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Statement of Philosophy

The musical theatre faculty seeks to facilitate the development of independent, committed, responsive, intelligent, knowledgeable, skillful and creative performers who are fluent in the visual, vocal and kinesthetic languages of performance for the purpose of sharing ideas through the medium of performance. Musical theatre performers are challenged to integrate three distinct but complementary skill sets: singing, dancing, and acting. We strive to provide a curricular balance within this triad of skills by providing multiple opportunities to study and develop as well as integrate them into an individual organic performance process. We also provide multiple opportunities for students to recognize and articulate their personal learning process so they can be self-sufficient learners as they continue to develop skills and ideas throughout their careers.

Musical theatre performance training at USD is comprehensive and integrative. Acting training integrates work in the American method, a derivative of Stanislavski's work, with movement based acting techniques such as mask, Shakespeare and period styles. (For a more detailed description of acting training, please refer to the "Philosophy" section on the Acting Specialization page.)

Musical Theatre vocal training is designed to provide students with vocal technique, development and knowledge of repertoire, and performance training necessary for the musical theatre stage. Students study in group voice classes and receive individualized instruction through private voice lessons focusing on realistic approaches to learning music for contemporary audition situations within industry standards. Based on the Bel Canto school of singing, students will develop the classical "Legit" sound as well as producing the "Belt Voice" used in contemporary musical theatre genre. Voice training is designed to the individual student and may include songs from the Classical Musical Theatre, Contemporary Musical theatre, Operetta, Opera and Art Song genres for a comprehensive study in Voice for the stage. Students also develop their ensemble skills and increase their foundational knowledge of music theory through specialized instruction in the USD Music Department.

Dance technique training includes ballet, jazz, tap. Ballroom, choreography and modern dance. Students are encouraged to enroll in at least one class from each of the "triple threat" areas per semester for consistent and concentrated effort towards skill development. As students near the completion of their foundational courses in acting, singing, and dancing, they enroll in courses designed to integrate the three areas of emerging expertise. Senior Project, Musical Theatre Styles: Dance, Choreography, Musical Theatre Showcase, Musical Theatre Internship, and Independent Study are all designed to provide upper division students with integrative performance opportunities.

Finally, we seek to provide a culture of learning in which the student feels safe to take artistic risks and develop not just skills but the attribute of personal creativity. We seek to facilitate not just the creation of performers who are highly skilled technicians of singing, dancing and acting but passionate artists who use musical theatre to communicate with audiences about our shared human condition.

Program Objectives

  • Prepare the student for a career in musical theatre.
  • Mentor the student towards a career in musical theatre.
  • Facilitate the student's technical development as a singer, dancer, and actor.
  • Provide the student with a process through which s/he can integrate singing, dancing, and acting into the performance of a role.
  • Provide the student with a process through which s/he can effectively and aesthetically contribute in a collaborative manner to ensemble work in the performance of a musical.
  • Foster within the student a proactive approach to finding employment in the theatre.
  • Foster respect for performance.
  • Prepare students to be lifelong learners who are committed to the continued development of their own artistic exploration, growth and performance.

Specific Outcomes

Upon completion of the B.F.A. Musical Theatre Specialization, the student will possess a general knowledge of musical theatre, dramatic literature, musical theatre history, and technical theatre production. In addition, the student will have extensive knowledge of the acting process as it applies to classical and contemporary musical theatre performance, vocal techniques for singing classical and contemporary repertoire, and dance technique in the styles of ballet, jazz and tap.

As an actor, the student will be able to:

  • Release tension;
  • Facilitate concentration;
  • Use his or her sensory instrument in the creation of a role;
  • Analyze plays representing different historical periods and theatrical genres including musical theatre;
  • Create a character through a system of analysis which includes a character biography and text analysis;
  • Meet the specific demands of acting in musicals representing different historical periods and musical theatre genres;
  • Demonstrate clear, articulate, and expressive speech with absence of regionalism;
  • Utilize the body effectively as a tool for characterization;
  • Demonstrate a knowledge of effective audition technique and the actor's work-finding process;
  • Be able to adapt to different directing styles and work situations.

As a dancer, the student will be able to:

  • Demonstrate and consistently maintain efficient dynamic alignment in performance;
  • Demonstrate efficient use of energy by using appropriate muscular tension while allowing for a continuous flow of energy throughout the body;
  • Demonstrate the ability to utilize core stability in the execution of movement phrases;
  • Demonstrate an awareness of and aptitude for coordinating body parts resulting in an aesthetic and anatomical connectedness while dancing;
  • Demonstrate an awareness of the role of kinesthesia as a diagnostic and performative tool;
  • Articulate the relationship between efficient dynamic alignment, core stability, balance, ease of movement, and anatomic and aesthetic connectedness in performance;
  • Demonstrate the ability to link steps and repeat movement patterns resulting in the performance of dances;
  • Demonstrate an awareness of techniques designed to continue the development of the dancer's strength, flexibility, and endurance;
  • Demonstrate the ability to use imagery as a tool for clarifying, enhancing, and motivating movement;
  • Demonstrate the ability to communicate verbally and execute instructions delivered in the language of classical ballet;
  • Demonstrate the ability to use time, space, and energy in a manner characteristic of classical ballet technique;
  • Demonstrate the ability to use time, space, and energy in a manner characteristic of musical theatre jazz technique;
  • Demonstrate the ability to use time, space, and energy in a manner characteristic of tap dance technique;
  • Articulate an awareness of the origins and evolution of dance in relationship to musical theatre dance styles;
  • Demonstrate the ability to discern, adapt to, and move effectively in the style of a variety of seminal musical theatre choreographers.
  • Demonstrate the ability to use dance as a vehicle for deepening character development, advancing dramatic action, adding spectacle, clarifying character relationships, reinforcing themes, establishing given circumstances in which the story takes place, and/or heightening or releasing dramatic tension.
  • Demonstrate the ability to conduct onseself as a professional whether in the dance studio while taking a technique class or attending a rehearsal by adhering to standard studio and rehearsal etiquette for the industry.

As a singer, the student will be able to:

  • Demonstrate proper breathing techniques and resonation for sustaining a supported, well balanced tone quality.
  • Demonstrate proper vowel usage and diction for a clear and articulate expressive quality of sound.
  • Demonstrate a free and physically uninhibited vocal production through relaxation of the vocal instrument and body.
  • Gain a practical knowledge of Musical Theatre repertoire relative to the individual voice type.
  • Gain a practical knowledge of Musical Theatre repertoire relative to the character type.
  • Gain a practical knowledge of Classical Musical Theatre and Contemporary Musical Theatre repertoire to aid in auditioning for current industry standards.
  • Develop a process of proper rehearsal technique and preparation associated with learning and presenting songs for public auditions and performance.
  • Develop a process of creating a fully developed character appropriate to each song presented for public auditions and performances.
  • Develop an understanding of current Musical Theatre audition etiquette within current industry standards.