Today, I had orientation for my three week NC Summer Study in Music Theatre at NYU Steinhardt. After spending two days in the city with my dad, eating at all the best places and staying in a five star hotel, I have moved into a dormitory and will rely on a meal plan for most of my food related outings. Tomorrow, my father and I will have our last NYC morning coffee together before I have class and before he has to catch a plane. The thought of spending three weeks without my family is, at this point, just numbing. I’m still in denial. However, in a few days, I’m sure the true weight of 21 days without the most important people in my life will hit me, and I am not sure how that is going to go.
So, how did I get into this program? Why did I want to do this to myself? My family has always been incredibly close. I’m a rising senior. After this one, I only have one year left of living at home (if I get into one of my top choices for college). Why would I want to spend more time away from the people I love most?
We’ll get to that.
First, let’s talk about how I got into this program.
Every year, colleges all over the nation have summer programs to better prepare students for success in their careers, and to allow high school students to figure out if said schools are good fits. For musical theater students, there are a lot of options: NYU, OCU, Boston Conservatory… I have been incredibly stressed out about college and college auditions since sophomore year, always over-thinking things, always worrying about things that are out of my control. My voice trainer, Katy, suggested that I audition for a summer program at a college so that I might feel more comfortable with the whole idea of “college” in general. Originally, we were thinking OCU would be my best bet for a summer program. OCU accepts a lot of belters, which is, in my opinion, what I do best, and she thought I’d like it there, but I had a different idea. (Random thought: I think I used way too many commas in that last sentence.) NYU has been my top choice for university for a while now, however, I never thought that I was good enough to get in. Most of my friends/the people I know of who have gotten into NYU Steinhardt were more of the ingenue type. While I pride myself in versatility, and that is something I can do and have done, I wasn’t so sure they’d want me… but I decided to try.
Each university has a page or two for its summer programs detailing their audition requirements. Finding those pages is pretty easy. I just googled, “NYU Steinhardt Summer Programs,” and a bunch of stuff popped up. The official page was right at the top. Then, I selected their Summer Study in Music Theatre page. They were incredibly thorough with what they wanted. Two songs, each under four minutes, were asked of each applicant. NYU wanted piano accompaniment, no a cappella singing. I wasn’t sure if they wanted live accompaniment or if you could use a track, so, after choosing my two songs, I hired an accompanist. I chose “View from Here” from Darling by Ryan Scott Oliver and “My Heart Belongs to Daddy” from Cole Porter’s Leave it to Me. I chose these two songs for a number of reasons:
1. They were contrasting. “View from Here” has a soprano-y, ingenue sound and is from a contemporary musical. “My Heart Belongs to Daddy” is low and belty in parts and from a much older musical. Also, Mary Martin got her start singing “My Heart Belongs to Daddy,” and I love Mary Martin, so it seemed like a good choice.
2. Each was under four minutes. ALWAYS FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS TO A T. Every school is different. Every person who makes an admissions decision is different, but if I were choosing people for my program, I would prefer someone who wasn’t as talented, but followed directions to someone who was the other way around. (Another random thought: I think I needed to put a semicolon in there, but I’m just so overwhelmed right now, my grammar is suffering.)
3. There was a lot of acting potential in the songs.
4. I could rock both of them. Pick songs that you love and that you do well. Let the school see the real you.
After working on both songs for a couple months, I rehearsed with my accompanist. Then, one Saturday, after the SAT, I filmed my auditions and sent them in to NYU. Some schools will want you to attend a local or semi-local audition in person. NYU just asked for tapes. Because this was an audition for a summer program, not the actual four year program, and my house had a pretty nice baby grand, I taped the auditions with my mom’s awesome video camera in my own house. I didn’t want to seem like I was trying too hard by renting a studio space since my home is already pretty attractive (in my opinion). However, I’m sure it doesn’t matter where you do it so long as it looks good. Had I done it in a studio, I doubt I would have been penalized.
Each school’s system is different. Refer to the school/program’s website for instructions on how to send in your audition tapes. NYU used probably about 4 different websites for the process and it took me a couple hours. Do not do what I did and start the applications at 9:00pm on a school night. Be prepared for it to take a while, and if it doesn’t, you got a bonus plan.
Then, I just waited. I heard back two days after submitting my application, but most people didn’t hear back that soon after submitting. I submitted mine only a week and a half before the deadline, so that may be why I got the quick response. Don’t over-think it though. There could be a number of reasons for the time between your submission and admission decision.
Frankly, I was shocked that I had gotten in. I did 17 takes of my first song and 5 of my second song. The only reason I stopped there is because my accompanist had places to be. I can be a bit of a perfectionist. Even when I submitted my tapes, I wasn’t satisfied. However, looking back at them after my acceptance, I actually realize that I did pretty well. Trust in your abilities. Don’t let the voices in your head psych you out. You’ll never know if you don’t try. The answer is always no if you don’t ask.
Back to why I did this – you’d think I would want to be with my family as much as possible since I am hoping to go out of state for college, and I do. It pains me thinking of spending even a moment away from them. They are my best friends, the people I love most in the world. Leaving my family behind is going to be the hardest part of this experience, but I have to do it. These next few weeks might be some of the hardest of my life, but I need them to grow. I am convinced that this is what I need to do to improve, to become a better performer. There is so much I can learn here, I couldn’t possibly let an opportunity like this pass me by. I have the opportunity to study at one of the greatest institutions, if not the greatest institution, of theater in the nation. Performing is as much a part of me as my very soul. I love my family more than anything, but I have to do this. I feel as if my heart is literally being pulled towards… I don’t know what. This institution? This experience? The essence of this place? Whatever it is, I know it is here. This is what I have to do. If you feel that pull, don’t deny it. The people who really love you will always be there for you in some way, shape, or form no matter where you are.
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