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Graduate Degree Programs in Musical Theatre Overview

Majors Overview February 13, 2016

This article talks about graduate degree programs in musical theatre and their education requirements, coursework, career choices, and job and wage outlook.

Information on Graduate Degree Programs in Musical Theatre

Schools offer a Master of Music (M.M.) and a Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) to suit the needs of individuals wishing to pursue a graduate musical theatre degree. Few schools, if any, offer master’s degree programs in musical theatre that are usually available at coastal universities. Program coursework in both programs combines practical training and classroom study in musical theatre performance, including directing, acting, educating, and choreographing.

Students seeking admission to one of these degree programs – who must undergo an audition – are required to have previous acting or music experience, and a bachelor’s degree in a related field. Students are also required to perform even as they pursue this degree.

Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) Programs in Musical Theatre

Schools offer both 2- and 3-year programs leading to an MFA in Music Theatre; coursework covers significant training in acting, singing, and dancing. They are also expected to involve themselves in mentoring and directing students seeking a bachelor’s degree. A very low teacher-to-student ratio characterizes most programs, thereby allowing for a considerable amount of individual training in performance skills. Graduates may seek careers in every aspect of the theatre industry, including education, writing, choreography and performance.

Education Requirements

Admission criteria typically require incoming students to have a baccalaureate degree in theatre arts and substantial experience. Prerequisite coursework includes an introductory course in directing and theatre history. The application must include a dance audition, a video of a performance, and a headshot; meeting of a GPA standard and submission of GRE marks are additional requirements.

Coursework

Program coursework covers didactic training in the history and theory of musical theory, augmenting regular courses in performance skills. Core coursework may cover topic areas such as:

•Stage direction
•Dance instruction
•Voice instruction
•History of musical theatre
•Script and score analysis

Career Choices

Program graduates can seek careers teaching drama and working on live stage productions. They may choose from possible job positions such as:

•Professor
•Scriptwriter
•Actor
•Director

Master of Music (M.M.) Programs in Musical Theatre

Vocal skills and performance abilities are the focus of a Master of Music (M.M.) in Musical Theatre program. There is less focus on the history and theory of musical theory than in the MFA programs. The focus of core coursework is on practical training.

Education Requirements

Admission criteria typically require incoming students to hold an undergraduate degree in music and to participate in a vocal audition; they must possess strong music theory and vocal skills. Applicant students are often required to pass tests on music theory aimed at determining areas of deficiency.

Coursework

Program coursework may include the performance of lead roles in musicals staged by the drama department of the school, apart from the attendance of music and acting classes. Core coursework may cover topic areas such as:

•Acting
•Script and score analysis
•Speech
•Voice
•Directing
•Movement

Career Choices

Graduates may seek careers involving development or performance of Broadway-style musicals. They may choose from possible job positions such as:

•Director
•Actor
•Dancer

Job and Wage Outlook

Over the 2012 – 2022 decade, actors are expected to see a ten percent job growth (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). Film actors likely find preference over theatre and other performing arts actors, in a competitive industry. In 2012, actors brought in an average hourly wage of $19.82, with a huge variance in salaries witnessed. Dancing and choreography jobs were expected to witness a five percent job growth over the 2012 – 2022 decade; in 2012, these professionals brought in an average hourly wage of $16.87 (BLS). The wide variance is in the wages of both actors and dancers, with periods of unemployment considered to impact earnings adversely.

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