Weekly Faculty Interview: Dr. Rhonda Hackworth

This week, we will be interviewing one of our most beloved instructors at the Extension Division, the director of the Rutgers Children’s Choir & Scarlet Singers program, Dr. Rhonda Hackworth.

We are especially excited to celebrate the tenure of Dr. Rhonda Hackworth as the artistic director of the Rutgers Children’s Choir & Scarlet Singers (RCC & SS), during their spring concert on Saturday, May 7, 2016, 2 p.m., at the Nicholas Music Center.  This concert will feature the world premiere of We Stand and Sing – music by Thomas Juneau, lyrics by Matt Hackworth (Rhonda’s husband).  The work was commissioned by the Mason Gross Extension Division to commemorate Dr. Hackworth’s excellent work and commitment to the ensemble over many years.  Sadly, Dr. Hackworth leaves us for her new home in North Carolina after this summer.  Longtime associate conductor, Rebekah Sterlacci, will step in as the new artistic director of the ensemble. We wish all the luck in the world to Dr. Hackworth!

art-classes-december-2010-421Dr. Rhonda S. Hackworth  is an associate professor of music at Mason Gross School of the Arts, where she teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in music education and serves as the artistic director of the Rutgers Children’s Choir. She received her PhD in music education at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music and also holds an MM in vocal performance. Her primary research interest is vocal health for music teachers. Her published articles can be found in Journal of Research in Music Education, International Journal of Music EducationJournal of Music Teacher Education, UPDATE: Applications of Research in Music Education, and Missouri Journal of Research in Music Education. She currently serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Music Teacher Education.

What initially inspired you to go into the arts?
The feeling that I could excel in music.  I initially wanted to go into business, but it was so boring to me that I had to choose music instead! I could never love business the way I love music!


Was there a teacher who made an impact upon your development as an artist?  How did they impact your own work as a teacher? 
There are several teachers who inspired me! If I had to pick just one, I would say my choir teacher in college. Dr. Edgerton was talented and demanded excellence, but he was very lovable and always made sure to let us know how proud he was of our work. He inspired me to become a choral conductor.


What is the most rewarding part of teaching for you?
When students begin to learn how to self-instruct; that means they’ve been paying attention to what I’m saying and are able to apply the knowledge.



In all your years of conducting the Rutgers Children’s Choir, what has been your favorite moment or performance?
Wow – you want me to name one thing? Impossible.  I loved it when we sang the Charlie Brown Christmas pieces. I loved performing with American Ballet Theatre in the Nutcracker at the State Theater. I loved collaborating with other choirs. I loved when we formed the Chamber Singers and the Scarlet Singers. I loved when we got to have a Skype conversation with a girl for whom one of our pieces was written (a girl who survived the Rwandan genocide). And I love that this spring we have a piece commissioned just for us!


How does a child or teenager benefit from joining a choir?
Choir is a terrific place to learn about healthy singing and gives children a sense of being part of something larger than just themselves. It’s really not safe for children to start private voice lessons until they are about 13, so choir is the best choice for singing when they are young!


What are some of your personal favorite pieces for choir?
We Sing for the Children, Beneath the African Sky, Christmas Time is Here, and many, many others.

Thank you so much for your time and all the work you have done at the Extension Division, Dr. Hackworth! 

The Rutgers Children’s Choir will be performing at Rutgers Day on April 30, 2016 at the Zimmerli Art Museum from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. Come join us for the festivities, as well as music, dance, hands-on activities, games, and demonstrations hosted by accomplished professors, students, and staff. And, it’s also Alumni Weekend so it’s the perfect time to celebrate your scarlet pride!

And join us for the Rutgers Children’s Choir Spring Concert, featuring performances from our Choristers (3rd-5th grade), Chorale & Chamber Singers (5th-8th grade), and our Scarlet Singers (high school)! This is sure to be a wonderful way to celebrate the arrival of spring with your family!The concert will take place at 2 p.m. at the Nicholas Music Center on the Mason Gross School of the Arts campus. The concert is free to the public will feature the world premiere of We Stand and Sing by Thomas Juneau!



