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UW to offer new musical theatre degree

Students looking to develop their singing, acting, and dancing abilities will have a new pathway at the UW beginning in September.

Starting next fall, the College of Arts and Sciences will begin offering a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in musical theatre through the collaboration of faculty members from the Dance Program, School of Drama, and School of Music.

During the musical theatre program’s pilot period, the college will offer the degree through its Individualized Studies program, an interdisciplinary major option in which students can create a program of study by combining selected courses from multiple departments.

“The purpose of the program is to offer UW students the opportunity to get rigorous training in musical theatre while incorporating a liberal arts education,” said Wilson Mendieta, recent Master of Fine Arts (MFA) graduate of the Dance Program who will lead the new musical theatre program.

To gain admission to the program, students are required to complete a beginning level dance-technique class in ballet, jazz, or musical theatre dance, as well as go through an audition process beginning Sept. 23.

Betsy Cooper, director of the Dance Program, said the auditions will also help advisers assess how to best advise each student according to their skill set.

She added that the college would not offer a minor in musical theatre because a minor requires a smaller total of credits, which could not accommodate all the skills that need developing such as acting, voice, and dance.

The curriculum for the program, designed to be completed in two years, includes a combination of courses from the Dance Program, the School of Drama, and the School of Music. Mendieta will also further develop a course that deals with entrepreneurial skills for performers, such as audition techniques, networking skills, and resume-building.

Because of the collaborative nature of the program, the wealth of course offerings in dance, drama, and music, and the abundance of local talent, administrators expect that the new program will thrive despite recent budget cuts.

Sarah Nash Gates, professor and executive director of the School of Drama, claimed the musical theatre job market is also seeing an increase in demands for artists, especially with the growth of the industry to include commercial scenes such as TV shows, TV advertisements, and more.

“There are many high schools all across the state who do very high quality work in musical theatre,” Gates said. “Currently, if those students want to pursue studying high quality training in musical theatre, the only option is Central Washington University.”

UW’s musical theatre program, according to administrators, differs from most musical theatre programs in the state. The UW will offer a BA degree, unlike most programs, which typically offer Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degrees. The BA program, based on liberal arts studies, aimed not only to make graduates more marketable in the future, but also to expand the students’ education.

“We want to prepare students not only for their first job, but for years to come,” Cooper said.

Administrators said they are looking forward to the establishment of the new program. Mendieta, a Broadway veteran himself, said oftentimes musical theatre is dismissed as a “lesser art” when compared to other forms. However, he thinks it is a beautiful and distinctly American art form.

“I look forward to graduates of our program becoming musical theatre artists that push the boundaries and create beautiful art,” Mendieta said.

Reach Science Editor Imana Gunawan at news@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @imanafg

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