Introduction to Musical Theater Performance
Arno Selco, Professor Emeritus
Are you interested in pursuing a degree in musical theater? Have you made up your mind to perform? The odds are stiff, and you need the best preparation you can get, starting with The Audition.
Introduction to Musical Theater Performance is a three-week course for high school sophomores and juniors (rising juniors and seniors) where students earn 3 undergraduate credits while they learn the ins and outs of preparing for a musical theater audition, including:
- Relating with the accompanist
- What judges are looking for in an audition tape
- How to select songs for an audition
- What to wear during an audition
- How to dramatize a song
Students accepted into this course come prepared the first day to perform two songs of their own choice, one ballad and one up-tempo. Performances are videotaped and critiqued. Students then select one of their prepared songs and a new one not studied before, and both are worked on for the duration of the class, both as a group and individually with a vocal coach. The capstone event is a showcase with an audience comprised of summer college students and families.
This is a demanding course for students committed to and excited by musical theater.
Ithaca College’s premier programs in Musical Theater (B.F.A.) and Acting (B.F.A.) have been attracting students from across the country for decades. Over 1,000 students annually audition for fewer than three-dozen B.F.A. spots in the Theatre Arts Department at IC.
Professor Selco has taught in the Theatre Arts program at Ithaca College for 25 years, has performed on Broadway, in TV and film. Many of his former students have appeared and even now are on Broadway.
In this course, he uses his wisdom, experience, and love of the theater to provide invaluable direction to the next generation of performers.
Praise for Intro to Musical Theater Performance
I consider this course my first taste of conservatory training. It taught me how to approach a song or monologue and how much work should go behind it. I was able to perform my work in front of my peers and be critiqued, as well as observe others practice their work. It was the first time I realized that observing others is as important in the training process as being observed is. Above all, though, the course was enormous amounts of fun. Every student came in as an individual performer, but by the end of it we became a company. I still talk to a few of my fellow students to this day. The course was a necessary step for me in deciding to pursue a career in performing arts. (Alyssa G.)
Prior to entering Introduction to Musical Theatre Performance, I had some experience with musical theater in a couple of school and community productions. I saw performing as a fun and rewarding diversion but little more. What I ultimately learned through the class was that performing was a deeply academic and intellectual process. A performing artist effectively communicates to an audience only after a highly complex preparation that requires both physical and mental endurance. Of all that I learned in the class, what was especially valuable to me was the relationship between acting and song. The two are nearly inseparable such that song must be seen as an extension of the actor's dramatic performance. I learned to treat song as a spoken monologue and portray the character through the lyrics. When the music was finally added, the performance was not only more believable but also sounded better. Moreover, I learned that no song exists in a vacuum. In order to perform a song, an actor must fully understand the story in which it takes place. I have never since auditioned for a role without doing complete research on the part with which I was auditioning. I am now a music student and have shifted my focus to opera and operetta. Nonetheless, almost all of what I learned in Intro to Musical Theatre Performance has relevance to my work and the work of people around me. The reason is that the curriculum bridges the gap that so many performers have, between acting and singing. I have often recommended the program as indispensible to young singers and extend the same enthusiasm to anyone interested in the performing arts. (Jackson G.F.)
I actually went in undecided about whether I wanted to study musical theatre or straight drama, but I was pleasantly surprised when Arno taught us that a song is primarily a monologue, and the music simply serves to further the action. This process gave me a greater respect for the craft as well as aided me in developing my own skills both as an actor and an auditioner. Arno's teaching style is very supportive, and I learned as much from being coached by him as I did from watching him coach my fellow classmates. The classroom environment overall was never competetive; in fact all my classmates and I wanted each other to succeed and encouraged each other to do his/her best every day. This program was highly valuable to me, and I recommend it to anyone serious about studying musical theatre or drama. (Olivia H.)
Anyone who participates in this course should know that they are making the right decision and that they will take away things that they will remember forever. (Jenna F.)
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