By Hannah Berg and Don Granese
High school students from all over the country filled Elon’s Center for the Arts on Friday, in hopes of joining the highly competitive Music Theatre program. Around 600 students have auditioned this year, but the department will only select 16-20 people for the incoming freshmen class.
Each year the caliber of talent increases, making the process extremely nerve-racking. The program has received national acclaim and was ranked No. 15 in the nation by the Princeton Review alongside schools like Yale, Michigan and NYU. Chris McNiff, a sophomore Music Theatre major (MT), did not get into the program when he was a senior in high school, “I was rejected and it was devastating. I went to another college, worked on my craft and then came back and auditioned again. I was determined to be an MT at Elon.”
The high-intensity auditions, which are offered about 9 times a year, include a full day of acting, singing and dancing. Each applicant is asked to come prepared with two 16-32 bar songs and a one-minute monologue. During the dance audition, students learn and perform a combination where they are assessed on their technique, skill and charisma.
Adam Kaplan, a senior Music Theatre major explains that the judging process is about more than just talent, “Cathy, the head of the department, not only looks for personality, she looks to see if they’ll fit in the Elon MT family.”
Some parents feel the pressure of the audition just as much as their children. “We traveled from California…” said one mom, “My daughter and I have been on the road now auditioning for the last five weeks in a row, every weekend.” Another mother from New Hampshire also explained, “It’s a long day and I think it can be just as stressful for parents as it is for the kids.”
One mother from North Carolina wished she could have been more involved in the process. “I would have liked to have been able to watch some of the acting classes and things today so that I have some input too. You know, what’s a good fit for my daughter.”
Ciara Dixon, a high school senior from Atlanta, GA tried to remain calm despite her visible nerves and excitement. She explained how selecting the right song and monologue is crucial because it must showcase their talent in a very short window.
Elon’s MT alumni have gone on to star in shows such as Spring Awakening, Fiddler and the Roof and West Side Story. Grant Gustin, a former MT is currently starring on Fox’s hit series Glee. “It’s crazy how many people come here to audition. It’s obvious that the word has gotten out: Elon’s MT program is incredible,” says Kaplan.