The Disney Teaching Artist Audition

woodchuckToday was an absolute blast!  It was my audition to be a teaching artist for Disney Theatrical Group, and it couldn’t have been more fun.  It was one of those great experiences where you just get to play and laugh, make music and dance, and say “this is my job!”  (or in our case, “I want this to be my job, so pleeeeease hire me!”)

There were ten of us auditioning, and the group was filled out with some of the current teaching artists on staff.  Right from the start we were told to just relax and have fun, and that’s exactly what we did.  I mean, what’s better than starting your day singing Disney songs for two hours, while playing theatre games and doing some improv?

We were also told not to worry if someone before us did something similar to what we were doing; since there were ten of us, all using Disney songs, it was possible to have some repeats.  I was so glad they had said that as soon as one of the girls started teaching the same song I was going to do.  And then another guy did a great tongue-twister warm-up.  Great minds think alike, right?

For my section, I did what I was planning on when I wrote about getting ready here.  I started off with the warm-up I wrote using “how much wood could a woodchuck chuck, if a woodchuck could chuck wood?”  I have to admit, it’s a pretty neat, little exercise.  In a matter of minutes, the group is singing in three-party harmony, and just laughing and having a great time.  I’m definitely going to use it in the future.

After the warm-up, I got them moving a little with the interlude that leads into the last chorus of “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King,” which took us right up until the buzzer went off, letting me know my time was up.  Everyone was exceptional, and I learned a lot of great tips and tricks from the other guys auditioning.

I’m not sure how many people they’re looking to hire, and neither are they.  We were told that there wasn’t a set number; it was all up to how many people they saw today that they thought would work well within the company.

Whether or not I get the job, this was one of those auditions where you left knowing that you gave it your all and loved every second of it!

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Audition for Disney Theatrical Group confirmed!

Mickey PianoLooks like I’ll get to test out the effectiveness of my Woodchuck Warm-up next Friday.  The good folks at Disney emailed me to ask me to come in and audition on Friday for the teaching artist position.

Less than 24 hours after my interview, they made their decisions about who they wanted to move on to the next round.  Now that’s what I call speedy.  In an industry where all you can do is give it your all and then wait, I love it when people move so quickly.

They asked that we prepare a 10 minute lesson, which can either be an isolated segment for our full lesson plan, or we can do a fast-forward style lesson, where we can hit all the good parts and skip our way through.  I think I’m going to start with the vocal warm-up for five minutes, and then segue into the beginning of “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King.”  Since my “class of students” I’ll be teaching to is made up of the other applicants, they’re all musicians and will pick things up quickly.  So ideally, we’ll have a great warm-up and then at least get through the interlude of The Lion King, adding a little choreography.

They have two types of teaching artists from what I can tell: musical directors and choreographers.  While I’m obviously going in as a musical director, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to let them know that I can move a little, especially since I know a lot of musical directors who would be mortified if they were asked to dance.

I have no idea how many other people they’re asking to audition, but I’m excited I get the chance to get in front of them and show them a little bit of what I can do.  While I’ve never been a teaching artist before, at least not with that official title, it seems like it’s pretty similar to the work I’ve done musically directing kid’s shows.

So, how much wood could a woodchuck chuck, if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

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My dad and Idina’s Dad

IdinaOK, this was just too good not to post right away.  I just got off the phone with my dad, and I’m still in shock.  He left yesterday to spend a week with his brother, my uncle Kenny, in Tampa.  As soon as I saw it was him calling, I thought he’d be rubbing in the fact that it’s 80 degrees in Florida, as we have mountains of snow in New York.  But as soon as I answered, he said, “Kevin, have you ever heard of a woman named Adelia Menzel?”

“Do you mean Idina Menzel?”

“Yeah, Idina.  I just played 18 holes with her dad.”

What???  My dad, who knows as much about Broadway as I do about NASCAR, just spent a few hours with the father of one of the biggest names in musical theatre.  And thanks to Disney’s Frozen, her star power is growing exponentially!  I was floored!

About an hour before he called, as I was leaving an audition at the Equity Building in Times Square, I cut through the Marriot Marquis passageway that had a larger than life advertisement for If/Then. My dad was “on the green” with Mr. Menzel as I was staring at a 15 foot picture of his daughter!

Apparently they were walking about their kids, and my dad mentioned that his son was a musical director in New York.  Stuart then mentioned that his daughter also did theatre in New York.  Oh yeah, we’re totally in the same category there.  Dad still had no idea.