Weekly Faculty Interview: Matt Walley

As the temperature rises outside, the Extension Division is looking forward to our summer programs, especially the Rutgers Symphonic Wind Band & Chamber Music Camp! We have been receiving your auditions videos and applications, and we have been thoroughly impressed with what we have seen. This week, we figured it would be a good idea to interview Assistant Director Matt Walley to answer our questions and give prospective students a better idea of what to expect this summer!

Matt Walley (1)Matt Walley, a trombonist from Pascagoula, MS, is pursuing a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Trombone Performance as a Doctoral Fellow and Graduate Teaching Assistant at Rutgers University under the tutelage of Weston Sprott. Walley also studies conducting with Darryl Bott, Associate Director of the Music Department and Director of the Rutgers Symphony Band. He holds a Master of Music degree from the University of Georgia and a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, where he studied with Dr. Joshua Bynum and Dr. Scott Anderson respectively. Currently he serves as Principal Trombone of both the Rutgers Symphony Orchestra and Rutgers Wind Ensemble.

Walley has taught as a substitute faculty member at the Juilliard School’s Music Advancement Program. Walley has performed with the Edison Symphony Orchestra, the Garden State Philharmonic, and with the New York String Orchestra in Carnegie Hall. Walley has also performed with the Symphony Orchestras of both the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and University of Georgia as well as their respective Wind Ensembles.

What initially inspired you to go into the arts?
Everyone in my family all played woodwind instruments during high school and college. When I was growing up, they were always talking about how much fun they had and that made me want to join band in middle school. But instead of following in my family’s footsteps and playing a woodwind instrument, I decided to play a brass instrument and I have never regretted it! My first teacher was a trumpet player and middle school band director in the area, Earl Turner. He’s the person that really pushed and inspired me to go into the arts – funny thing is he wasn’t even my middle school director!


Was there a teacher who made an impact upon your development as an artist?  How did they impact your own work as a teacher?
Every teacher I’ve had has made an immense impact both on my development as an artist and teacher. During my undergraduate degree my trombone professor, Dr. Scott Anderson at U of Nebraska-Lincoln, really pushed me to be the best performer while my professors during my masters and doctoral program, Dr. Joshua Bynum and Weston Sprott respectively, pushed me to be the best performer AND teacher I could be.


What is the most rewarding part of teaching for you?
Helping a student achieve their goals and seeing their elation when they actually achieve their goals.



What’s the best part about playing a brass instrument in a symphony orchestra?
The best part about playing a brass instrument in an orchestra is the varied roles we get to have. Most of the time we are serving as background, supporting instruments but there are times when we get provide power for a really big climax or get to shine through a soft, exposed chorale section.


What are some of your favorite works for trombone? 
Solo: Henri Tomasi’s Trombone Concerto and Launy Grondahl’s Trombone Concerto

Orchestra: Richard Strauss’ Alpine Symphony and Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 8  


Why should students apply to the Symphonic Wind Band Camp? What can they look forward to this summer?
Students should apply because they will get the opportunity to work with Rutgers faculty members, both within a large ensemble setting and during masterclass settings. Students can look forward to working on standard symphonic band literature under the direction of Darryl Bott and Tod Nichols. In addition to the faculty members that will be working with the students all week, we are currently working on bringing in additional world-class performers to present instrument specific masterclasses.

Thanks so much for speaking with us, Matt!

For more information about the Rutgers Symphonic Wind Band & Chamber Music Camp, please visit their website here!

During The Rutgers Summer Symphonic Wind Band & Chamber Music Camp, from July 26 to July 1, 2016, participants experience a week of intense band training with Mason Gross School of the Arts faculty members, renowned professional musicians, and leading music educators from the New York-New Jersey area.

