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How to Showcase a College Musical Theatre Program

Colleges (and college students/alums) use a number of official and unofficial strategies to showcase their musical theatre programs. Some strategies focus on attracting prospective students, some address donor contributions while others work to assist the careers of their students and alums. Many strategies include an online component in order to reach a broader audience at a low cost.

Here are a few ideas from colleges around the country. Please suggest additional strategies (or make corrections) by sending an email to .

Post professional videos of student performances

Point Park University in Pittsburgh started posting mini-documentaries on their official YouTube channel of most/all student shows beginning fall, 2009. They hire a professional company to create high-quality three-camera excerpts of their shows along with interviews with cast, crew and creative team.

Point Park avoids copyright problems by only posting excerpts of performances. Our (possibly incorrect) understanding is that as long as only a portion of a song is used in a non-profit manner (and each song excerpt isn't longer than 3:00), then this is considered "fair use" under U.S. copyright law.

Here's the primary video for their fall 2009 dance work, The Bench:

View the complete set of videos at The Bench.

Host an on-campus senior showcase

Many schools host showcase performances for their seniors. We're particularly impressed by the showcases hosted by Belmont University (in Nashville, TN) and Penn State University.

Belmont University

Belmont University seniors are each provided with a one-hour showcase to highlight what they've learned. Belmont provides the staging, lighting and sound system for the student performances. Most seniors enlist two to four underclassmen to perform with them in their showcases. Belmont does not videotape these performances, but students often do, posting them on unofficial YouTube pages.

Here's a video compilation of Deonte Warren's 2010 senior recital:

View more videos from Belmont University or Deonte Warren.

Penn State University

Penn State hosts a single showcase concert for their seniors each year. Most of the performances are individual, but the showcase usually includes a few group or small-group numbers. Performances are professionally videotaped using three cameras and each senior receives a DVD with their performance. Penn State does not post the performances online, but many students upload their work to YouTube.

Here's a video compilation from the Class of 2009 showcase:

View more Penn State showcase videos.

Host off-campus senior showcases

A few schools host their senior showcases off-campus. Carnegie-Mellon, for example, takes their senior class to New York City and to Los Angeles to perform in front of prospective agents, producers and alums. This year, theBestArts is working with CMU seniors to also produce a senior showcase at the Laurie Beechman Theatre in New York City. We plan to videotape the show and post videos to an unofficial YouTube channel.

Produce independent student showcases

Students at schools that don't provide senior showcase opportunities should consider hosting their own showcases. Ask your school to provide a facility, enlist students to manage musical direction, lighting and choreography - and put together a great show. Take high-quality video of the show and provide copies to the participants.

Host individual student performances

Quite a few students and alums create YouTube channels that showcase the talents of individual students. One of the most well-known channels is UrInTown, hosted by then-student and now alum of the University of Michigan, Andrew Keenan-Bolger. We try to feature as many channels like this as possible, organized by school name, on our primary College MT page.

Post campus productions

Most colleges won't tape campus productions due to copyright concerns. Some songwriters have strong feelings about protecting their rights, while others feel that any publicity is good publicity. Generally, videos of campus shows and concerts that are posted are done so unofficially by students. It's always best to get permission from the songwriters/copyright holders before posting this type of material.

Post independent productions

Students often produce independent productions, where the college only provides the facilities (and even those may be rented.) Many shows are benefits for Broadway Cares, while events at Ohio State and elsewhere benefit local charities. Songwriter Andre Catrini at CCM enlists the help of fellow students to perform showcases of his work. Bo Frazier has produced many events that showcase student talent at Millikin University. When videos from these types of events are posted online, they become a marketing tool for the respective college, even if not originally planned for that purpose.