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Notre Dame introduces musical theatre minor

| Wednesday, September 5, 2018

In an effort to encourage students of varied interests to express themselves through the arts, the departments of Film, Television and Theatre (FTT) and Music are working together to launch a new minor in musical theatre this fall, said Matt Hawkins, assistant professor and head of the minor.

“There’s always been an interest and an energy on campus about doing musicals, which has grown a little bit over the last couple of years,” Hawkins said.

He said the FTT department decided to put on the musical “Cabaret” in the 2013-2014 season to gauge student interest in musical theatre, and because a number of students came out to audition, they put on “Little Shop of Horrors” in the 2015-2016 season. This push from the students lead the department to begin the process of adding musical theatre to the curriculum.

“We designed the minor to be flexible,” Peter Smith, music department chair, said. “We require a course on the history of musical theatre, electives from music and FTT, and we require a senior capstone project, but it is designed specifically for the student’s interests and tailored to them.”

Smith said the primary motivation behind the minor is to provide the students broader opportunities to engage in the arts in a more scholarly manner.

“I think people don’t always realize that studying [the arts] actually contributes greatly to a person’s intellectual development,” he said. “Sometimes we’re a little too focused on this idea of preparing for a career, but these kinds of things will do that for people in various ways. Learning a role, presenting it on stage, learning to act and sing — the kind of poise and command it requires and the longterm commitment and ability to work in a collaborative group are all skills that have applicability.”

Freshman Brigid Harrington said she was drawn to Notre Dame to continue her artistic training while also receiving a formal education after working professionally in the field for most of her childhood.

“I am interested in the new [musical theatre] minor because the program will allow me to grow as a performer, take artistic risks and explore every aspect of my art,” Harrington said.

Hawkins also said that the minor is not only for students who are considering pursuing the arts as a career. Rather, the minor was created with the intention of drawing students in from a variety of majors and disciplines.

“Even though we’re supporting our theatre students and the ones who are interested in being musical theatre artists, the minor is actually tailored to individuals [outside of FTT] who are artistic, who are interested in the humanities or understanding society and culture and expression or are a patron, who like going to concerts, films or theatre,” Hawkins said.

Hawkins said he ultimately strives to cultivate the individual’s voice, which he accomplishes by giving the students opportunities to act in leadership roles.

“[For a musical theatre lab class], I have a student playwright, and my music director is also a student. I have a creative associate who’s acting as a producer who’s a student, and I have three choreographers that are all students.”

Hawkins said he hopes the minor will allow students to exercise their creativity and use art as a platform to consider their interests.

“Art can be a response to our political climate, our cultural climate and all of our social issues, so if you’re interested in expression, if you’re interested in how people feel about things and you want to see how that has changed over the past 120 years of our history of musical theater in the U.S., musical theatre will do that for you.”

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