For almost two years the hustle-and-bustle atmosphere of Times Square completely died out, something native New Yorkers never thought they’d witness. They never believed they’d miss hearing that one guy scream-sing at the top of his lungs from the sidewalk, or seeing the rats scurry across the pavement. Turns out, New York loses her identity when she loses her quirks. And for the unforeseeable future, the city that never sleeps pulled an Aurora and took a fat nap.
As COVID-19 slightly subsides, NYC has started to make a comeback. Restaurants, movie theatres, bowling alleys, interesting characters on the sidewalk, all things finally taking a normal turn. And above all, the city’s heart and soul will finally make a comeback this fall. Tourists and regulars alike will again begin to catch their favorite shows as theatre life starts up again. You will simply feel “satisfied” as you glance at the bright and shining .
Many young actors and actresses dream that they will someday see their names in bright, shiny lights. Yearning to “seize the day,” aspiring Broadway stars slap on their tap shoes, constantly practicing and training for their big break. College helps young actors to look within and challenge themselves to achieve their very best.
Keep reading to discover the top colleges for students whose hearts belong to Broadway.
10. Marymount Manhattan College
Yearning to live out your Gossip Girl dreams? Well, get packing. Marymount Manhattan College resides on the upper east side, so go find your Serena and start shopping. Xoxo!
Marymount Manhattan’s phenomenal musical theatre (MT) program gets students to Broadway in no time. Plus, being in the Big Apple allows students to take up internships in the city, giving them professional experience and keeping them in close quarters with the Broadway world.
Anyone else a die-hard Umbrella Academy fan? Emmy Raver-Lampman (AKA Allison Hargreeves) played Angelica in Hamilton. This triple threat Marymount Manhattan alum certainly knows how to achieve success.
Accepting 40-45 students per year, the 120-credit Marymount Manhattan MT program admits one in five students who audition. While focusing on both classic and modern musical theatre, faculty help students become quick sight singers and teach them the healthiest singing techniques in the industry. The 9:1 student to faculty ratio helps students to build relationships with professors and helps MMC in accumulating a positive reputation for their master classes and lectures. This ultimately gives students the opportunity to network outside of their circle of peers.
9. Point Park University
Lights. Camera. Action! Point Park University in Pittsburgh not only offers dance and theatre, but also attracts those creative cinema arts students. These three pillars make up the Conservatory of Performing Arts, or the COPA, whose origins go back to 1968. Every year COPA puts on a NYC showcase, inviting agencies and managers to attend and giving students the opportunity to get their big break.
“Attending a conservatory for performing arts was a lab for me to explore every aspect of myself as a performer and come into class everyday with an open mind and ready to learn something new,” Point Park graduate Caroline Travers said. “I definitely have used that in my post-grad career so far since film/TV and even theatre are very fast paced rehearsal processes. Being ready for anything was a huge lesson Point Park taught me.”
Point Park’s intense performance schedule—with 18 big productions and 235 performances—keeps students moving and practicing year-round. The university only admits 10% of their applicants, and therefore those accepted to the 129-credit MT program receive specialized training and form tight relationships with their peers. The 13:1 faculty to student ratio also helps students to network and form tight bonds with their professors, which will come in handy when internship season comes along.
Don’t feel too discouraged by the six-hour distance from Pittsburgh to NYC. Many notable Point Park alum like Ahmad Simmons from Hadestown and Cats made the cut.
8. Penn State University
Dreaming of starring on Broadway, but despise living amongst the rats in the big city? Don’t fear. Even if your career pushes you to live in or near Manhattan, you may desire to attend college in a more rural area. If you find yourself hoping for that snuggly campus feeling, don’t be afraid to try those surrounding states… like Pennsylvania. Only a 4-hour drive from the Big Apple, Penn State seems like a suitable choice for the mighty MT major.
Like to kick back and watch Modern Family on the weekends? Alumni Ty Burrell graduated from Penn State and went on to play Macbeth on Broadway, along with our beloved Phil Dunphy.
Penn State’s intense musical theatre program helps students to challenge themselves every day, offering unique initiatives to keep them on their toes. The “New Musicals Initiative,” for example, commissions professional New York writers to draft a specialized musical just for the MT majors. Once developed alongside the students, the students take to the renowned Feinstein’s 54 Below in the city to perform a concert version of the musical.
The Musical Theatre Wellness Center initiative works to aid students in their vocal health alongside their mental and physical wellbeing.
The selective 86 credit MT program selects 49 students who then work with 13 faculty members. These professors have professional experience in the acting, dancing, and directing industry and more.
