The Top 10 BFA Musical Theatre Programs in the Country for 2016-17

The end of August is usually a time where college seems to be on everyone's mind. Whether it's incoming freshmen getting ready to move into their residence halls or high school seniors preparing their applications, college is a constant discussion. 

For theatre students, where you attend can certainly have an impact on your career with the type of training you receive. It's also important to note that while each school listed here is excellent, a college degree doesn't guarantee success nor is one required to become successful in this industry. 

Here at OnStage, we take months to research the best BFA programs to come up with our own lists. We base it off tuition, curriculum, faculty, career support, basically everything you yourself would consider before making a college choice. We even have gone as far to call admission offices to ask them questions. 

We're going to do separate lists for each type of degree field. We've already done BFA in Acting which can be found here. 

Today we move onto Musical Theatre. 

10. Shenandoah University - Winchester, VA

Notable Facts: 

-  Known as the “pop/rock” school because they offer the only program with faculty dedicated to the genre.

- Home to the Shenandoah Summer Music Theatre (SSMT), their own professional stock company, which produces four major musicals each summer. Also has ongoing partnership with the Tony Award-winning Signature Theatre in Arlington, VA.

- In the junior year students take Prep for the Profession where they learn how to be an entrepreneur-artist. In this class they learn how to create a resume, write cover letters, negotiate contracts, create a website, manage their social media, and create online video content. They also explore cities other than New York that may hold opportunities for them to pursue their unique interests.

- There are two main stage musicals each year and one black box musical that all students (freshmen through seniors) are required to audition for. There are also three black box plays and one main stage play that musical theater majors are required to audition for. Students have also formed their own theatre companies off-campus (Margin Theatre and Your Act Theatre) as well as web series, most recently The Dream Team. Shenandoah Conservatory produces more than 400 performances each year.

- Alumni include Jake Emmerling, Kathy Voytko, Sara Ruzicka King and Jessie Lee Hooker. 

9. The Boston Conservatory - Boston, MA

Notable Facts: 

- The four-year curriculum of the B.F.A. in Musical Theater is demanding and aimed to arm students with a variety of techniques and styles for acting, dancing, and singing. With a focus on performance, students have opportunities throughout their four years to perform in mainstage productions, student- and faculty-produced black box shows, annual revues, cabarets, showcases, and collaborative student productions.

- Recent guest artists include the acclaimed Adam Guettel (The Light in the Piazza—two Tony Awards), Nick Adams (Priscilla, Queen of the Desert), Susan Stroman (five Tony Awards), and Andrew Lippa (Tony Award and Grammy Award nominee)

- Off Campus performance opportunities include community outreach programs servicing Greater Boston, paid performance opportunities arranged through the Student Services Office
and Annual Festival of New Musicals with Goodspeed Opera House.

- Faculty include Rachel Bertone, a recognized director, choreographer, performer, and teacher in the Boston area. As a director/choreographer, her work has been seen on stages both in New York and at top Boston professional theaters, such as Reagle Music Theatre, Lyric Stage Company, and Moonbox Productions. 

- Alumni include Barbara Cook, Josh Grisetti, Jennifer Simard, Katharine McPhee, Chad Kimball and  Kimiko Glenn.

8. Penn State University - University Park, PA

Notable Facts: 

- The first semester will introduce students to a vocal technique and song performance in a group class. The class includes a brief weekly private diagnostic session for each student. Students will memorize, rehearse, and perform approximately six songs in different styles which will be presented at the semester’s end to faculty and students. 

-  BFA Musical Theatre students from the sophomore year and up are invited to audition for mainstage productions and are required to audition for the department musicals. First-year students must have the consent of the Head of Musical Theatre before they audition

-  First year of dance training as a BFA candidate, students will study ballet for two semesters. Kinesthetic awareness, breath work, and the development of an anatomically sound and dynamic ballet technique are the core values of this class.

- Facilities include The Pavilion Theatre is an intimate 222-seat flexible arena/thrust performance space. The facility features a 288-dimmer-per-circuit lighting system, a state-of-the-art sound system, and a stage sized studio directly under the stage, used for rehearsal and classwork.

- Upcoming season includes American Idiot and The Light in the Piazza.

