What We Learned in 2023 from our Masterclass Guests

broadway industry Dec 19, 2023

Written By: Chelsea & Cynthia

As we approach the end of the year, we are reflecting on all we've learned from the special guests we have hosted in 2023. We're sharing our favorite takeaways and life-changing bits of wisdom from casting directors, music directors, and the other industry experts we've welcomed into the BVC Studio this year. 

Honestly, it's because of our fantastic guests, that we felt prompted to think about how we could increase access to these classes so that more people could learn, get involved, and just overall open this up to a wider audience.

Right now, these special guest master classes have just been for BVC studio members, but recently, we launched BVC Masterclass, which is our new subscription service that begins in January. This gives you access to three masterclasses every single month, which is 36 masterclasses a year! You can attend live or watch the recordings, and it's going to be a fantastic way to work with us, industry professionals, expand your network, and continue to work on your craft when it's convenient for you.

If you want to learn more about the all-new BVC Masterclass subscription, click here!

We have some incredible guests lined up for next year, but first, let's reflect on our inspirational guests from 2023! 

January: Wendy Cavett

[Music Director, Supervisor, Educator, Arranger, Conductor, and Pianist. Credits include: Come From Away, Hamilton, Mamma Mia, Scarlet Pimpernel, Most Happy Fella, tours of The Who's Tommy, Mamma Mia, Chorus Line, and currently in development with a new musical entitled Super You.]

Wendy was so generous with her knowledge and she worked with studio clients on their audition material. But at the top of class, she set the tone for the session when she shared this quote from choreographer Agnes DeMille:

 "I confess that I had a burning desire to be excellent, but no faith that I could be. Martha Graham said to me, very quietly, there is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action. Because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium, and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how valuable, nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly to keep the channel open."

What a beautiful reminder that we are a vessel for creativity, a vessel for storytelling. It's not your business to determine how good it is or how valuable or how it compares to others. The comparison game is never a game we want to play, that's just not a valuable place to live in. Stay open and share what you have.

February: Olli Haaskivi

[TV, film, and theatre actor]

He gave a workshop with our members on booking one-liner parts in TV and film, which are roles like when Tom Hanks walks up to the barista at the coffee shop and the barista asks him what he wants to order - that's a one-liner. This is especially common on TV shows like Law and Order, where they're just full of new sets of characters every single episode.

We had so many great takeaways from that class, but what really stuck out was his reminder to just make an interesting or bold choice. These are not throwaway lines, you need to bring your personality to it. 

In his class, Ollis shared, "My cheapest trick in acting is to do the opposite of what the other characters in the scene are doing". There are so many times as actors - whether it's a last-minute audition or you're given a one-liner that you have to deliver in the next 10 minutes because someone just wrote it for you - where you don't have time to do all of your research on your backstory and work out your given circumstances.

Sometimes you just have to make a fast choice, as informed as you can, and that is when having a toolkit full of tricks comes in handy.

March: Merri Sugarman

[Casting Director, Tara Rubin Casting]

 Merri shared that there's never a reason to be general. If you haven't heard us say it 20 times this year already, write it down. It's the most important thing we can think of. She went on to say that people worry that if they're too specific, casting directors will think that's all they can do.

But no, casting directors instead think that it's interesting and truthful and leaves them wondering what else that person can do.  They understand that just because you came in and you made a strong choice with one piece of material doesn't mean that's the only thing you can do, instead, making any kind of specific choice says you're capable of making bold decisions for the characters you are cast to perform. 

Which, in the end, is exactly what they want you to be able to do! 

April: Matt Lenz

[Theater director for regional productions, national tours, and international productions.]

Matt talked about the importance of finding a mentor that you respect, even if it's not a formal mentorship. He shared how he learned through the ranks, how he became a director, and how he continues to become a better director, because learning never truly stops in this business. There's always a new groundbreaking show that comes out or a new game-changing way of doing something. In this industry, we're constantly needing to learn and evolve, so finding mentors that can help you through that process is huge. 

