BWW Interview: Nikki Snelson and Peter Thoresen on YES Academy ASEAN and the Talents of ASEAN Broadway Hopefuls
Nikki Snelson joins Peter Thoresen in a program of solo and ensemble singing, choreography and acted scenes from a wide range of hit Broadway shows for YES Academy ASEAN program. In 12 days total, this program is designed to accommodate your area of experience as well as to help you discover talents in music, dance and acting.
Hello Nikki and Peter, It's nice for you to spare some time for BroadwayWorld.
How did you get involved in the YES Academy ASEAN Camp?
Snelson : I was so happy to get involved with Yes ASEAN and American Voices! John Ferguson brought me on board last year for Yes Bangkok. I am the Broadway director and choreographer. I couldn't be happier to be a part of this life changing program.
Thoresen : A friend and colleague of mine in New York, Rhyn Saver, thought that I would be a good fit, and put me in touch with American Voice's (AV) executive director, John Ferguson in January. We met over Skype shortly after and within several weeks, I was in Turkmenistan teaching opera master classes and voice lessons at the National Conservatory through AV. During that time, John asked me to served as music director and vocal coach for YES Academy ASEAN 2016, and I happily said yes!
What do you think about Indonesian as well as the ASEAN participants' talents?
Snelson : The talent at this year's academy has been astounding. We have so many "triple threats." The passion and commitment of the YES students has been astounding.
Thoresen : The level of talent at the YES Academy ASEAN is through the roof! When I reviewed the 150+ audition videos, (for the Broadway program) I knew I had a major challenge ahead of me-there is SO MUCH ASEAN TALENT! The students we accepted into the program represent the highest level of musical theater talent and potential in Jakarta and abroad. It was a 'casting luxury' to have so many willing, ready and talented young artists available.
Did you enjoy teaching the students?
Snelson : The students did a fantastic job adapting to my teaching style. I could imagine that my manner of teaching could be a bit intimidating(I'm pretty loud and in-your-face). The young artists were open to anything. They made my job very easy.
Thoresen : I love teaching here! Wherever I am in the world as a teacher and music director, my focus is primarily on healthy, musical storytelling. One of my favorite things to do with students and anyone in a show is to work to make sure they're singing in a healthy way so that they can do it for all the rehearsals and performances, but most importantly so that they can keep doing it at a high and healthy level. The students here have totally embraced that concept, and I'm daily impressed by their level of commitment to health and artistry.
Were there any difficulties and barriers such as language or music regarding to teaching Indonesian students?
Snelson : Not at all! Language was never the problem. The volunteers were ready to help translate everything I taught the students. When I talk too fast or maybe they cannot understand what I said, they can shout "Pancake" while making a cross sign above their head. It means I need to slow down. There were also a couple of times that I have to explain slang words to the students. But no harm done, they learned something new every day!
Thoresen : Most people would worry about language barriers. Yet the students here have such an impressive grasp of the English language-as well as the universal language of music-so rehearsals have been very productive and have run smoothly. For the students who need a little more help with reading music and English pronunciation, I worked to link them up with other students for help outside of rehearsal. The spirit of collaboration and love for one another was always evident in this process.
What is it like to teach in Jakarta?
Snelson : Things were fabulous at the Institute and around Jakarta. Everyone was so gracious and welcoming and the students have become like a little family.
Thoresen : Teaching in Jakarta has been a blast. The Jakartan students (and all of the ASEAN students) were so friendly and ready to work! Whenever you're tasked with putting a show together in a short amount of time, you end up spending most of the day in a rehearsal room and then a dark theater, but I was able to explore the city a bit and enjoyed my time at Café Batavia and the many dishes I tried-especially the gado-gado! I hope to come back to teach, eat and explore again SOON!
What are your hopes for the YES Academy ASEAN student hopefuls?
Snelson : I am hopeful that the YES Academy students will go away with a renewed passion for their art. We hope that they take that passion back to their home countries and spread the love.
Thoresen : To our students here, I say, be a compelling storyteller. And in Broadway, you can do that by being really good at your craft-really good as a singer, really good as an actor, as a dancer. And the more you work at each of these things, the more compelling an artist you are. My hope for our students is that they embrace and apply ALL of the aspects of YES Academy ASEAN that they enjoyed here to their daily lives as artists and people-everything from technical growth to the MANY experiences and opportunities for cultural exchange. We all learned a lot.
When will we see you again?
Snelson : I am hopeful that I will be back next year for Yes ASEAN. I will be directing and choreographing A Chorus Line in Singapore next.
Thoresen : I look so forward to our next YES Academy ASEAN Broadway class! It would be wonderful to return to Jakarta next year! This fall I'll begin work as a professor of voice at PACE University in Manhattan and will continue my musical, cultural diplomacy work with American Voices in Turkmenistan in December and March at the National Conservatory in December and March.
Thank you for your time, Nikki and Peter! We wish you success on your upcoming projects.
YES Academy ASEAN is a Performing Arts program that was organised by the American Embassy in collaboration with American Voices that was held for 12 days from August 1st - August 12th in the Jakarta Institute of Arts. 50 participants were selected to learn the art of Broadway, Singing/ Songwriting as well as Rap and Hip Hop. Students were encouraged to show what they have learned throughout the program with a performance at the last day of the camp.