Students participate in daily large-ensemble and chamber-ensemble rehearsals, group lessons, clinics, master classes, and electives. Accomplished students may audition for participation in the Honors Wind Symphony and have the opportunity to perform in featured chamber music ensembles. Students share newly developed performance skills during the final Gala Concert, open to the public at the 740-seat Nicholas Music Center.

Weekly Faculty Interview: Gregg Rossetti

Our final Music at the Museum concert of the semester is this Sunday, April 17, 2016, and it will be our most ambitious concert yet: three local composers will be performing and/or premiering works to be played by Extension Division faculty! One of those composers is Extension Division faculty member Gregg Rossetti, who will be premiering two all-new works for the concert, whom we have reached out to this week for our Weekly Faculty Interview Series!

Rossetti_0Gregg Rossetti is a multi-instrumentalist and composer of many styles of music, and is currently pursuing his PhD at Rutgers University. His interest in composition began at a young age; he would write music for school projects, self-made video games and rock bands. While at college, Rossetti had some of his first concert pieces performed by the Jazz Improvisation Ensemble, Wind Ensemble and Chamber Orchestra. While pursuing his MA, he wrote two compositions for large orchestra and several chamber pieces, including a microtonal piece for the Harry Partch Ensemble. From 2010–2013, he worked as the sole composer for a web-comic, the music ranged from avant-garde/ambient/electronic to hard rock to orchestral.

TJS: What initially inspired you to go into the arts?
GR: The arts have always been a part of my life, so there wasn’t an official event that inspired me to make a decision, as music and art have been part of my upbringing. My grandfather was a very talented visual artist and sign painter, my father followed in his footsteps in the graphics industry, and has also always been involved in music. I jumped into making music when I was about 11 years old, playing saxophone in the school band and experimenting with composition with an old version of Cakewalk, a MIDI editor. I would also design video games – everything from the maps to the characters – but realized writing the music was the part I enjoyed most, so it stuck.


TJS: Was there a teacher who made an impact upon your development as an artist?  How did they impact your own work as a teacher?
GR: Though all of my teachers have made an impact on me in one way or another, the foundation of my knowledge came from my middle school band director, the bespectacled and suspendered Stanley Zuber. From my experience as a teacher, the band directors don’t push the students to learn every element of music like he did; he made sure we knew all 12 major scales by 7th grade, along with the definitions of every articulation and dynamic marking. I have too many 8th grade students that come to me for private lessons that have never learned some basic musical elements. Or, maybe I was just a good listener. I make sure my students know every detail about the piece on which they are working, so there are fewer questions about obtaining perfection.


TJS: What is the most rewarding part of teaching for you?
GR: I’ve been teaching for over a decade and have had the gamut in abilities and personalities of students. The most rewarding part is when the student takes the initiative to do something musical outside of their lessons. Whether it’s auditioning for the school’s talent show or writing their own piece of music, I like seeing students apply what they’ve learned in the lessons.



TJS: What is your composition process like? Do you know which instruments or media you want to write for before you start composing?
GR: Lately, since I’m more interested in actually having pieces performed and recorded, I’ve been trying to write for more specific instrumentation and media, rather than just writing what comes to mind and have the score sit on my computer for decades. Though, when I’m writing for something like a video game – something that won’t be performed by live musicians (but rather programmed with virtual instruments and/or with myself recording some tracks) – I try to get creative with uncommon pairings of or outrageously large forces of instruments.

I’ve noticed my best work comes from when I have some kind of pre-compositional method. Sometimes this begins with improvising; I’ll experiment with an instrument and write down when I play something I like, analyze it, and find a way to make it a cohesive piece based on the original idea. Other times I make up a rule to govern the piece – e.g.: the melodic ideas will only be built on 4ths and 2nds and the harmonies will provide the 5ths and 7ths. Sometimes I detach myself from the music entirely by running a random number generator until I get a series of numbers that meets some kind of criteria (e.g.: one of each integer from 0-11), apply these to pitches and/rhythms, then use them to create a section of music. This works great when trying to compose an unpredictable rhythmic or melodic pattern.