7. Ithaca College
Jack Kelly of Newsies might dream of visiting Sante Fe, but the one and only Jeremy Jordan dreamt of attending Ithaca College in upstate NY… and achieved that goal.
A four-hour drive from the big city, Ithaca’s prestigious 120-credit musical theatre program offers students the opportunity to work one-on-one with faculty and hone in on their skills and talents. Completing over 20 hours of studio instruction per week, the 35 selected BFA students work closely with their professors at a 10:1 faculty to student ratio, helping them improve their voice, speech, piano skills, jazz and modern dancing and much more. And get this—the MT program collabs with Ithaca’s School of Music, so you will certainly acquire a greater understanding of music theory. Plus, you’ll receive the chance to brush up on that singing.
“I think learning in the unique setting of an ensemble that is held together for four years has really impacted me. I can trust my classmates and my professors to have my best interests at heart,” Ithaca College sophomore Rebecca Blacksten said. “I appreciate the expectation of professionalism that Ithaca theater asks of its students, with strict attendance and tardiness policies. It helps us recognize that we are all a community that is reliant on one another and we have to support our peers no matter what.”
Alongside their professional classes, Ithaca MT boasts an impressive list of Broadway graduates, giving current students a chance to engage with the successful alumni network. In love with Aaron Tveit as Danny Zuko? That T-Bird graduated in ‘06.
6. New York University
Grab your Tisch-ues. You’ll cry after laughing at alum Dimitri Moïse’s performance in The Book of Mormon. Ever hear of the smash hit show Jagged Little Pill? Alum Lauren Patten snagged the “Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical” award at the 2021 Tony’s with her performance as Jo. These wonderful graduates learned from the best at NYU Tisch School of the Arts, taking unique classes that interested them. The 128-credit program accepts less than 15% of those who apply, and NYU finds Tisch’s admissions process the most rigorous of all the programs in NYU. Ladies, gents and non-binary friends, this school sure will aid you in your Broadway journey, especially when each class only has about nine students.
What else sets NYU above the rest? The mere fact that after a 15-minute drive you’ll reach Broadway. Always a smart move to keep within close quarters with your future profession.
Don’t forget to apply to the theatre studies honors program, where you and 14 others will engage in intellectual seminars and write an honors thesis with original research.
5. The American Musical and Dramatic Academy
What better way to launch your Broadway career than to attend college in our very own New York City? The American Musical and Dramatic Academy, better known as AMDA, specializes in instructing students to become the “next big thing.”
With around a 30% acceptance rate, the 123-credit program pushes students to expect the unexpected in the industry, offering practical entrepreneurship and career preparation classes. The 8:1 faculty to student ratio further encourages students to put in hard work. As implied by the name, AMDA takes the arts seriously, inviting students to consider following the accelerated track as opposed to the traditional track. Upon deciding to follow the students complete their bachelor’s degree in two years and nine months as opposed to four years. Instead of taking breaks between each semester, students on the accelerated track recieve only one week off between each term. Graduating early allows them the wiggle room to jumpstart their careers in the world of show business, ahead of classmates in other colleges. Another plus? Less college debt. The program allows for a cheaper and quicker college experience.
AMDA also offers the unique opportunity for students to complete half of their academic career in NYC, and the other half in LA. Students in both the accelerated and traditional tracks may participate in this program, allowing them to take advantage of production and workshop opportunities in both states. The students also get to perform original showcases in each state, a great booster for that resume.
As for those notable alumni? Did you watch Hamilton during quarantine and completely fall in love with John Laurens? We all did. The one and only Anthony Ramos graduated from AMDA in 2011.
4. Pace University
Let’s pick up the pace! Literally. Pace University offers one of the most notable musical theatre programs in the country. Offering opportunities for students to take master classes taught by actual Broadway stars, they get up close and personal with show biz. Accepting only 26-28 students per year, the selective 128-credit program offers master classes held by actual Broadway stars, including Aziza Barnes, Andrea Burns, Jeanine Tesori and more. The impressive 15:1 faculty to student ratio allows students to build valuable relationships with their professors who work in the industry, giving them an insider’s look at show biz. This gives students the chance to network while still in the classroom and connect with their peers, AKA the Broadway stars of tomorrow.
“I’ll be honest, my time at Pace certainly wasn’t easy. I feel the most important thing I learned is to take some time to figure out who I was in the world and in the industry. I think it’s really important to advocate for yourself,” star of Mrs. Doubtfire on Broadway Analise Scarpaci said. “Take your career into your own hands. Don’t wait for someone to tell you what’s right or wrong… go out there and learn for yourself! This industry is so unpredictable, so I advise you to take charge of every opportunity that comes your way. Always train, read plays, learn an instrument, and do anything that can keep your creative mind flowing!”