- Alumni include Natalie Weiss, Carly Hughes, Caroline Bowman, Jeremy Greenbaum, Nathan Lucrezio and Emma Stratton. 

7. Millikin University - Decatur, IL

Notable Facts: 

- Performance opportunities are available to students beginning in their first semester. All B.F.A. performance majors are required to audition for our mainstage season and freshmen are eligible for casting. Additional performance opportunities may include: Pipe Dreams Studio Theatre, a student run theatre company, The Annual Children’s Show and The New Musicals Initiative. 

- All students in the performance B.F.A. programs are subject to end-of-the-year evaluations. Since the end of a student's first year is of particular importance, students must re-audition to continue on in their program at this time. 

- Guest artists have included:  Sierra Boggess, Alice Ripley, Sheri Sanders (Rock the Audition), Marcia Madeira (TONY nominated lighting designer), Kari Margolis (The Margolis Method), Justin Huff (Telsy + Co Casting), Caitlyn Shaw (Tara Rubin Casting), Bob Mason (Chicago Shakespeare Theatre), Roberta Duchak (Chicagoland Musical Director) and many more.  

- Students who are pursuing studies in theatre may qualify for either a College of Fine Arts Scholarship or the prestigious Dean's Scholarship for Excellence. These scholarships are based on talent and/or academic achievement and are awarded at the time of your audition, interview and/or portfolio review. These scholarships are renewed each year a student remains enrolled in the College of Fine Arts.

- Alumni include Sierra Boggess, Jodi Benson, Ian Liberto, Lavon Fisher-Wilson and Tim Shew. 

6. Elon University - Elon, NC 

Notable Facts:

- Elon offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in music theatre. The music theatre program admits 16 to 20 new students each year.

- Faculty include Catherine McNeela, coordinator of the music theatre program and a member of Actor’s Equity, she has 25 years of experience as an actor and a director. She has performed professionally throughout the U.S., Canada and Europe in more than 100 plays, musicals and operas.

- The music theatre program is housed in Center for the Arts, a 75,000-square-foot facility specifically designed for teaching and performance. The centerpiece stage is McCrary Theatre, a fully equipped performance space with seating for 575. The 125-seat Yeager Recital Hall offers a more intimate setting along with digital recording capabilities, and the center’s fully outfitted 100-seat Black Box Theatre can be configured to any arrangement, from proscenium to arena.

- Students majoring in theatre arts (acting), music theatre, or theatrical design and production can apply for talent-based scholarships ranging from $500 to $6,000 annually. The department interview/audition automatically places students in consideration for these talent-based awards. Scholarships are renewable annually based on acceptable academic performance.

- Alumni include Grant Gustin, Allison Spratt Pearce, Kiira Schmidt, Daniel Watts and Taylor Trensch. 

5. Baldwin Wallace University - Berea, OH

Notable Facts: 

- Degree offered is Bachelors of Music in Music Theatre. 

- Master classes are an integral part of Baldwin Wallace's music theatre training. Each year, BW brings to campus a minimum of 10 guest industry professionals to teach students. These include agents, casting directors, choreographers and music directors, all of whom help students understand what it means to thrive as professionals in the field.

- Extensive music theatre performance opportunities begin freshman year at BW and continue through senior year, culminating in the New York Showcase. Every student is encouraged to audition for all BW productions, including music theatre, traditional theatre and opera. There are no limitations. Baldwin Wallace music theatre offers an impressive array of performance opportunities.

- Opportunities for music theatre majors include, Ars Nova, a welcoming music theatre community that fosters the relationship between the professional theatrical community and BW pre-professional students through education provided by guest artists from the professional field.

- Alumni include Kyle-Jean Baptiste, Ciara Renee, Corey Mach, Jill Paice and Katie Rockwell. 

4. College-Conservatory of Music - Cincinnati, OH

Notable Facts: 

- Rigorous acting curriculum which includes the work of Anne Bogart, Michael Chekhov, Sanford Meisner, Robert Cohen, as well as Suzuki actor training, cabaret techniques, audition skills and acting for the camera.

- Showcases which bookend the training experience: a Freshman Showcase presented in Cincinnati and a Senior Showcase presented for agents and casting directors in New York City.

