Talented musical theatre performers are currently graduating by the hundreds from many of our wonderful college programs around the country. It’s an exciting and nerve-wracking time for them, as they think about their first steps into the industry.
For graduating music theatre majors, the question looms: “What’s next?” Well-meaning family and friends like to ask this question in a sincere effort to show interest in what we do as artists. But here’s the issue: artists are not like other majors, who may immediately continue on with other education, or somehow magically morph from an intern into a business professional. Performers are constantly in transition, rarely knowing where they’ll find their next job. So, that question “What’s next?” often strikes fear in the heart of even the most put-together performer.
If you have your life all figured out, awesome… you have us beat! If there’s any question about how to move forward now that you’re a college graduate, allow me to share a few thoughts.
Your parents may not love me saying this, but… you just finished four years of what was probably very intense training. It’s OK to take a little time away and hit the reset button.
Take a vacation, take in a lot of art (not just theatre, as great as it is), read everything. Find your reset button. The industry into which you’re entering is wonderful, but it’s not exactly known for honoring boundaries. The more you get in the habit of practicing this level of self-care now, the better.
This is probably the last thing you want to hear after years of education, but it’s important you keep studying.
No program, no matter how good they are, can cover everything you need to know as a singing actor in 4 years. I’m sure you learned a lot, but your work is not done. None of us are done.
Find teachers who will continue to challenge you in all the areas of your study (acting, dance, and voice). This is especially necessary as your body (and, therefore, your voice) are still maturing (guys, this is even more important for you than the ladies, who got a head start on us). Continue to explore your technique so you can be a malleable and in-demand performer.
Move to New York. Or Don’t. You Decide.
Yes, we New Yorkers like to believe we’re the center of the universe where theatre is concerned, but that doesn’t mean you have to (or should) move here. There are plenty of thriving theatre cities around the country and world. Just because we’ve seen countless movies with people moving to New York to make it big doesn’t mean that should be your path.
Look, New York is great, but it’s… specific. It’s crowded, the pace is exhausting, and the competition is beyond fierce. If you think this is where you should be, try living here for a couple weeks as a trail. Then, if you like it, move here. If you don’t like it, there are plenty of other theatre communities that will accept you with open arms.
Pending global warming, New York will always be here. Find your best way forward in a community who will support you.
When Laura and I anonymously surveyed over 30 recent graduates for a presentation we gave at the Musical Theatre Educators’ Alliance Conference this past January, we were shocked that a large percentage of the respondents admitted they did less than 20 auditions in their first year after college.
Hopefully, through your studies, you’ve developed a strong portfolio of songs and have practiced good audition technique. Even if you haven’t, now is your time to get out there and see what you’re made of. I’m fond of saying to my clients, “There’s no way to but through.” If you you want to work, you have to audition. End of story. You will make mistakes – everyone does – but now is the time to take your knowledge and apply it to the industry.
Don’t Audition For Everything
Depending on where you’re living, you’ll probably have a lot of audition opportunities. If you’re in New York, you could literally do several auditions a day. Should you? No.
Going in for everything will cause you to spread yourself too thin, making your auditions mediocre. Be smart about what you audition for, giving yourself time to research the show and find appropriate material for the audition. Everyone loves to work with a smart actor who’s done their homework. Be that actor.
Trust Your Voice
The biggest shock to the system after graduation is that all those opinions you were getting from the faculty and your friends at school will now drop to a hush. It’s up to you to decide what’s best for you and your career.
We take solace from Dot from Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George:
I chose and my world was shaken. So what.
The choice may have been mistaken. The choosing was not.
Don’t be afraid to make a decision. Make a choice to move in a particular direction and see what happens. You’re young. You’ll have many opportunities to make other decisions if you don’t like the results.
We sincerely wish you the best as you enter into this new and exciting phase of your career! Now, go book a trip to backpack through Europe!
Check out our new book “Mastering College Musical Theatre Auditions: Sound Advice for the Student, Teacher, and Parent” now available on Amazon.
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