“And say goodbye to your human self for awhile…”
When I was no more than three, I would ask my parents if we could watch the “Guy Sleeping” movie again - otherwise known as my favorite part of Fantasia 2000, Rhapsody in Blue. George Gershwin’s concerto was an essential part of my early love for music. I’ve played piano for most of my life, but never expected that I would end up here and be able to do this for a living. I am now a piano performance major in my junior year at WMU; this past December, I got to live out my childhood dream performing as the soloist in Rhapsody in Blue!
Many graduates from the WMU Music Theatre Performance (MTP) program have graced the stages of Broadway, Chicago, National Tours and major regional theatres. It is always exciting to graduate and to have your theatre dreams come true. In addition to these opportunities, many music theatre students have taken their talents to the high seas. Performing as a cast member on one of the numerous cruise line has become a very lucrative and exciting way for young music theatre graduates to see the world and jumpstart their careers. While life on a cruise ship may not be for everyone, it is certainly an experience worth exploring.
This past July, with nerves, excitement, and a U-Haul filled with her life’s possessions from four years spent in Kalamazoo, Cecily Shives moved across the country to begin her career as a professional ballerina. Unfortunately, however, this new life chapter did not start off on the right foot.
Just three weeks before her contract was set to commence with Ballet San Antonio, Cecily slipped and fell in rehearsal, breaking the fifth metatarsal in her foot. With an injury infamously known as the “dancer’s break,” Cecily was forced off the dance floor and into a boot before her professional career even started. The pain and frustration of being unable to dance, combined with the inevitable anxiety of coming into a new environment, left Cecily devastated.
Despite having two professional dancers as parents, Cecily’s dance journey wasn’t choreographed for her. Just watch her move about the stage or studio, and you’ll see that she got to where she is with her own commitment, resolve and talent.
“You’re only in this because your dad is with the Joffrey,” Cecily recalls peers sneering and suggesting when she was younger. While at times she internalized these resentful jabs and doubted herself, her dad, Willy Shives, reinforced that she was deserving of every role and spot because of her own abilities as a dancer.
“Even the times that I questioned it, he reminded me that he wouldn’t put me in a place that would reflect poorly on him,” she said. “I know I’ve earned [my success], but this flak is something I’ve had to deal with my whole life.”
Next weekend, Audiotree Music Festival will return to Arcadia Creek Festival Place, once again bringing "music and community together" in downtown Kalamazoo. But this year, the artists on stage aren't the only ones sharing their talent with audiences; the work of Gwen Frostic School of Art students will also be on display for concertgoers to enjoy.
You know those experiences where you leave and think to yourself, “That was one of the most amazing things I have ever done. When can I do it again?”? That is how I felt when I left College Audition Advantage just a couple weeks ago, right as the Berkshires were starting to feel like home.
This summer, I had the opportunity to intern through Performing Arts Abroad at a dance school in Barcelona Spain, Slam Dancing Studio. Over the course of six weeks, the internship involved many different roles and responsibilities. A role that impacted me most was the job of being a featured instructor at the school’s annual performing arts camp, which was taught in English. This camp was three weeks in length, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., for ages 4-16.
This past May I packed up my car with the barest essentials for a three-month adventure and made the move to Chicago, Illinois. This would be a solo adventure, and I would be lying if I said I was without trepidation. My destination was reached in three hours and thus began a summer like no other: a summer interning with Victory Gardens Theater.
Victory Gardens Theater offers a transformative space for young arts professionals, and I was lucky to have this door opened for me when I attended the National Arts Marketing Conference last November in Austin, Texas. I was able to network with people from the Chicago theater industry and ultimately land this internship and make my vision of speaking truth and affecting change through the art I love a reality.