TJS: Who are some of your favorite composers? Have any influenced your writing in any way?
GR: My taste is eclectic, with my first big interest being in rock and popular music, which still stays to this day. Of course, I’m influenced by all the staple modern composers – Stravinsky for his nontraditional orchestration techniques and quirky, yet accessible rhythms, Debussy and Ravel for their lush harmonies that “break the rules” (and have a jazzy feel to them), Varèse for both his use of noise and the way he developed melodies. These elements all found their way into progressive rock music, something I studied and performed for years. When studying the music of Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Opeth, Porcupine Tree, Dream Theater, Genesis, etc, one can find quite a few similarities. Aspects of Mozart, Andriessen, Reich, Dowland, J.S. Bach, Meshuggah, The Beatles, Radiohead, and Ulver (among others) have also made it into my writing.

One of my biggest influences has actually been Nobuo Uematsu, best known for his work with the Final Fantasy video game series. Not only does his music tell the story in the games, it broke the stereotype of games just having simple, repetitive ditties repeat ad-nauseum. Suites of his music have been orchestrated for live performances, which removes the electronic aesthetic also associated with games, and adds another level of expression. The fact that his music can stand on its own but also serve a multimedia purpose opens the door to another application of music.


TJS: What can you tell us about your pieces being performed at the Music at the Museum concert?
GR: Of the three pieces being performed Sunday, two are premieres written especially for the concert. Here’s a rundown of each piece:

Saxophone Sonata (2015) was commissioned for alto saxophone by David Wozniak after he heard another one of my pieces at a concert where we were both performing some new works. He requested I quote Stephen Foster’s “Hard Times Come Again No More” (1854) somewhere in the piece; I chose to adapt it and vary it for the second theme, which contrasts the first, more angular idea. Musically speaking, this piece is probably best described as “pan-tonal;” it’s not in a set key, but is far from dissonant and has some solid tone centers. The harmony is based on both jazz chords – 9ths, 11ths, 13ths – but also quartal and quintal sonorities, which give it a more edgy and modern sound. Alto saxophone was the first instrument I really studied, but my knowledge is somewhat limited to jazz and concert band music. However, modern virtuosi are always discovering new techniques. I avoided several of these as it doesn’t fit the style of the piece, but I did include some high notes (in the altissimo register) that aren’t in a standard fingering chart, which really shows how the instrument can shine.

I went into my undergraduate studies completely oblivious to the world of atonal music. Luckily, through the teaching of my composition teacher there, Dr. Douglas Ovens, I was exposed to the possibilities of eschewing conventional harmony and key centers. I’ve dabbled with atonal music since then, but always found it tiring in large contexts; I feel there are only a few composers that can really keep my attention writing in a dissonant style for so long, so I like to use harsh dissonance and atonality sparingly and usually in conjunction with more tonal passages. Seven Pieces for Three Musicians (2016) is a suite of seven short pieces, several of which are purely atonal, but I think they work because they are united by a simple musical idea that ties the piece together. Each movement is completely different from the others, each developed on a theme of either pitches, timbre, or harmony.

Like many parents, I draw inspiration from my children. One day when my son was two years old, he was going through the weather app on my phone. After innocuously watching some videos about recent weather events, he threw his hands up in frustration (perhaps expecting cartoons), scowled, and complained, “this thing’s all about storms!” Hence, I chose the title “…all about storms.” The musical ideas in the piece are drawn from the turbulent opening piano motive, delicately placed in its highest register. The entire keyboard is utilized, with the other instruments providing new tone colors as well as ideas that are idiosyncratic to their instruments. This piece embodies some of my most-used musical devices: diatonic melodies executed over a jagged, quirky rhythm to create an intricate rhythmic fabric that is later contrasted by slowly moving sonorities with sustained pitches.

Thanks so much for speaking with us, Gregg! See you on Sunday! 