- A two-fold approach to vocal training with private voice lessons which focus on technique and "vocal coaching" which integrates voice and acting skills in the interpretation of the musical theatre song

- Facilities include the CORBETT AUDITORIUM, the largest performing space, is one of the most visually striking and acoustically balanced college theatres in the nation. The facility was accorded the prestigious USITT Award for the best theatre renovation in the United States in 1997. Corbett Auditorium, which seats 740, is equipped with a 54' proscenium opening, hydraulic lifts, dimmer-per-circuit lighting and extensive sound circuiting.

- Over 1200 undergraduate and graduate students (representing 44 states and 35 foreign countries) attend CCM. In the Corbett Center for the Performing Arts they create over 800 public performances each year—more than any other arts organization in Ohio.

- Alumni include Lisa Howard, Christy Altomare, Shoshana Bean, Andrew Chappelle, Tony Yazbeck, Aaron Albano and Karen Olivo. 

3. New York University Tisch School of the Arts – New York, NY

Notable Facts:

- The New Studio on Broadway integrates foundational acting training with vocal and physical techniques drawing upon the repertoire of the American musical, contemporary American plays, and the traditional classical canon to hone the actor's instrument in all aspects of all three disciplines essential to be an actor in the Musical Theatre: Acting, Singing and Dancing.

- Collaboration with the Tisch Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program teaches how to work with composers, lyricists, librettists, choreographers and directors on readings, workshops and full productions of new World Premiere Musicals, a skill very different from working on the established repertoire of Broadway classics. This is the only new musical theatre collaboration program in this country. 

- The founding director is Kent Gash, he is the former Associate Artistic Director of The Alliance Theatre at the Woodruff, recipient of the 2007 Tony Award for excellence in the American Regional Theatre. 

- Alumni include Keziah John-Paul, Nikki M James, Idina Menzel, Raúl Esparza and Kristen Bell.

2. Carnegie Mellon University - Pittsburgh, PA

Notable Facts: 

- Classes are small and an emphasis is placed on highly individualized, personal attention, as well as developing a sense of collaboration and working in an ensemble. The faculty consists of working theater professionals committed to teaching and instilling the highest standards of discipline, quality and professional ethics.

- The program is divided into four distinct and rigorous phases of learning, each year consecutively building upon the last. All students in this option take the same core classes. Music theater students take advanced classes in singing, a variety of dance techniques, and in music theater styles and skills.

- By senior year, students are introduced to a broad range of theater making. Students perform in larger roles on the main stage of the Philip Chosky Theater and gain exposure to on-camera work for film and television. Students also take classes that prepare them for the business aspects of entering the profession. Showcase provides all students with the opportunity to perform before industry professionals in New York, LA and Pittsburgh.

- Additionally, Acting/Music Theater students have the opportunity to study abroad at an international conservatory program in the first semester of their senior year. School of Drama students have studied in programs such as NIDA in Sydney, the Moscow Art Theatre, London’s Drama Centre and other approved schools in France, South Africa, China and South Korea.

- Alumni include Leslie Odom Jr, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Megan Hilty, Josh Gad, Telly Leung and Christian Borle. 

1. The University of Michigan - Ann Arbor, MI

Notable Facts: 

- The BFA is the four year, professional degree.  Students take 75% of their classes in the major area of study and 25% in liberal arts courses. 

- Program requires a minimum of twelve hours in Dance, including two terms of ballet, two terms of musical theatre styles and a proficiency in tap equivalent to two terms. Dance coursework may include Theatre movement, choreography or Musical Theatre production courses.

- The Musical Theatre Department maintains an enrollment of approximately 84 undergraduate students.  There is no graduate program.  Each fall, 22-24 new students are admitted from the approximately 700 who apply. 

- The Musical Theatre faculty encourages students who show aptitude to pursue other areas of interest, such as composition, stage direction, choreography and the writing of lyrics and librettos.  In addition,  students need to learn as much as possible about  backstage areas of production.  You will have many opportunities to learn technical theatre skills, such as painting, scene design, costuming, makeup and property construction.  You may also serve as an assistant to a director.

- Alumni include Gavin Creel, David Burtka, Erin Dilly, Hunter Foster, Andrew & Celia Keenan-Bolger, Maddy Trumble, Benj Pasek, Justin Paul  and Andrew Lippa.