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Program environment

LoveMyMTGirlLoveMyMTGirl 4 replies1 discussions Forum Champion
I am trying to help my D come up with a balanced list of schools. There is so much great information here. I want to thank all of you for taking your time to help out the new groups as they come along. As part of the newest group, I really appreciate it!

In searching through the forum, I have noticed that there are some programs that have an environment that is referred to as ultra competitive and some with a more nurturing environment. However, I have not seen where those environments are matched with a school name. I know there are a lot of schools on the Big List, but I was hoping someone could give names of a few schools with either of these type of environments. Also, how do I go about finding out that information for the schools we are interested in.

Thanks!
edited May 2013 in Musical Theater Major
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Replies to: Program environment

  • MomCaresMomCares 5 replies0 discussions Junior Member
    I'd say the easiest way to hear how students perceive the competitive/supportive environment in specific programs is to ask on those school Forums, but as a general rule I'd expect schools with a defined cut program to be the most competitive environments, while schools with no annual reviews or cut program and where kids cannot audition for shows their first year might generally feel least competitive.

    I think it's uniquely important for Theatre kids to learn to manage ongoing competition since it's an integral part of their chosen field, but I also think optimal learning requires some very safe situations.

    For an answer regarding a specific school, I sense that D is in a program (Northwestern U) that offers a happy medium.

    On one hand, there is competition to gain admittance to the MT Certificate program during the first year, competition for spots in a cappella groups, ongoing competition for roles and finally competition for limited slots in the NY ShowCase senior year (all students can participate in the Chicago Showcase). It is a large enough program that students need to learn to advocate for themselves and how to gain the attention of myriad directors on campus.

    On the other hand, there are many student productions which offer virtually limitless opportunities for collaboration, plus students participate in selecting the small acting cohort they stay with for three years. MT students also form strong bonds with their voice teacher, who most have for at least three years. Students in the program cheer each other on in various productions almost nightly, and D felt part of a very supportive student AND alumni community as early as her first week on campus.

    Enjoy your upcoming exciting college journey!!
    edited May 2013
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  • monkey13monkey13 4 replies0 discussions New Member
    Brent Wagner, the Chair of MT at UMich, is fond of saying that the schools with cut programs foster competition, and he questions how students can "move forward if they are always looking sideways." In other words, if the kids are competing for the first 2 years for a limited number of slots, the students can't grow b/c they are too worried about what/how everyone else is doing in comparison to them. Emerson is one of the schools that has a cut program (they strive to yield a class of 25 or 26, and cut the class down to 16 by the end of the sophomore year). I believe University of Arizona also has a cut program (but check, b/c I am not entirely sure).

    We found several schools where the students were so supportive of one another....the 3 that come to mind for me (although I know there are many, many more) were Ithaca, Indiana, and OCU. At each of these schools, I was struck by how nice the students all were to each other (at Indiana, this was also true among the BFA and BA students), and they all said that the professors were nurturing, although the work was hard.

    Again, there are many more schools...this list is not meant to be exclusive! Hopefully others will chime in. But I think a general observation is that the students in schools with cut programs tend to be more competitive.
    edited May 2013
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  • MTwalletMTwallet 1 replies0 discussions Forum Champion
    I thought Ithaca had a cut program as well?
    edited May 2013
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  • actor12actor12 4 replies0 discussions
    No, I've never heard that about Ithaca. At least not beyond the usual if you're not doing well that is true of virtually every program. But it's not cutting to a number.
    edited May 2013
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  • monkey13monkey13 4 replies0 discussions New Member
    No, Ithaca does not have a cut program. They have a sophomore review, like most schools (Syracuse, BoCo, Hartt, etc.). We were told this year everyone passed. Review programs are not cut programs.
    edited May 2013
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  • austinmtaustinmt 4 replies0 discussions
    CCPA/Roosevelt seems to have an encouraging/we are all family atmosphere while at the same time holding the kids to a very high standard. They are not a cut program. Their philosophy is to make sure each student is ready to audition/succeed in the real world of theatre but with a focus on producing artists who are all around hard-working and good people to work with. Of course, I'll have to let you know in 3-4 years how that goes! ;-)
    edited May 2013
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  • IrishMTIrishMT 3 replies0 discussions Forum Champion
    Ithaca did most certainly have a cut system. My D graduated from there and her 1st 2 years there were very nerve racking for all of us. I do believe that they have eliminated it, THANK GOODNESS!
    edited May 2013
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  • prntosomeprntosome 13 replies0 discussions
    I agree with the concept of the cut policy being really problematic, and although my D got into Emerson, would not have gone there due to the cuts. This year they are taking in the mid-30's for their MT program and will cut to 16 at the end of the Sophomore year. The overall question is a hard one to answer because certain environments are more difficult for certain kids. It depends on a number of factors. For example, my D's voice coach told her BoCo would not be a good environment for her. Now, before the parents of BoCO kids come down on me - I am not saying this is true for every kid - but it is for mine. It doesn't matter what the reason is because it is more specific to her. I say this only as a way of noting that you may need to get feedback from someone who knows your kid well to help figure this out.
    edited May 2013
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  • CallieneCalliene 4 replies0 discussions
    I agree that cut systems like Emerson's can potentially be deadly for trying to create a supportive environment. Beyond that, there will always be competition for parts and other opportunities. Hard as it is though, our kids need to learn to deal with this and support their peers. Ultimately the whole MT world will more likely make room for them if they are team players. UMich is sort of famous for creating a "family" atmosphere so props to them. When my D was deciding on Montclair she was told that this year one of the freshman got a lead in the production of "Wild Party" and when that was announced all the other freshmen cheered for her. So we are hoping the environment is supportive..
    edited May 2013
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  • beenthereMTdadbeenthereMTdad 3 replies0 discussions New Member
    As much as my daughter was supremely confident in her abilities, and being cut would have been the farthest thing from her mind, I personally would have been very queasy about a school with a cut system. FYI Daughter graduated from Boco in 2011.
    edited May 2013
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  • tracyvptracyvp 1 replies0 discussions New Member
    I believe that in most of these programs, because they tend to be small, at least in the context of a larger school, the kids tend to bond and become a "family." It is likely that any student you ask who is happy with his program will tell you that his school is very supportive.