The Music at the Museum concert is this Sunday, April 17, 2016 at 2 PM and will be held at the Zimmerli Art Museum in downtown New Brunswick, NJ! This concert will feature a program of music by local composers, including Amanda Harberg, TJ Sclafani, and Gregg Rossetti. Before the concert, there will be a pre-concert forum presented by Harberg and clarinetist Maureen Hurd (more info can be found on the flyer below!).  Don’t miss this unique opportunity to hear these new works produced by great NJ composers! This concert is FREE to the general public, yet seating is limited!

Music at the Museum

Weekly Faculty Interview: Champian Fulton

Our second Faculty Interview this week highlights a key faculty member of the Vocal Jazz Program at the Rutgers Summer Jazz Institute: jazz singer, pianist, and band leader, Champian Fulton! One of the preeminent jazz performers working today, Fulton will be returning this summer to the Extension Division this summer to teach and coach students in jazz singing!

headshotBorn in Oklahoma, Champian Fulton grew up with music in the home; her mother and father (Jazz trumpeter and educator Stephen Fulton) recognized her fascination with music at an early age. The presence of her father’s musician friends, including Clark Terry and Major Holley, inspired her focus on jazz. Her first paid musical engagement was with her own band at Clark Terry’s 75th birthday party; she was 10 years old. Since then, her piano and voice skills have been recognized by peers and critics as distinctive and sophisticated.

A mainstay on the vibrant New York jazz scene, she has performed with such luminaries such as Lou Donaldson, Frank Wess, Eric Alexander, Buster Williams, and Louis Hayes. Fulton’s heroes include Bud Powell, Red Garland, Erroll Garner, Count Basie, Sarah Vaughan, and Dinah Washington.

TJS: What initially inspired you to go into the arts?
CF: My father, Stephen Fulton, is a jazz musician. So when I was a young girl I was surrounded by his friends, such as Clark Terry and Joe Williams, and being able to see them perform and get to know them made me want to be a jazz musician, too. I began performing when I was 12 years old.


TJS: Was there a teacher who made an impact upon your development as an artist?  How did they impact your own work as a teacher?
CF: Clark Terry was a great inspiration to me from an early age. Being able to learn about this music from someone who was directly influenced by Duke Ellington was an amazing experience. Clark was all about making people feel good and spreading the joy of this music, which is something that is very important to me. I loved watching Clark interact with his students; he was always able to communicate information in a clear manner and to make the student feel inspired.


TJS: What is the most rewarding part of teaching for you?
CF: Being able to share this wonderful music with younger generations means the world to me. I want people to experience the joy and happiness that can come from hearing Art Blakey or Count Basie, and I love seeing the students’ faces after they have heard something truly swinging.

TJS: As a jazz vocalist and pianist, what have been your favorite jazz standards to perform and why? 
CF: I’m always drawn to different songs at different periods of my life, but some songs I come back to over and over again. My favorite thing to play is definitely the blues, whether it’s fast or slow or in whatever key. One of my favorite songs to sing is probably “He’s Funny That Way.”


TJS: As a band leader, how do you program a performance? Do you improvise or do you plan ahead? 
CF: I never make a set list. I prefer to go on stage and see what songs come to mind. I think when you do this, you are able to pick up on the vibe of the audience and play what they want to hear.


TJS: What can you tell us about the Vocal Jazz program at the Rutgers Summer Jazz Institute? What do you hope to teach this year? 
CF: I am really excited to return to Rutgers for the third year in a row. The vocal program is all about individuality – every student will sing by themselves and in an ensemble. We will learn about the legacy of jazz singing and do a lot of listening as well. But the greatest thing about being in the jazz vocal program is that it gives young singers a chance to be in a band and interact with other musicians!

Thanks for speaking to us, Champian!

For more information about the Vocal Jazz Program at the Rutgers Summer Jazz Institute, please visit the Rutgers Summer Jazz Institute website, located here!

The 2016 Rutgers Summer Jazz Institute is ideal for young instrumentalists and vocalists, ages 13–18, interested in improving their jazz improvisation, small group, and large ensemble skills. Students will work intensively in daily rehearsals with the internationally renowned, award-winning jazz faculty of Rutgers University’s Mason Gross School of the Arts.

