As I got ready for my first Broadway Inbound workshop, I have to admit I was a little nervous. It's been over a decade since I last acted in a professional capacity, and a handful of years since I laced up my jazz shoes. Nevertheless, I was very excited to sit in and discover what taking a workshop is like.
This workshop was called Living the Music, described as "fantastic for choral, vocal ensembles and swing choirs." OK. I didn't need the jazz shoes.
In Living the Music, a Broadway musical director or singer guides students in the art of interpreting a song through vocal dynamics and phrasing, using Broadway material. With the guidance of a master class instructor, the students discuss the music's lyrics and the emotional intention behind them. This workshop empowers students with a sense of self-discovery through music.
In other words, these workshops are the real deal.
When I attended, students from Thousand Islands High School in Clayton, New York, were learning how to improve their vocal performances. They were working on a melody they had put together, with some students having solo pieces, and others harmonizing. I was absolutely blown away when I heard these 16-, 17-, and 18-year-olds sing. They sounded like they would be right at home on Broadway!
The workshop was led by Broadway professionals Michael Watson and Michael Dansicker. Watson, an actor with an impressive resume, has worked with Broadway stars such as David Hyde Pierce, Chita Rivera, Becky Ann Baker and Cyndi Lauper. Dansicker is busy wearing many hats, working as a composer, arranger and orchestrator—most recently working with Bob Dylan.
Watson and Dansicker challenged students to learn more about the piece they were singing. What did the song lyrics mean to them? What emotion were they trying to make the audience feel? While I was already impressed with the students, the change was incredible to witness once they took these questions into account.
Duncan R., currently a senior at Thousand Islands High School, shared that this was not his first workshop. He had previously attended a dance workshop led by a Wicked cast member. Recently, Duncan saw Wicked and Kinky Boots on Broadway, both shows that he "would definitely go see again and again." He attributed workshops like these to making the shows even more enjoyable.
This fall, Duncan will be attending SUNY Fredonia and majoring in Music Education. He shared with me that he wants to become a high school teacher and help young students who have a passion for theater.
"Speaking from personal experience," he said, "there are some kids who are interested in doing theater, but are too afraid of being bullied, or are already bullied because of it. We recently put on a production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, and the lead, who was amazing, almost didn't do it because of bullying. I want to help create a safe space for theater kids."
While some of the students were initially shy about opening-up, everyone was full of energy and laughter at the end of the workshop. They thanked their instructors for such a memorable experience.
As I was leaving, I ran into a group of girls all in matching dance jackets. They had just taken a class with a Radio City Rockette and were off to see Chicago later that evening. Talk about an immersive experience! I'm really looking forward to the next workshop I'll be able to sit in on, and I hope you'll stay tuned for my next report.
Written by Chanelle Cotton. This article originally appeared on broadwayinbound.com.
Broadway Inbound's workshops and master classes can be a fun way to enrich your Broadway experience. Taught by real Broadway professionals, they're perfect for students, social groups, corporate team building and more. Plus, they can be tailored to fit the needs of your group and customized to relate to the show you're seeing. There are workshops for dance, vocal and instrumental music, acting, auditioning, improvisation, the business of Broadway and technical theater. You can view all the workshops Broadway Inbound has to offer and book your own experience here.