Tag Archives: American Opera and Musical Theater Institute

‘The Fantasticks’ sprints to Maxwell stage

Just two weeks into the 2015-16 school year, the Georgia Regents University Department of Music and the American Opera and Musical Theater Institute present “The Fantasticks,” a staple of musical theater for more than 50 years.

“It’s a very small show,” said Patti Myers, a lecturer in music. “We’re using the original instrumentation – just a piano and a harp – which is why we thought that if we’re going to do something in a rush, then we’re going to do something like this.”

While the term rush might imply poor planning, starting so early in the school year was actually a deliberate, calculated decision.

“By doing it this early – and we’ve never done it like this before – we’re jumping way ahead of everyone else in the art community,” said Tonya Currier, director of the American Opera Institute. “There’s no symphony, there’s no Harry Jacobs, there’s no conflict.”

Performances are August 28 and 29 at 8 p.m. at the Maxwell Theatre, and tickets are still available for both shows.

The show, billed as the “World’s Longest Running Musical,” debuted in the 1960s and produced a couple of well-known songs, including “Try to Remember,” which has become a standard for vocalists of several generations.

“It’s actually kind of poetic, even a little Shakespearean sometimes,” Myers said of the show. “It’s kind of a fable about growing up.”

The cast, made up of students, community members, an alumnus and a retired professor, started rehearsing about three weeks before school started.

Next semester, the Institute will mount a production of Mozart’s opera, “The Marriage of Figaro,” which will take place over Valentine’s Day weekend.

“We actually have two love stories this season, which is part of what we want to stress,” Currier said. “Come fall in love with us.”

The American Opera and Musical Theater Institute is an educational training program designed to prepare young vocal talent for professional careers in musical theater and opera performance.

“We’re hopefully bringing professionals together with our students and creating beautiful music and theater that they can learn from,” Currier said. “We want them to experience what it’s like to be in the real world while at the same time protect them.”

Protecting young voices is something that’s actually built into the program. Besides the music department, the Institute includes professors from the Department of Kinesiology and Health Science as well as physicians from the Department of Otolaryngology.

Tickets for “The Fantasticks” can be purchased online here or at the Maxwell Theatre box office, which is open Monday-Thursday from 1-5 p.m. and Friday through the start of the show. The box office will be open an hour before the Saturday performance.

Tickets are free for students with a valid JagCard, $5 for faculty, staff, non-GRU students and children, $8 for GRU alumni, seniors and military and $10 for the general public.


Alumna to perform in American Opera and Musical Theater Institute concert

According to Patti Myers, a lecturer in music and the artistic director of “The American Scene,” a performance of American opera and musical theater highlights that will play at the Maxwell Theatre at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 15, fans of American vocal music are in for a treat. Not only will the musical selections be top notch, but this semester’s performance is built around coloratura soprano Diana Thompson, an alumna who is making a name for herself in opera and musical theater.

“She’s doing some good things,” Myers said. “She has her own teaching studio now, and she has also done, and is doing, a lot of regional and not so regional work.”

The performance, which features pieces from American composers like Aaron Copland and Stephen Sondheim, will feature the opera and musical theater ensemble, the performing ensemble of the American Opera and Musical Theater Institute, a program within the music department emphasizing American works.

Every two years, the group puts on a big production – last year, it was “Into the Woods” – with the in-between years earmarked for theme recitals, where they showcase highlights from American shows and operas.

Last semester, they presented a chronological look at American musical theater; this semester, they decided to zero in on Thompson, who will also be giving a vocal master class on Friday, Feb. 13 at 1:30 in the Maxwell Theatre.

“Diana’s doing some really wonderful songs and arias,” Myers said. “She is doing `Your Daddy’s Son’ from `Ragtime,’ which is wonderful and touching – almost a lullaby – and she’s also performing `Laurie’s Song’ from `The Tender Land’ and a fun, fun aria, `Glitter and be Gay’ from Bernstein’s `Candide.’”

Also performing will be Brandon Brune, a local baritone who studied music at GRU and is now employed at the medical center. To Myers, that background makes him a perfect example of what the music department is trying to accomplish with the American Opera and Musical Theater Institute.

“In our attempt to become one of the primary performing entities in Augusta, part of our mission is to incorporate not only our students, but people associated with our campus,” she said. “Brandon has done a lot of musical theater in town, so he’s very involved in the community theater aspect of things. And he is one of our employees here at GRU.”

This performance will also include a silent auction and a reception.

“It’s a fun atmosphere,” Myers said. “It’s sort of an outreach for us, so there’s nothing really, really formal about it. We’re especially interested in having students come, because not just music students can be involved in this program. We get performers from all our majors as well as people who work at GRU and in the community.”

Last year’s performance of “Into the Woods” featured people from the communications department and our theater track , she said.


Collaboration to aid student performer health

The Georgia Regents University American Opera and Musical Theater Institute is working with physician colleagues at the Center for Voice, Airway, and Swallowing to ensure that its singers have healthy voices and are aware of voice-related health issues.

The Center for Voice, Airway, and Swallowing is part of the Department of Otolaryngology at GRU and is home to the CSRA’s only fellowship-trained laryngologists. Drs. Greg Postma and Paul Weinberger, Department of Otolaryngology faculty, have already had several meetings with students and faculty from the Music Department to discuss voice health issues.

“These voice students are like professional athletes in that they often put stress on certain parts of their bodies to perform and sometimes there are injuries,” GRU Voice Professor and AOTM Institute Administrative Director Tonya Currier said. “This collaboration will allow our students to have access to state-of-the-art vocal care and answers to any questions about their voice or vocal injuries.”

During one meeting held with a group of vocal students and faculty, Postma spoke with them about some of the injuries that can be sustained while singing and some basic tips to keep in mind.

“There are issues of misuse and issues of abuse,” Postma said. “Misuse is when you sing out of range, and abuse would be if you’re yelling, like at a football game.”

Postma continued by discussing some of the technical injuries that can occur, from nodules that can form on the vocal chords to bruising of the vocal chords to more extreme injuries.

“It’s important to also have a baseline laryngeal examination,” Postma told the group. “That means that we get a video of your larynx (voice box) so we can compare to it in the future. There is nothing better than looking back at old videos.”

Postma then took the group to an exam room, and for a few members of the group, he inserted an endoscopic flexible tube into their nasal passages to get images of their larynges.

The procedures went well, and Postma said that the larynges examined were very healthy. The results would be put on file at the medical center in case there were ever any injuries to the singers, when they could be used as a frame of reference to guide treatment.

“What they are offering our students is amazing,” Currier said after the meeting. “I’m very excited that we have this high level of care to offer our students.”

According to Weinberger, medical voice centers, such as the one at GRU, are not commonplace. “Generally only the larger cities in the U.S. have voice centers — places like LA, Boston, New York, Atlanta.”

Currier said that while the voice faculty work to avoid injuries, sometimes they still occur.

“We teach our students how to sing properly without hurting their vocal chords,” she said.

The collaboration will allow the Otolaryngology Department to collect unique research data by working directly with student singers that have far different strains on their larynx than most typical voice patients, as they are just learning to use their instruments.

“It seems that everyone in both departments is very excited,” Currier said. “We can all reap the benefits from this collaboration.”