Weekly Faculty Series: Marshall Jones

Since this week the Extension Division is on our Spring Break, we have decided to post not just one, but TWO faculty interviews! Continuing on from our interview with the Rutgers Summer Acting Conservatory Assistant Director, Kayla Votapek, we will be interviewing the Program Director himself, Mason Gross School of the Arts faculty member and the Artistic Director of the nationally-recognized Crossroads Theatre Company, Marshall Jones!

Marshall-JonesMarshall Jones is the Producing Artistic Director of the 1999 Tony-Award® winning Crossroads Theatre Company, as well as an Associate Professor of Theater Arts at the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University.  Jones has more than twenty-five years of experience in a wide variety of key executive positions at some of New York City’s most reputable institutions, such as the Apollo Theater (General Manager), Madison Square Garden (Company Manager & Producer), the historic Radio City Music Hall (Producer), and Disney on Broadway’s The Lion King. Jones earned a BA in Theater Arts from Rutgers University and an MA in Arts Management from New York University.


TJS: What initially inspired you to go into the arts?
MJ: As a kid growing up in the 1970s, I looked forward to summer vacations when I could stay up late and watch old movies on TV.  This was before cable, and the TV stations would go off the air at around 3 a.m.  My freshmen year of high school we’d go to see Broadway shows (tickets were about $20), and I enjoyed the live experience in a theater.


TJS: Was there a teacher who made an impact upon your development as an artist?  How did they impact your own work as a teacher?
MJ: My high school English teacher, Mrs. Ritchie, took us to plays. But she wasn’t a theater artist.  That exposure started to happen when I came to Rutgers as a freshman in 1981.  The school was very young then, although we didn’t know it.  We had great teachers, such as Hal Scott, who was a great influence (I still teach what he taught me in classes today), and Joe Hart, who started the Shoestring Players here at Rutgers.  (We’d rehearse in RH 101, where the Extension Division offices are now).  I did Shoestring my sophomore year and I was a member of the first professional company in the spring of 1985.  Betty Comtois was the department chair; I was her assistant and I took her playwriting classes.  Of course, Bill Esper was around but I didn’t have him;  I studied acting with Joe Hart’s wife, Vickie, who now teaches at NYU.


TJS: What is the most rewarding part of teaching for you?
MJ: Watching students’ careers progress.  Seeing them perform and work professionally.  That’s so rewarding.  On Wednesday, I took a class to see Connected, which was not only written by an alum (Lia Romero) and directed by an alum (Michole Biancosino), it also featured an alum – Midori, who was also an RSAC student. Midori did RSAC about ten years ago.  She graduated from Mason Gross and is now working professionally.  If you watch TV or go online, I’m sure you’ve seen her Liberty Mutual commercial where she talks about her car “Brad.”  Just last night I saw a show at the National Black Theater in Harlem which had alums as well.  MaameYaa Boafa got her MFA from Rutgers a while ago and she was great in the play.  She’s also starring in a very popular web series which is a take-off of Sex in the City called An African City.  It’s set in Ghana and MaameYaa plays the Sarah Jessica Parker character.  It’s pretty funny but it’s great watching her career trajectory.  Those are examples of the most rewarding parts of teaching for me.



TJS: Have you seen a show lately that has completely mesmerized you? Why did it captivate you?
MJ: I’m in a theater several times a week.  I don’t get completely mesmerized but most shows have captivating moments.  Plus, when I attend shows, I can’t help but view the work from the point of view of a craftsmen.  Doesn’t leave a lot of head space for mesmerizing moments.  Although I attended a reading in NYC last week.  The play was called Merit, which was written by Haitian playwright Lenelle Moises. The lead male character was a 50-something professor.  Well, I’m a 50-something professor.  This professor was having an affair with a 23-year old grad student, and I have two daughters – one is 25 and the other is 20 (she’s a sophomore here at Rutgers).  The play was well-written so I found myself total invested because of the sick professor and his relationship to the students.  And then the father comes in the second act, and he’s quite a jerk.  So it didn’t leave me warm and fuzzy but I was engrossed in a way that I’ve never experienced before.


