SMTD connects with Broadway, Tony winners

The Summer Masterclasses Series provided opportunities to students to go in front of a class and get critiques from a professional that is well-respected in their field. This summer, with the COVID-19 pandemic, Oakland University students participated in these classes through Zoom.

Masterclass is taught by somebody who’s a seasoned professional in their field. The student will go up in front of one class and get critiques to work on and improve themselves.

The first Summer Masterclass was on March 26 and continued every week throughout the summer. 

“I felt bad for all our students that had summer work planned,” Josh Young, assistant professor and Tony Award nominee said. “I wanted to think of something that we could do to keep their skills sharp and also to keep their morale up.”

Young worked with all the students involved on how to set up their camera and microphone to be the best quality possible to make the experience easier and more valuable.

With Young’s background experience with Broadway, he was able to reach out to his old agents and casting directors to invite them to join the Zoom calls. 

“People in this industry, they’ve got a lot of time on their hands, unfortunately these days,” Young said. “They were all eager and happy to do me a favor.”

The students were able to work with the most well-respected people in their industry from Broadway. The Masterclasses featured composers, lyricists, book writers, Tony winners and casting directors from shows such as “Hamilton,” “Les Miserables” and “Phantom of the Opera.” 

Tony Award winning composer Stephen Schwartz, Broadway Composer Andrew Lippa, Tony Award winner Lea Salonga, Tony Award nominee Norm Lewis, Broadway and TV star Cory Cott, Tony Award winner Jesse Mueller and Broadway star Laura Michelle Kelly were some of the featured teachers of the Masterclasses.

Working with these people gives students the opportunities to build up their resume.. They were also able to get feedback from people they look up to.

OU Senior Hannah Johnson, who is currently majoring in Musical Theater, was a part of the Masterclasses throughout the summer and got the opportunity to work with one of her favorites, Sierra Boggess.

“When I got to perform — with my idols especially — that was like a dream come true for me that I never thought would happen,” Johnson said.

Johnson felt that working with these Broadway stars allowed her to gain a lot of experience and get a lot of feedback that ended up encouraging her. 

“The huge thing with working with big Broadway stars is just feeling that it’s actually possible to do this,” Johnson said. “It makes you remember that these people are real and these dreams that we have are real and it just gave me a lot of encouragement.”

The original plan for the Masterclasses was just because of COVID-19 having disrupted the past school year and cutting the in-person classes short. But, Young said that the classes were so successful that he plans to continue them throughout the school year and move them to twice a month.