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BWW Blog: Why I Chose the University of Illinois

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Flashback to the fall of 2016. I was studying vocal performance at the Interlochen Arts Academy and had no idea where I was gonna go to school the year after that. I knew I wanted to apply for musical theatre, and I was in a position where I could get the kind of extra training I needed in order to be successful. As any music major knows, my list of colleges was pretty extensive. I auditioned for 10 schools in total, in which I had to travel to Chicago, Ann Arbor, Vermont/New York, Urbana-Champaign and (almost) Denver.

Flash forward to when I deciding to apply to all of these schools. I was sitting in my voice teacher's studio and we were going through my list of schools. As we were going down the list, she mentioned the University of Illinois. Their main program for voice was vocal performance, but from what I was hearing from my teacher, they were creating a program called Lyric Theatre. On their website, Lyric Theatre @ Illinois is described as "a comprehensive program embracing a broad continuum of opera and musical theatre to reflect the artistic demands of the 21st-century musical stage."

I had been studying classical voice and musical theatre in high school and I thought why not? Funny enough, I had never heard of the program, let alone the University of Illinois, even though it was a Big 10 school. So I applied to their voice program.

The requirements were pretty standard for a vocal performance program. I sang two art song/arias, one being in English and one being in Italian. It was a relatively short audition and not many other students were there, which made sense because I was auditioning on one of the later dates. I had decided to audition later because I was travelling to Chicago for Unifieds the next day. After my audition, I was a little skeptical about if this was where I wanted to go. It was a pretty small town, much different from the big town of Ann Arbor where I grew up. But all of the faculty that I was auditioning with gave me great information about the school.

Flash forward to a month later. I was in my opera scenes class when I got an email saying I got into the University of Illinois as a voice major! This was really exciting for me because it was the first school I got accepted to. I ended up waiting to get the majority of my decisions before I made plans to visit schools. For music programs, I got into the University of Illinois and the University of Denver. Both schools prioritized musical theatre and voice performance and ultimately vocal health.

Over my spring break that year, I drove down to the University of Illinois to take a second visit. I took a sample lesson with one of the voice professors, Dawn Harris, who would become my voice teacher for the next years. I also met Sarah Wigley, the musical theatre voice teacher/director and Julie Gunn, one of the heads of the department of Lyric Theatre. They both emphasized that the program valued vocal health, which I thought was great. In terms of the program, the Lyric Theatre program offers students the opportunity to explore their specific talents, which differs from some of the other standard curriculum offered at top tier musical theatre schools. For example, in Lyric Theatre's curriculum, we have to take both ballet and/or modern dance. I did take ballet in my freshman year, but was also able to take tap which I found suited me better.

I never would have thought that this school was gonna be the right fit for me before I knew about the Lyric Theatre program. We have grown immensely since we created the program. Sarah Wigley and Yvonne Redman, two voice professors, now attend Chicago Unifieds and we've even had masterclasses through the Classical Singer Convention. It also doesn't hurt that it's a liberal arts school where I can take/am required to take classes in writing, science, math etc. I even thought about minoring in statistics at one point, but ultimately I stuck with music.

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From This Author Student Blogger: Emily Naud