TJS: What makes RSAC the nationally-recognized program it is today? 
MJ: Because the RSAC faculty are also college professors, and we expect the same level of dedication and  commitment from the high school students that we get from our college students.  We challenge them unlike they’ve ever been challenged before.  We also jam-pack the day, so that there’s no wasted time.  Students are immersed in classes and activities.  Finally, we see shows, two shows every Sunday to be exact, so students can witness what they’re learning in class and how that manifests on stage.  There’s really no other program out there like ours.  Students at another program may see one or two shows the whole summer.  That’s crazy – we see that many in one day!


TJS: You are also the Artistic Director of the Crossroads Theater Company here in New Brunswick. What is it like to lead one of the nation’s top regional theater companies? Do you have advice for students who wish to start their own theater company?
MJ: I think that by teaching, I’m a better producer/director.  And by producing and directing, I’m a better teacher.  They feed off each other.  One time in the middle of class, I got a call from the Chief of Staff for the First Lady of NJ.  I had to take it.  Then I can explain to the class that the Governor’s wife is honoring our theater company.  Or if a show I’m directing appears Off Broadway, students attend, but I can detail the process.  Or if WNET videotapes our production, I can elaborate on that process.  Most of my classes attend the shows at Crossroads.  I use all kind of examples from working with actors to budget challenges to obtaining rights, negotiating with agents, etc., so when they actually see the show, they have some insight to the back-end of the process. They have a better understanding of the total picture. That’s what it brings.

As for starting a theater company, I don’t usually advise that unless they have a wealthy grandma who can write a check for a million dollars.  It’s too competitive.  And the typical funding avenues are closing up, such as government funding and corporate dollars.  I tell them they can easily start a production company that produces plays, movies, or television. The economics behind managing a physical theater, buying and maintaining equipment, etc., is a huge hurdle.  A production company can provide flexibility.  You can put it away for a few months or even a few years, and come back to it when needed.  A theater needs to have continual shows and an identity.  Tremendously hard. Instead, start a production company and produce whatever and whenever you like.

Thanks so much for your time, Marshall!

For more information about the Rutgers Summer Acting Conservatory, as well as more information about auditioning for RSAC, please visit the RSAC website! The next audition and phone interview dates are April 2, May 14, and May 28, 2016, so there is still plenty of time to apply!

Weekly Faculty Series: Kayla Votapek

Audition season for our many summer conservatory programs are under way, and the Rutgers Summer Acting Conservatory is no exception! To give us more insight into RSAC and the Rutgers theater experience, I interviewed Kayla Votapek, the Assistant Director of RSAC this past week! We hope that the following interview answers some burning questions about the RSAC experience!

12642481_10209025916273331_5584335165376447856_nKayla Votapek is a senior studying Theatre Arts and Psychology with a minor in Education as a Social Science at Rutgers University. During her undergraduate career, Kayla has directed nine short plays at Cabaret Theatre and Dunellen Skylight Theatre Productions, and has held various roles within the student theatre community: assistant stage manager, stage manager, costume designer, light and sound board operator, and creative team coordinator. She has served on the Cabaret Theatre general board as press secretary and Directors’ Showcase coordinator, as well as serve on Cabaret Theatre’ executive board as Director of Finance.

Currently, Kayla is the producer of Cabaret Theatre. She also serves as the President of Dunellen Skylight Theatre Productions, and is interning at the American Theater Wing for the Spring 2016 semester. This will be her third year at RSAC, having previously interned and worked as an assistant to the director.


