The University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music pioneered the idea of creating a showcase of graduating musical theatre seniors to get them in front of key industry agents and casting directors in New York City. It became a model for programs across the country, but this year coronavirus canceled the revival.
"It was devastating to know that it was canceled," says Diane Lala, interim chair of musical theater. "The students who come to us know that after four years they have this amazing opportunity to be put in front of the industry in New York to start their professional life."
CCM's musical theatre program is the oldest in the country and the model for creating national accreditation standards for schools across the U.S. Graduates can be found performing on stages around the world.
This year's annual showcase was scheduled for April 15. Fifteen seniors preparing for graduation were scheduled to perform two showings. Fortunately, Lala says, the department foresaw a potential university closure and made a high quality recording during one of the final rehearsal sessions.
As the educators were trying to figure out what to do in lieu of the New York City trip, they were approached by a group of CCM alumni working in the business who have a group called The Network.
"They offered to help us and put together a website," Lala explains.
This site went live Wednesday. Industry types like agents and casting directors who would normally attend the showcase in person were sent a link and password to access the recorded version.
"We have had an unbelievable 'turnout' virtually," she says. "They are contacting us; they're contacting the students, calling them back. It's a whole new world right now and we jumped at this opportunity to put our students out there and hopefully get them work in the future."
CCM may be the first school presenting its showcase this way. Lala says other students are putting their own videos and clips online. BroadwayWorld, an industry website, is hosting students' videos on its site and allowing access to directors, agents and producers. Some CCM students are also on the site.
"We were just so fortunate that these grads ... just came to the rescue and said 'we have this idea.' Since then we've been full steam ahead."
Lala says the virtual showcase could be giving CCM students an advantage since it went online so quickly and students are already getting inquires and interview requests.
"(Our students) are ready to go and do whatever it is they need to do to pursue their passion and their dreams. It's been interesting, I have to say, but I feel really good about what we've done for the students given the times we're in."