Western Michigan University offers an intensive course of study in musical theatre performance that culminates in a B.F.A. degree and the opportunity to perform a showcase in New York City for important agents and casting directors. The program offers extensive professional training in all areas of acting, voice and dance. In addition, students participate in a two-year musical theatre performance workshop class that synthesizes the training into marketable skills applicable throughout their entire careers.
There are multiple skills needed to succeed in this highly competitive field. The emphasis of the major is performance. Students are given the opportunity to develop performance skills through many workshop or performance classes, as well as credit for performance in University-sponsored productions and concerts and approved professional engagements. The focus of the program is preparing emerging talent to enter and compete in the Broadway and regional professional market immediately upon graduation from WMU.
The course of study provides students 3-½ years of private vocal instruction, training in jazz, tap and ballet; and three years of acting training; students also will take courses in the history of musical theatre, audition techniques, music theory, aural comprehension, keyboard, stagecraft, directing and numerous electives available to musical theatre performance per students as the only cross-departmental program in the College of Fine Arts.
This course of study is intended to produce well-rounded performers. Each student is expected to excel in at least two of the three areas in the program—voice, acting and dance. Within the voice area, students are to accomplish a good understanding of basic music theory, aural comprehension, beginning keyboard skills, breath, voice production, line and placement, as well as an advanced level of proficiency as a singer of the musical theatre repertoire. To achieve this, students will complete seven semesters of private voice instruction and pass juries and hearings along the way.
In acting, students are expected to master skills in physical and emotional portrayal of character and intention, as well as an appreciation for various styles of acting and an approach to voice and movement for the actor. They are expected to demonstrate an ability to apply their acting work to their song and movement interpretation of musical theatre repertoire.
In dance, students are expected at a minimum to demonstrate a Tech I level of skill in jazz dance with a proficiency in ballet. Those students who will clearly utilize dance as a significant element in their professional careers are encouraged to pursue more advanced courses in Jazz, Ballet and Modern. Those whose strengths lie in music and acting will receive the ballet training necessary for them to move well and develop a proficiency in the jazz movement that a career in musical theatre requires.
In addition to consistent demonstrations of mastery of all areas of study in classes, all musical theatre performance students must pass a juried audition that demonstrates their level as a well-rounded performer in music, acting and dance at the conclusion of their sophomore spring semester.
The goal of this course of study is for the students to be able to bring these skills to life on the stage. All students are required to perform in University-sponsored productions and concerts, as well as approved professional and semi-professional engagements off campus that may be evaluated by the theatre, music and dance faculties.
WMU encourages students to engage in professional competitiveness from admission to the program. Freshmen are eligible to perform in productions and must receive training in voice, dance and acting technique that sets a standard of technique in basics, as well as prepares them for the repertoire in the University season. Specifically this means that students will be studying simultaneous skills in vocal, dance and acting pedagogy that prepares them for the contemporary production program at WMU and for professional and stock opportunities that arise outside of WMU.
Beyond the classroom
As a music theatre performance student at WMU, you will be expected to participate in the production program each year.
You will have many other opportunities to become involved in theatre at WMU. You can work on the main stage or Footlights productions, become involved in theatre outreach, perform in the touring companies, or be cast to direct class scenes or any number of student-produced shows. Multiply your experiences and abilities in all areas of theatre by joining organizations such as the U.S. Institute of Theatre Technology and Theta Alpha Phi National Honorary Drama Fraternity.
After you graduate
Recent WMU graduates with degrees in music theatre performance are working as:
Among the organizations they work for are:
- Entertainment venues
- Movie companies
Where is this program offered?
Other programs of interest
- Multimedia Arts Technology—Music
- Music Composition
- Music Education: Choral/General—Secondary
- Music Education: Instrumental—Secondary
- Music Performance: Instrumental
- Music Performance: Keyboard
- Music Performance: Vocal
- Music Therapy
- Music: Jazz Studies
- Secondary Education
- Theatre: Design and Technical Production
- Theatre: Acting
- Theatre: Stage Management
- Theatre: Theatre Studies