BWW Blog: The CCM Experience

By: Jun. 02, 2020
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My name is Cassie Maurer, and I am a rising Junior in the BFA Musical Theatre program at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. The past two years have been nothing shy of crazy, wonderful, and tough. From getting acquainted to living in a big city by myself to the reckless storm that has been the COVID-19 crisis, I am excited to share with you my adventures at CCM, and the incredible impacts that this program has made on my life.

Here's some background on the Musical Theatre program at CCM:

  • CCM is home to the first established Musical Theatre program in the country

  • The program "was used by the National Association of Schools of Theatre in formulating the guidelines for accreditation of Musical Theatre programs nationwide."*

  • We will be welcoming Eric Santagata (Prince of Broadway, Falsettos, Bullets over Broadway) as the Patricia A. Corbett Distinguished Chair of Musical Theatre at CCM this upcoming school year!

  • Our notable alumni include (but are certainly not limited to) Ashley Brown, Shoshana Bean, Betsy Wolfe, John Riddle, Christy Altomare, Max Clayton, and Christine Cornish-Smith.

I am from Hilton Head Island, South Carolina and the youngest of three, so transitioning to living in Cincinnati on my own was quite the challenge, but one that I was absolutely up for. One of the things that I love most about Cincinnati is the artistic culture of the city. Driving around downtown, you can see mural after mural painted on Cincinnati's skyscrapers, and there is an impressive theatre district that houses the Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, The Children's Theatre of Cincinnati, and Cincinnati Shakespeare Company. It is uptown in its own college-town atmosphere where you find the University of Cincinnati. UC's large campus has been so neat to explore; in fact, I'm sure there are still parts to it that I have yet to see! The Conservatory itself has gorgeous facilities, including spacious dance studios, three gorgeous performance spaces, and practice rooms accessible by all CCM students.

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Bailee Endebrock (MT'20) as Peggy Sawyer and Jack Brewer (MT'21) as Billy Lawlor leading the cast of CCM's 42nd Street this past fall.

My journey at CCM has consistently involved a busy schedule of rigorous training, which I love. I thrive most in environments where I am busy and productive, and CCM has always helped cultivate that environment for me. I've been fortunate to be a part of CCM's productions of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, 42nd Street (Peggy Sawyer u/s), and The Secret Garden, which was directed by CCM MT alum Connor Gallagher (choreographer of Beetlejuice). CCM institutes a comprehensive curriculum. My Freshman year classes included Acting, Vocal Coaching, Jazz, Ballet, Suzuki, Technical Production, Music Theory, Freshman Showcase, private voice lessons, and Rehearsal and Performance. Sophomore year added Tap, Characterization and Repertoire, Chorale, Dialects, and Vocal Health. The latter curriculum was, however, interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

CCM handled the situation with grace. Throughout the transition to taking classes online, while challenging at times given the circumstances, I felt so supported. I was given personal notes on all of the videos and work that I submitted, and I had plenty of opportunity to focus on these notes and take them to heart. All of the Musical Theatre faculty put so much effort into making learning online productive for us, and I actually do feel like I grew significantly in those weeks of taking class via laptop. While, of course, nothing about the situation was ideal, I think that moving classes into online environments served as a test for students to see if we can self-motivate, which is a very important skill. Can I muster up the drive to reap the benefits of this jazz class that I am taking in my living room, on carpet, with no mirror, while my parents watch awkwardly from the kitchen table? Once we graduate and this crisis has hopefully passed, we will still face similar challenges. How do we continue to grow while we are out of work, not performing, and not in class? This time away from school and studios has been an excellent test-run before entering the real world, where taking a class puts a dent in your wallet, you have a day-job, and there are hundreds of other people auditioning for the same shows as you. CCM has always made it their mission to prepare us for anything, and even with this obstacle thrown their way, our faculty did not flinch. I feel so lucky to be a part of this program where work and growth are constants, and where my education and success remain the priorities even in the wake of the unexpected.

I think it's also important to note what an outstanding job our faculty did in handling the BFA MT Class of 2020's New York Showcase. While circumstances prohibited the seniors from showcasing in New York, they were able to perform their showcase in Cincinnati just before the university shut down, and our faculty was clever to film it. A few alumni, Chris Blem and Victoria Cook, were also clever in creating an entire showcase website, where agencies and casting directors can access the showcase, everyone's headshots, resumes, websites, each senior's specific numbers from the showcase, and can contact individuals if interested in signing them. This website was, of course, a major success, and all thanks to the quick wits of the CCM MT family. The CCM BFA MT Class of 2020's Senior Showcase is still available for viewing by industry professionals, as well as family, friends, and alumni.

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The CCM BFA Musical Theatre Class of 2020: (from left to right) Kurtis Bradley Brown, Bailee Endebrock, Andrew Alstat, Madison Deadman, Michael Canu, Madison Hagler, Zoë Grolnick, Matt Copley, Hank Von Kolnitz, Elijah King, Delaney Guyer, Erich Schleck, Sam Pickart, Nick Berninger, Kylie Liya Page

I think it goes without saying at this point that the BFA Musical Theatre program at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music is exceptional, not only for its alumni, but for its driven faculty who strive to continue the program's reputation of excellence. Quite frankly, I'm still shocked that I got in to CCM. Occasionally, I'll be walking through the halls, and it'll just hit me: "I go here," and I can't help but smile. I am so proud to be a part of the CCM MT family. If you are a prospective Musical Theatre student looking for an intense, conservatory experience within a university, this is it. Go Bearcats!

* Source: CCM Musical Theatre Page