Then Idina’s daddy mentioned that they just found out that she would be performing at the Oscars!  Would you believe that my dad was still unimpressed?  He’s seen me perform in an ensemble at Carnegie Hall so his first thought was that she would be in a chorus of some sort, too.  Riiiiiiight.

After a little more chat, my dad finally realized what a big deal Stuart’s daughter was.  When my dad showed no recognition, Mr. Menzel showed his a video on his phone of Idina singing, and then things started to sink in.  They chatted some more, and by now my dad knew I’d be excited to hear this story, so he kept asking his new golfing buddy about his daughter.  When I told him about her Tony-winning performance in Wicked, he said “Yeah, Stuart mentioned she played a witch in something.”  Oh yeah, just a witch in some show.

I’m just excited to wait at the stage door of If/Then to say hi to Idina and tell her that my dad played golf with her dad!  How many fans standing in line will be able to say that?

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Disney Interview? Check.

Mickey_Mouse1I’m thrilled to report that I just got an email asking me to come in for an interview for the Disney teaching artist position I wrote about here.  According the the email, it will be an informal chat to learn more about my experience and skills.  This is exactly what I was hoping for!

While I don’t write the worst cover letters, I definitely fare better when I can meet people face-to-face.  I’m always worried about how I come across in writing because I’m usually way too excited and I’m scared that people will read it and think “this guy just needs to take a deep breath.”  Other times, I start to impress myself with my qualifications, and my letter could read like a manual for narcissism.  So I edit, and then edit again, but am never sure if I’ve then over-edited and lost any sense of genuineness.  (over-thinker, much?)

For the lesson plan, I decided to go above and beyond, and included a PDF of a vocal warm-up that I wrote specifically for this application.  I notated it all in Finale, made it look fancy, and included it with my lesson plan.  You gotta get a gimmick, right?

When I was in Korea, I started to write warm-ups using the text of tongue-twisters.  Not only was it fun for the kids, but I got a sick kick out of hearing little Asian kids try and blurt out a bunch of nonsensical English phrases is rapid succession.  For Disney, I decided to use the ol’ classic “How much wood would a woodchuck chuck, if a woodchuck could chuck wood?”

If all goes well on Friday with this interview, the next phase is inviting some of us back a week later to audition, teaching a ten-minute segment from our proposed lesson.  Fingers crossed!


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Ask and ye shall receive

BePreparedRemember that little show I was writing about the other day, the one that just released their cast album?  The one that I’ve auditioned for twice, and keep reading the script so I can have an inside advantage when they audition again? (I’m not mentioning the title because I don’t want it to come up when you Google it)

Well, as it turns out, there was a posting today on Playbill seeking submissions for that very show!  There weren’t any dates; they were just asking for mailed headshots and resumes for future replacements, audition dates TBD.  And now that I have the cast recording, I’m more ready than ever.  When I auditioned for the Chicago production, I was sent sides and that was it.  The audition wasn’t terrible (I got a callback) but I really didn’t have a clue about the show.  For the New York production, I was sent a bunch of sides, but also the complete script, which was a HUGE help.  And now, for this next round, assuming I get asked to audition, I’ve seen the show twice and listen to the cast recording daily.

Even though my headshot and resume are still sitting in a bin at the post office, I’m getting ready.  For the last audition, I was really prepared and felt great about what I did.  It happened at a time when I wasn’t working on a show, so I had a lot of time to put into prepping the sides.  But this time, since I already know the material, I’m getting a head start.  I reprinted the material I was sent before, and just started working on it, before the casting office even knows I’m submitting.  This time, my goal is to go in memorized and let them know I’m serious about this show!  I’d love to go in there and just blow the competition out of the water (at least most of the competition)!

And as a side note, I always try to go into callbacks memorized, to let them know I’m committed to what I do.  But for the last audition for this show, I was sent thirty pages of material, more than I’ve ever had to prepare.  Since it’s only a two person show, and both characters need to sing, act, and play piano, they need to see you do just that.  I was sent a song to play, a song to sing, two songs to sing and play, and to scenes to read.  And it was about 75% memorized.  Enough that they could tell I put in the time.

But enough blogging.  I’ve gotta get back to my script!

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Murder For Two cast album release

Murder For TwoIf you know anything about me and my current obsessions, you know there are three things I can’t imagine life without: Barry Manilow, Cadbury Creme Eggs, and Murder For Two.  In case you’re unsure of my thoughts on the show, you can read my review of it here!  (and I take no responsibility for the sideways graphic.  When I submitted the content, it was right-side up, I swear!)

