Published: June 21, 2018 By

Musical Theatre introduction

The first class to work toward the BM in Musical Theatre will enter the college in Fall 2019.

If you’re catching a Broadway vibe from the College of Music right now, it’s not your imagination.

In March, College of Music students, faculty and alumni brought Stephen Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd” to Macky Auditorium. This October, the men and women of Eklund Opera Program will stage Leonard Bernstein’s “West Side Story” as part of the CU Bernstein at 100 celebration.

And a year from now, the college launches its new Bachelor of Music in Musical Theatre degree.

Matthew Chellis, associate professor of voice and musical theatre veteran, is heading the development of the program. “The world of musical theatre has never been more popular,” he explains. “There’s a component of new opera works that’s more akin to theatre than oprea,” he says. “Chicago Lyric is doing ‘West Side Story’ and ‘Jesus Christ Superstar.’

“Broadway had record sales this past year and musical theatre’s popularity is reflected in the huge interest of incoming singers and dancers to obtain a degree in the field."

When the Class of 2023 enters the college as the first cohort of musical theatre majors in Fall 2019, Chellis says they’ll benefit from being a relatively small class in a brand new program.

“By the time they graduate, everyone will have had the opportunity to be cast in a major role because it’s such a small cohort. They’ll also get a lot of individual attention right away, studying with our professors instead of TAs.”

And with other College of Music faculty members boasting big-time credentials, musical theatre at CU Boulder has the potential to become the western breeding ground for Broadway.

“I want to turn this into a program that’s as competitive as any of those at the top-tier musical theatre training schools. There are so many professional programs around the country, and it's time CU joined them.”

Chellis envisions an immersive, four-year degree program with real-world experience as its hallmark. The curriculum will be rigorous, with a focus on musicianship along with singing, acting and dance skills. The senior year will culminate with trips to New York, Los Angeles and Chicago to participate in audition workshops with industry casting directors and producers. “We want to give students the opportunity to show off their skills prior to a big move to a major city. It’ll be modeled after the programs at the University of Michigan and Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.”

As for public performance opportunities, they’ll start small—but right away.

“The first couple of years, we’ll do a show in the Black Box Theatre at ATLAS and the Music Theatre, starting with a review with a research component, and then a performance with a small ensemble cast, like ‘The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee’ musical.”

And then, as the number of students in the program grows, Chellis hopes to put on a large production on the Macky stage—or even elsewhere along the Front Range. “One of our main goals is to create professional theatre relationships in Denver. So many people have come here after Broadway, and it could be a real asset to our students to have their mentorship.”

Because after students earn this degree—the curtain goes up on their careers.

“They’ll need to hit the ground running when they’re 21 or 22. Musical theatre is unique in that way. You need to move to Chicago, LA or New York and get your face out there right after graduation. And that’s what we want to prepare students to do.”

The Bachelor Fine Arts in Musical Theatre will still be offered through the Department of Theatre & Dance at CU, while the Bachelor of Music in Voice with a musical theatre elective offered through the College of Music will be retired as of next fall. The new BM in Musical Theatre will offer a stronger focus on music history and theory, along with studio classes.

For information about applying for Fall 2019 admission into the Bachelor of Music in Musical Theatre degree, visit the Admissions pages.