Matt also mentioned that he always finds that people in the theater are willing to share what they know and to help others out. So finding those mentors, whether it's a coach, a teacher, or even something informal, like a friend that you can bounce ideas off of, can be important and not necessarily as hard to find as you may think.

May: Mary-Mitchell Campbell.

[Music director of practically every Broadway show out there right now (no really, check the credits, she's probably on it) and is the new resident music director of the Encore series at City Center.]

During Mary-Mitchell's class, a client got a little emotional during the song that she sang and she apologized for it.  But Mary Mitchell's response was, do it, let yourself cry. That shows you you're connecting to your emotions and that's amazing. And she went on to say, "I mean, do you want to go into an audition or a show and cry? Maybe not, but sometimes the only way out is through. So if you give yourself permission to cry it out while you're working on something, you start calibrating how close you get to the edge." And she talked about how that's why we love live performance because, in a perfect world, we see performers go to the very edge of that cliff and not fall over.

But even if you do fall over that cliff and you completely fall apart, we are on your side. We feel engaged and connected to that experience. As an audience, we would much rather see performers go over that cliff than never even go near the edge.

September: Kevin Chamberlain

[Tony Award nominated Broadway actor, TV and film star]

Kevin has amassed over 10 million followers on TikTok, and close to a million followers on Instagram, so we thought he would be great to talk about social media and how to use that for self-promotion as an actor. 

During that class, we had members ask about how to get over that icky feeling of self promotion and how to deal with the potential of haters and unkind comments.

Kevin put it simply: You're performers, that's what you do. Social media is simply a different platform for performing. That's all it is, it's not that deep, and don't overthink it.

Also, yoou can always delete! If you don't like what you posted, you can always remove it from your account. And when it comes to the haters, same thing: delete. If you don't want those comments on your post, delete them. Don't interact with the haters, it is your page and you get to do what you want with it. 

October: Michael Orland

[Music director, pianist, coach, arranger, and American Idol vocal coach]

Something that stuck out to us from when we interviewed him on the podcast is this concept of not becoming the karaoke version of someone else. This is such a powerful idea - ask yourself, what's your artistry? What's your point of view? How are you going to put your spin on it? That's the thing that makes you special.

The other thing that we loved was, the simple advice to just just go for it. And he was most specifically talking about auditioning for reality talent shows. Just do it. But it felt like good advice to remember for everything because his whole attitude was, why not? You never know what will happen. In this industry, you never know what might stick, so don't hold yourself back! 

November: Voiceover Workshop NYC, with Sarah Kapner and Emilea Wilson

 Sarah and Emily kept sharing over and over about how voiceover work can be a really lucrative job and a great side hustle, or it can be a job unto itself. And at one point, one of our members reminded us all that having money gives you the freedom to make choices that are aligned with your personal values and goals, and gives you the ability to have a higher impact on the community around you. So, you shouldn't apologize for wanting to make money, because it allows you to do so much good in the world and for your family.

Sometimes as performers, there's still this idea of the "starving artist", and that if you aren't kind of struggling for your craft, you're not a real artist in some way. And we're going to take issue with that and say that there is absolutely no shame in having a side hustle in something else, like voiceover work. Let's dispense of the starving artist idea and leave that behind in 2023.

We are so thankful for all of the guests who took time out of their busy schedules to share their wisdom with our BVC Studio Members! As we go into the new year, we are so excited for the fantastic leading industry guests we have scheduled, and cannot wait to welcome our new BVC Masterclass subscribers into these classes. 

If you're interested in diving deeper into this interview or exploring other interesting musical theatre conversations - check out the Broadway Vocal Coach podcast! Or check us out on Instagram, and get involved in the conversation! 

Are you a musical theatre performer and wondering what your next step should be? Take our Quiz - we can’t wait to hear your story and help you take the next step in your career. 


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