Basically, the composers sat down and decided that they wanted to write a show for me where I could play either male role, in addition to astonishing the crowd with my piano playing.  The only problem was the composers didn’t know I was alive at the time.  But now that the show has been created, it’s only a matter of time before I get to do it somewhere.  I’m sure it’s going to spread like wildfire on the regional scene, and I’ll be ready.  Until then, I read the script about once a week on the off-chance that everyone that’s ever learned the suspects track has lunch together, ingests some bad shellfish, and an emergency call goes out on the for “anyone ready to perform in Murder For Two tonight, please respond!”  Weirder things have happened…haven’t they?

Anyway, I digress.  The cast album was released today, with a CD signing and performance at Barnes and Noble.  It’s the same Barnes and Noble where I performed for the book release of Marvin Makes Music, by Marvin Hamlisch.  After the creators, Joe Kinosian and Kellen Blair, introduced the show, Brett Ryback sang “Protocol Says.”  Jeff Blumenkrantz followed with “A Perfectly Lovely Surprise,” and Joe and Brett concluded with the four-hand duet that serves as the show’s encore.

After having the four of them sign my CD, I was walking through Central Park to catch the C train, and had this Prince inspired deja-vu.  I was back in 1999.  Back in the day, I’d take the bus from Ithaca College to New York, see a couple shows, and then run straight to Virgin Records to buy the cast albums, listening to them on my Discman on my way home.  Now that we have Russian download sites iTunes, I can’t remember the last time I bought a physical CD (except for one from my favorite subway singer who’s usually working the uptown A/C/B/D platform at Columbus Circle around 11pm).  It was fun to have that nostalgic excitement again.

But it’s not 1999, and I’m a little more grown up.  So rather than listening to my new cast album while sitting on the Shortline, snacking on Zebra Cakes and a Cherry Coke, I’m singing along while waiting for a double batch of crispy, baked chickpeas to come out of the oven and right onto my salad.  Times, they are a-changin’.

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Flylady knows best

flyladyI think a woman who goes by the alias (or would it be called a handle) Flylady is really going to come through for me.  I first heard about this magical woman from my sister, when I was living with her in Hawaii last summer.  Flylady has created a remarkable system to keep your house clean and your life a little more organized.  I’m so unorganized that I forgot about this website for the past year and a half, but better late than never, right? I’m still getting into the groove of her system, which I’m sure I’ll write more about later, but what really appealed to me was what she calls The Home Blessing Hour.

Basically, you have six tasks that you commit to doing to ten minutes, no more or less.  She insists you use a timer.  When it goes off, whether you’re finished or not, move on.  You can do it all in one sitting, hence the Home Blessing Hour, or you can do one of these ten minute tasks a day, in addition to the main tasks of the day.  Her list includes things like a quick dusting, polishing mirrors, purging magazines and catalogues, and changing your sheets.  I’ve started using that system with my own list around the house and it’s been incredible. It is so much easier to tackle those odd housekeeping chores when you go into it knowing each unbearable task will only lats ten minutes,  Dusting the top of the kitchen cabinets that haven’t been touched in a year?  As long as it’s only ten minutes, I can handle that.

But why limit this principle to housekeeping?  What I’m going to try, and see if I can make it work, is use this for staying on top of all the online submissions that we all need to do to get auditions and work.  I have subscriptions to Actors Access, Casting Networks, New York Castings, Backstage, which I pay for so I should get my money’s worth.  In addition, I need to stay on top of Actors Equity, Playbill, and if I’ve got time to spare, I’ll check Mandy.  What normally happens is I’ll go through phases where I’m completely on the ball with one or two, and then weeks will go by that the others don’t get checked.  I just get overwhelmed, so I tell myself I’ll reserve a huge chunk of time to do it “later.” I definitely have an hour of time a day to check the casting websites; more than that, to be truthful.  My candy crush progress will show I have more than enough time, so the excuses of being too busy won’t work.  Neither will all of the posts on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.  But let’s be honest, I’m not going to get work off of Candy Crush.  But missing an audition that is casting a male, 30-something, caucasian actor who can play piano–there have been several–because I didn’t see it online, that can cost me a job.