    I even know of a student at a school with a famous cut system who is VERY tight with his class (he's a graduating Senior) and who would tell you that the atmosphere is very supportive. Of course, I suspect that those students who were cut at the end of each semester would beg to differ! It's all about perspective.

    Another thing I have noticed at my D's school is that her class is VERY supportive of each other, while some of the other classes are a bit less cohesive. But the department as a whole is very supportive, including those who are there as BAs. There really doesn't seem to be a lot of differentiation between the BFAs and the BAs in terms of their caring for each other. For her class, at least, they love their whole class; BFAs, BA's, MT's, Actors and DTs. That's not to say there isn't any resentment, but that they include everyone in "their" class, regardless of the particular program they are in. And they are huge cheerleaders for each other.

    All that to say that I doubt you are going to find many who will tell you that their school doesn't foster a supportive environment unless they are unhappy with the school in general.
    edited May 2013
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  • takeitallintakeitallin 13 replies0 discussions Junior Member
    I would agree with Tracy^^^. My D's program at PSU (she just graduated last week) was extremely tight and supportive of each other; there were 12 of them in her class. She said that it varies from class to class- not all are as closely bonded as her class was, but all seem to be very supportive of each other. I think that since most of these programs are so small, and the kids are together for most activities, that most become pretty close. I didn't hear about much jealousy in her program, but I think that is partly due to the fact that the "types" were so different that there was not as much direct competition for parts. NOw that they have all graduated, I see genuine excitement for each other on their different careers.

    My D felt that the environment at PSU was extremely nurturing. Because of the small class size, teachers and office staff were very extremely tuned in to the students. She felt she could walk in any time to talk to teachers or staff and get any kind of help she needed, whether it was for academic or personal issues. It was far from a cut-throat atmosphere, and in fact, I don't think she will ever again be in a situation where she will feel as close to a group as she does to these students, teachers and support people.
    edited May 2013
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  • jeffandannjeffandann 2 replies0 discussions New Member
    One of the reason's my D took her offer at Ball State was the supportive environment she saw there.
    edited May 2013
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  • LoveMyMTGirlLoveMyMTGirl 4 replies1 discussions Forum Champion
    Thanks everyone for your responses. You make a good point about the environment from programs with cuts being more competitive. I agree that reviews/juries are a good thing, but a set number to cut is not. Cut programs will not be on my D's list.

    I asked my D what she was looking for in a program environment and she wants a happy medium. She does not want to go to a program where she is patted on the head and told just to do her best, but she also doesn't want to go to a program where the students are pitted against each other.

    I'm glad to hear that those who have responded are in nurturing environments with the kids bonding and very supportive of each other. That is what she is looking for.
    edited May 2013
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  • Gwen FairfaxGwen Fairfax 1 replies0 discussions Junior Member
    This is a great question and I love seeing the specific examples here!

    Hartt is a very nurturing program-- now my D has gone through a full year I've really had the chance to see how closely the faculty watches over the students, and all they do to keep the competition healthy. Casting is guaranteed-- you will be in 4 shows a year, beginning sophomore year, and those shows will be directed by professionals who are teaching as they rehearse. It's an absolute immersion in theater, lots of work, and if you're not giving yourself to it 100% it will show in your grades and your evaluations. But there's the knowledge that the faculty wants you to succeed.

    2 examples-- several young women who had been admitted to the BFA were shadowing last month. When one left, the other made a catty remark about her. A senior told her right there that this was unacceptable, they were both members of the same ensemble and responsible to help each other succeed, not cut each other down.

    And-- everyone in the program takes part in the showcase. Alan Rust was talking about this (at many schools you have to audition for the showcase)-- he said "If we've accepted you, you've spent 4 years in the program, and you're not ready for a showcase, we're doing something wrong."

    With that kind of support, it's natural for the students to form strong bonds, and this year they certainly have.
    edited May 2013
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