July 21, 2008

School of Music to offer degree in musical theater

by Andrea Hahn

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The School of Music at Southern Illinois University Carbondale recently did some fine-tuning, resulting in a new program and a new discipline for its students beginning with the fall 2009 semester.

Students will be able to pursue a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theater in the College of Liberal Arts. The degree program replaces a specialization in musical theater previously available as part of a Bachelor of Arts in Music degree.

Jeanine Wagner, interim director of the School of Music and a professor of voice, explained that a BFA, as opposed to a BA, is considered a professional degree, one “that prepares a student to go directly from school to the workplace.”

“Musical theater typically involves up to eight performances a week, much travel, and intense rehearsal periods,” she said. “Because of the physical stamina involved, the genre is quite youth-oriented. This degree will allow students to receive intense and focused training that will make them successful performers for as long as possible.”

The program includes courses in musical theater theory, history and literature, music skills, dance and acting. Some of the new trends in musical theater the program addresses include microphone use, changing dance styles and voice production. The curriculum requires 135 semester hours, including 41 general education credits, 33 hours in music, 48 in theater, six hours of kinesiology and seven of approved electives.

The program takes advantage of existing faculty in the School of Music and the Department of Theater who already carry specializations in Musical Theater. A new faculty member, yet to be hired, will be “shared” with the Department of Kinesiology in the College of Education and Human Resources and John A. Logan College in Carterville.

In addition to the new program, the School of Music added a concentration in collaborative piano to the Master of Music degree.

Paul Transue, assistant professor and a music coach in the School of Music, said the new concentration allows SIUC to help students focus on specific career goals in performance music.

“The new concentration in Collaborative Piano allows us to train pianists for work in opera houses as coaches and accompanists, as vocal coaches for singers, and as performers and accompanists in chamber and instrumental music settings,” he said.

Having such a concentration at the graduate level also helps undergraduate students, he said, because they can access more and more highly trained collaborative pianists to help with their own performances.

Junghwa Lee, assistant professor of piano, agreed, adding that faculty, also, will benefit from having graduate-level students trained as vocal coaches and accompanists.

“This is a natural and necessary part to be added for one of the strengths of the School of Music, which will affect all areas of performance positively,” she said.

For more information, visit the School of Music Web site at www.siuc.edu/~music/.