What initially inspired you to go into the arts?
Ever since I was a little kid, I have always appreciated the arts. It wasn’t really until high school where I fell in love with theater. During my senior year, my dad passed away from a sudden brain hemorrhage and my mom, a recovering alcoholic, relapsed. My high school theater teachers and my theater arts friends helped me get through so much. The support they gave me and being able to be a part of a show inspired me to keep going. Without theater, I honestly would not be where I am today. It is the reason why I get up every day and continue to do what I love.


Was there a teacher who made an impact upon your development as an artist?  How did they impact your own work as a teacher?
Yes. Both Jacqueline Mazza (Middletown High School South) and Marshall Jones (Rutgers University) have made a huge impact in my life.  Jacqueline Mazza helped me get through a rough time. She was there to constantly listen to what was going on in my life and taught me ways to escape the stress by helping me find my love of theater and dance.

Marshall Jones, on the other hand, has given me so many opportunities to explore my passion of theater. He allowed me to intern at RSAC my sophomore year and has guided me as I applied for internships in New York.  Marshall has been so influential with all his supportive advice he gives as well as constantly challenges me to continue to be the best leader/artist I can be.


What is the most rewarding part of teaching for you?
The most rewarding part of teaching is being able to connect with the students and be able to help them throughout the process. Seeing their eager faces the first day of camp and seeing them develop into amazing artists by the last day is so rewarding. Just knowing that I played a role in their development means the world to me.


Have you seen a show lately that has completely mesmerized you? Why did it captivate you?
I am very fortunate and I have been able to see so many amazing shows such as Noises Off, Hamilton, The Humans, Finding Neverland, etc. All of them were amazing. However, when I saw The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, I was blown away. The concept of having a play that shed the light on autism without identifying it was phenomenal. Every detail in the way the actor acted was so true and the fact that everyone just accepted that the main character had autism is amazing. Someone dear to me has autism and I left the theater crying because of how powerful the show was.



What makes RSAC the nationally-recognized program it is today? 
RSAC is a wonderful program that allows high school students to experience what it is like to study acting and musical theater in a conservatory style camp. It allows the students to get a taste of what college is like and helps them to figure out if this is what they want to do for the rest of their lives. Unlike other camps, this camp is 24-7, where the students live on campus, take classes with college professors, and go see shows every weekend.  It is a once in a life time experience that I wish I knew about as a high school student.


As the Producer of Rutgers’ Cabaret Theater, do you have advice for incoming college students who want to participate in theater at Rutgers? How can they audition or produce work with the Cabaret Theater? 
At Rutgers we have 4 different theater companies (including Cabaret Theatre) and an abundant amount of opportunities. As a freshman, I showed up to all of the theater companies general interest meetings and e-mailed the producers/ presidents at the time to find ways to get involved. My advice is to keep showing up to events and constantly give it your all.  If you keep showing your support and are willing to constantly help out, the theater companies will welcome you with open arms.

Marshall Jones also gave me wonderful advice as a freshman. He told me to never take no for an answer. He said that if you aren’t getting into shows or being selected to do a show then create something to give yourself the opportunity you want. Rutgers is such a wonderful place where you can create your own opportunities.  I wrote a show and directed it outside of the Rutgers theatre organization last year. I would encourage incoming college students to find other ways to do theater no matter what.

Thanks so much for speaking with us, Kayla!

For more information about the Rutgers Summer Acting Conservatory, as well as more information about auditioning for RSAC, please visit the RSAC website! The next audition and phone interview dates are April 2, May 14, and May 28, 2016, so there is still plenty of time to apply!

Special Event: Music at the Museum, “Chamber Music for Flute, Clarinet, and Piano”

We’d like to thank everyone who came out to our Music at the Museum concert this past Sunday! We’d also like to thank and congratulate performers Allison Brewster Franzetti, Michelle Grondin, and Daniel Choi for their excellent performances! Check out photos and a video from the concert below!

Our final Music at the Museum concert of the season will take place on April 17, 2016 at the Zimmerli Art Museum from 2-3 PM. This concert will highlight some of New Jersey and Rutgers’ best composers, including Amanda Harberg and Gregg Rosetti! More performers will be announced!