Let’s not forget that Pace is located in none other than the Big Apple, a mere 27-minute drive from Broadway. Sophomore-level students and up gain the opportunity to audition for musicals unaffiliated with the university. Don’t fret, BFA first years. You’ll receive the opportunity to participate in on campus productions from your very first semester and on, along with a freshman cabaret in the spring.
3. Montclair State University
Every Hamilton fan knows that “everything is legal in New Jersey.” But did you know that Montclair State University resides 14 miles west of Manhattan? That’s right, a mere 40-minute drive and you’ll arrive in the city that never sleeps.
The musical theatre major at Montclair State does 92 semester hours of singing, acting and dancing while completing other core and major requirements. The 17:1 faculty to student ratio makes certain that students receive ample opportunity to build connections with their professors.
“Since we are not in any way a cut program, we carefully choose 18-22 students per year to enter the program and we fully commit to them throughout their time with us. We have no quotas; we are simply looking for the most intriguing and promising group we can find. We seek students we think can work in the field,” Coordinator of Musical Theatre/Associate Mark Hardy said.
The university has not one, not two, but six theatres for students to design and perform with. They house 4 dance studios, an auditorium and an amphitheater amongst two smaller ones. Many alumni including Rob McClure, Mrs. Doubtfire herself, hit the Broadway stage immediately following graduation. Others, like Bruce Willis of Die Hard, launch solo careers or work in TV and film. Success always follows a Montclair alum.
“Montclair State and, my professor Clay James in particular, gave me so many experiences and opportunities that prepped me for my professional career. I made friends and support for life,” Broadway star from Ain’t Too Proud Jelani Remy said. His advice for aspiring Broadway stars? “Be yourself and don’t try to ‘fit.’ What makes you unique is what the world needs.” Amazing, right?
2. Elon University
Pack your bags, cause we’re movin’ to North Carolina. You might ask, what sets Elon’s MT program apart from the rest? For one, Elon works to create an anti-racist and inclusive program, aiming to build a safe space for all students to feel respected and valued. Through their hard work with experts on Racial Inclusivity, they continuously make sure their space remains equitable, inclusive and accessible for all students. Secondly, Elon provides students the opportunity to connect with professionals through conventions, workshops and master classes, and offers over 40 intense MT classes. Only 16-20 students join the MT major each year, keeping the number of students in the classroom to a minimum and giving them the chance to cultivate their talents closely with faculty members.
“Elon Music Theatre program is currently led by a diverse group of artists-scholars with a variety of perspectives (Broadway careers, international scholarship, entrepreneurial backgrounds, and regional experience). The mission of our degree is to prepare the musical theatre multihyphenate not only to enter the field at a high level, but to transform the industry via expertise in a multitude of other career opportunities, e.g. writing, casting, choreographing, administration, video editing—the list is endless. Training today’s performers to create tomorrow’s careers—that is the Elon Music Theatre brand,” Director of Musical Theatre Julio Matos said.
Though the eight-hour drive to NC might seem tiring, Elon’s unforgettable lineup of alum proves just how well they train their students. Alumni went on to star in a plethora of Broadway shows, including Legally Blonde, Wicked, West Side Story and more. Ever watch the flash? Dreamy Grant Gustin graduated from Elon in 2010.
1. Carnegie Mellon University
Trivia time. Did Leslie Odom Jr. “wait for it” when applying to Carnegie Mellon? Not at all. This Broadway legend hit the stage at 17 in Rent and never looked back. He studied MT, earned his degree and we now know and love him as the OG Aaron Burr.
This second Pittsburgh-borne University offers tons of unique opportunities to their MT students. Interested in studying abroad? The 12 students accepted to the MT program get the option to see the world in the first semester of their senior year as part of the international conservatory program. Students studied as far as London, Australia, and even South Africa. Some students prefer to stay local, what with over 100 classes to choose from and the 7:1 faculty student ratio.
Through Carnegie Mellon’s partnership with the national American Society of Composers and Publishers (ASCAP) and the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera (CLO), students also gain the opportunity to work with the professional’s knee deep in the biz. Not to continue the streak of name dropping, but time and time again, composer (and alum) Stephen Schwartz makes his appearance to spearhead workshops and work with students. Cool, right? Being the composer of Wicked sure makes you “popular!”