Musical Theatre Majors Train with Adam Wachter, a Composer, Lyricist and Music Director Thursday, October 17, 2019
"Point Park University's musical theatre program wisely arms our students with strong performance technique, first and foremost, as the foundation of an artistic livelihood. Beyond that, they are educated to be well-rounded individuals as well as performers throughout their four years."
How do you incorporate your professional experience as a composer, lyricist and music director into the classes you teach?
I try not to differentiate between my active professional career and my teaching — I work with my musical theatre students the same way I work with a cast of actors in an Equity production. This trial by fire prepares them for the rigor and high expectations they will encounter in their artistic careers.
Another way I incorporate my experience is by exploiting my contacts with current Broadway performers, agents and casting directors in persuading them to visit my classes or speak to my students via Skype. My seniors, especially, know that the industry they are about to enter is one I am still firmly entrenched in, so the information and advice I am sharing with them is very much of the moment.
What courses do you teach in our musical theatre program?
In the fall semester, I work exclusively with the seniors to prepare them for the New York Showcase and their transition to the industry. I teach Acting Through Song, Professional Seminar, and Advanced Topics in Musical Theatre, which is a catch-all class covering everything from website building and promotion to audition self-taping techniques, cabaret development, personal finance and more.
In the spring, I continue song coaching the seniors and also start one-on-one repertoire coaching with the juniors to prepare their audition books. Finally, I create and direct the production of a junior lab musical, which culminates in a weekend of public performances at the end of the school year.
What’s it like teaching the next generation of artists in Point Park University's new Pittsburgh Playhouse?
The students at Point Park University are the real deal. Their talent is at an extremely high standard and the beautiful Pittsburgh Playhouse reflects that and helps to support their work. The brand new rehearsal studios — in which we also teach most classes — facilitate professionalism and quality.
Selfishly, the teaching itself has been truly rewarding for me — much more so than I had imagined. Seeing the world of musical theatre and the Broadway industry through the young, optimistic eyes of my students has completely refreshed my passion for all of it, and having such talented performers look to me as an expert in the field certainly makes me proud of my own accomplishments. Conversely, I have also never felt older!
In what ways does Point Park’s musical theatre program prepare students for their careers?
The musical theatre program wisely arms our students with strong performance technique, first and foremost, as the foundation of an artistic livelihood. Beyond that, they are educated to be well-rounded individuals as well as performers throughout their four years. In junior and senior years, we really start preparing them for the practicalities of a career in the industry by focusing on auditions, repertoire and the New York Showcase.
I also think that everyday life in an area like Downtown Pittsburgh helps to prepare them for the realities of living in a city like New York, and they are exposed to a huge variety of professional theatrical experiences here (Pittsburgh Cultural District, Pittsburgh Public Theater, etc.) that they would never find in a smaller town.
What advice do you have to a prospective student auditioning for our musical theatre program?
A longer cut is not a better cut! Avoid gimmicks and vocal histrionics. Try to find a lesser-known song the panel won’t have already heard 10 times that day. Know how to effectively communicate tempo to the accompanist, and mark your cut properly in the sheet music. Be able to vocally convey stylistic differences between contemporary songs and songs from the Golden Age. Do some research before showing up: a short, well-acted cut of a song is the best way for you to stand out.
Other than that, try to accept your inevitable nerves and don’t let them affect your performance so that you can be your most authentic self in the room and give us a chance to know the real you!