Performing on Broadway is a dream many performers never realize. But for 86 Mahomet-Seymour High School choral students, that dream came to fruition when they traveled to Cleveland and New York for five days in June.
Prior to leaving for the Big Apple, Choral Directors Jill Rinkel and Nicole Kuglich prepared students for the New York City environment.
“It’s an awesome opportunity to take a trip outside of little Mahomet,” Rinkel said. “We tried to explain it beforehand, the experience of going to New York, and cue them in on things like you don’t just have a picture with Spiderman for free, you have to pay for it.”
Rinkel said that some students could not wait to see what it was like to live in New York City, work with Broadway professionals and hear their stories while others looked at the trip as more of an opportunity to see a new place.
“It was an awesome trip,” she said. “All the things we did, the kids loved every minute of it. Some loved certain things more than others; it’s just fun to watch their faces.”
Mahomet-Seymour students first performed on the stage at the Rock Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio on June 14. The students were adjudicated by Broadway professionals on their performance of ‘Give Our Regards to Broadway’ by Teena Chinn, which featured a variety of songs from musicals such as Annie, My Fair Lady, Hair, Fiddler, Funny Girl, Anything Goes, Ragtime, Into the Woods, and several other shows. After their performance, they participated in an impressive feedback clinic with Erik Peterson, who plays “Dewey,” the lead character in School of Rock.
The students then had a session where they met Broadway professionals from School of Rock: Erik Peterson Casting director Alison Franck, and Assistant Conductor Zach Dietz. Following those sessions was a mass choir rehearsal with other performance groups to rehearse “Stick it to the Man” which was sung by everyone during the curtain call of the Broadway musical, “School of Rock” that evening at the Winter Garden Theatre.
On Saturday, the students participated in two theater workshops taught by Broadway professionals. In the dance workshop, students worked with a vocal coach and choreographer to learn a song and choreography from “Hairspray” or “Wicked”. In the other workshop, students created their own “musical” with their own choreography and lyrics to a song.
While in New York City, the students toured Radio City Music Hall and had their picture taken with a Rockette, ate at Ellen’s Stardust Diner where they sang along to songs from “Grease,” visited the 86th floor of the Empire State Building observatory toured the National September 11 Memorial Museum, explored Central Park and cruised around many of New York’s legendary landmarks, including the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, the Chrysler Building, and the Brooklyn Bridge.
Through all of these experiences, Rinkel said that students also learned to collaborate with their classmates and make new friends.
“I didn’t think about this, but as I was putting them in their standing arrangement, I realized that everyone didn’t know each other because there were all four grade levels,” she said.
Rinkel also said that she plans to take the comments made by the Broadway professionals and apply them to her classroom next year.
“They talked to the students about digging more into the meaning and intent of the song, she said. “Besides notes and all of that, which they do really well on the holding parts and their tone quality, but just digging more into the meaning and the intent and getting that out emotionally. He gave them some ideas on that, and I think I want to work more on that with them.”