If you are the parent of a child thinking about pursuing a degree in musical theatre, you are no doubt plagued with lots of questions about how best to help them through this scary and admittedly overwhelming process. Don’t panic. There are some simple things you can do to help your child navigate this tumultuous time.
Is your child a strong dancer who needs help with singing? Or do they feel more comfortable acting and singing? Today’s musical theatre performer needs to be equally trained in all three disciplines to be competitive. But not all musical theatre programs are built the same. Make sure you look for training that matches your child’s needs, versus shopping for a name brand school everyone says is “the best”. Remember: the goal is to find the school that is the best fit for your child.
There are a lot of dates and details to remember and having everything in one place is key to staying sane. It is not uncommon for today’s prospective musical theatre students to apply to 12-15 schools. This is because admission to some schools has become ultra-competitive, and students must be accepted to schools academically as well as via auditions.
Get a binder with some dividers and some clear sleeves or pockets. Label each tab with the school name. Use the clear sleeves and pockets for inserting pamphlets or information you receive from the school.
Next create a master spreadsheet. This spreadsheet should be printed out and put in the front of your binder. Label the spreadsheet with the following headers:
- School Name
- Degrees offered
- Prescreen deadlines
- Audition requirements
- Admissions deadlines
- Financial aid deadlines
- Audition dates
Leave a column at the end of each row for notes. This section will be for the research you and your child will be doing about each school’s program(s).
Visit each school’s website to view their curriculum and research their faculty. Be sure to dig down below the marketing to investigate the inner workings of each program. How many hours of private voice lessons do freshmen get each week? What kind of dance do they take? Look at the facilities and, if possible, talk with current students. Ask about performance opportunities. Look at the diversity of the student body and the faculty.
When you visit a campus – either in person or virtually – both you and your child should take notes about what you liked and what you didn’t like. No detail is too small. Taking good notes is not just critical to ensure details don’t get lost, but once you have visited multiple schools the information is bound to get jumbled in your mind. It will inevitably be hard to remember which school had that beautiful new dance studio and which had the professor you really liked. It will be many months between school tours and acceptance letters. You’ll be glad you have something to refer back to.
Proper training prevents poor performance. Help your child find coaches or teachers who can assist them with finding and preparing their audition material. Ideally, they should study individually with a voice teacher, an acting teacher, and take dance classes. This does not mean you need to hire expensive college audition coaches. High school drama, music, or dance teachers may be able to suffice. Just make sure they are familiar with the college audition process.
Summer intensive programs are offered by many college musical theatre programs. They are often taught by faculty so that they are a great way to get a feel for the intensity of a college musical theatre program. Can this be expensive? Yes. But don’t panic if you can’t afford it all. Just do the best you can. Musical theatre faculty are looking for trainability – not perfection, so your child does not need to be fully polished to be considered.
If you’re reading this article, it can be assumed that you are supportive of your child’s dream. But you need to know what will best help your child to thrive. Sit down with them and ask, “How can I best support you in this process?” Do they want help with organizing all the different audition requirements? Do they want to discuss the pros and cons of different degrees and programs? Do they want emotional support on audition day or would they rather be left alone? Knowing what your child needs to succeed will go a long way towards relieving stress for both of you.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Your child is auditioning schools as much as schools are auditioning your child. They will only have 3-5 minutes in the audition room. Every moment counts. Auditions are an opportunity for the faculty to try to get to know your child and find out if they are truly interested in their school. This is where all your research pays off. You and your child should review the notes in your binder before each audition so they are able to mention something specific about each school. Have them practice answering basic interview questions: “Why do you want to go to our school?” “Tell us about yourself.” “What do you hope to get out of our program?” Have them practice this as much as their audition material so that they are very comfortable.
No one else is your child. They are unique. The most important thing you can help your child understand is that the best thing they can bring to any audition room is their authentic selves. If they can walk out of the audition room feeling, “I did my best” then that was a successful audition.