioned in a previous post, the Fine Arts dorm where the Freshman MTP's stay is pretty dumpy (but she loved her time there because she got to bond with her classmates).

She has been very happy with the program at WMU and feels like she has gotten great training within a caring and supportive environment. Honestly, she has not had a single theatre course that was not satisfactory and she has learned a lot from all of her theatre profs.

For WMU as a whole, her only negative was that some of the General Education courses were not very challenging and a lot of her gen ed classmates were not really engaged in learning (in contrast to her theatre classmates, where most students are really active and engaged).