The best time of the day to submit is in the morning.  If a casting director has posted something that morning, or the night before and it’s not live until the offices of the casting site are open, they are going to start combing through submissions right away.  They want to hurry up and move on to scheduling auditions, so they can then cast, and then start filming (theatre auditions aren’t nearly as down-to-the-wire as film and TV).  I’ve submitted for an audition and been called by a casting director in less than an hour to tell me more about the role, confirm my availability, and then book me.  Sixty minutes after I hit submit and I had the gig.  I had the look they wanted for the character, my resume showed them I’d done similar work before, and I was available.  With so many people in New York, why wait?  Everyone who was submitting after me didn’t even know that they weren’t being considered because the role was filled.  Obviously this happens to me all the time and I don’t even know if.  If a casting assistant is told to schedule a certain number of guys who are my type for an audition, she’s going to do it as soon as she can so she can move on to the next assignment.  She’s not going to be waiting for me to find the time. I’m going to try and stick to a ten-minute system in the morning and see what happens.  I’m not a morning person by any stretch of the imagination, so committing to jogging when I wake up is out of the question.  But sitting at the computer, having my pot of coffee, and trying to get a job?  That I can do.

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Vacation Excited!

vacationexcitedA couple of weeks ago, I was on a five-day cruise, playing piano for my dear friend Jim Brochu.  Hi, Jim!  (He’s a Google alert guy so I’m assuming he’ll get a notice about this in a day or two.)  While the entire trip was incredible, what amazed me the most was how early I was out of bed.  When I’m in New York, I’m a night owl.  I stay up too late, and then set my alarm to wake me up in eight hours.  The alarm goes off at eleven, I press snooze about two five times, and then my feet hit the floor at the crack of noon.  Once I remind myself that hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers are getting ready to take a lunch break, I’ve lost all motivation, thinking I’ve wasted the day, and I’ll have better luck tomorrow.  All before I’ve had my morning coffee.

Of course, when I try to go to bed at the decent hour of midnight that night to get a better start on tomorrow, I realize I’ve only been away for twelve hours.  So I stay up later, then sleep later; it’s a vicious cycle.

When I was on the ship, however, the alarm went off at seven and I sprang out of bed.  I couldn’t shower fast enough.  All I wanted to do was get dressed, explore the ship, and then take the tender to St. Barths or St. Maarten.  And I was sleeping six-and-a-half hours max.  The biggest–and most obvious–difference was I had something thrilling to do as soon as I woke up, something that was more exciting than lying in bed.

The trick I need to learn, especially as a creative freelancer, is getting excited about what I’m doing, or need to do, now!  My play isn’t going to write itself.  I won’t learn any new music or become a better tap dancer by pressing snooze.  If the play I’ve yet to write was in rehearsal, I’d have no problem jumping out of bed to get to the theatre.  Somehow I’ve got to find a way to remind myself when that alarm goes off, that the excitement is on the horizon, and I need to be just as excited about the process.

But alas, it’s already three in the morning.  Looks like I’ll have to try again tomorrow…

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The Girls On The Ground Floor

Kevin B. Winebold and Charlotte Munson in Master Class

Kevin B. Winebold and Charlotte Munson in Master Class

I got to wear my composer hat today, for the first time in a long time (like a really long time).  Last May I filmed a web series called The Girls On The Ground Floor.  A friend of mine got together with another friend to create the series, then her friend Blayne wrote the script while my friend Abby acted as producer and SAG/AFTRA liason.  It was an all-hands-on-deck process, which I love.  When we weren’t in a scene, we were holding a light for the director, who was also DP/Camera Op, or we were moving furniture out of the way for the next scene.  We kept joking anytime someone did something besides act, saying “I’ll make sure you get IMDB credit for that.” Blayne mentioned she wanted music for the episode while I was there, and Abby told her that I was a musician, and I could write something.  And that was that, a composer was born. Me being me, though, I kept dropping the ball and forgetting to write anything, so I was sure I’d be replaced.  Luckily, the director/dp/camera op, who just so happens to be editing the project, added the title of husband to his resume since we filmed, so he hasn’t been rushing to finish Ground Floor. Blayne called last week and we made an appointment to get together today so I could play through some ideas for her.  She wanted something Randy Newman-esque, so I tried my best.  I came up with two theme song ideas that could also be broken down into five beat chunks (I’m sure there’s a better term for that) that could be used for transitions. The melodies were really catchy, at list to me, so I was excited to play them for her.  But I was also incredibly nervous!  If I was suggesting public domain music that I played for her and she didn’t like it, it wouldn’t be personal.  But I wrote these, and I was so afraid that I’d proudly play her the songs, and she’d just look at me and say “no, that’s not what I had in mind.  What else can you come up with?” Luckily, she loved it!  She hugged me, hugged me again, and then once more for good measure.  So with the nerves gone, we broke the songs down, deciding what pieces to use for which part of each episode.  All I’ve gotta do now is go to a studio in midtown to record them into Garage Band; I could do it at home, but I’d rather use an acoustic piano. Hopefully it won’t be another nine months for me to remember to get to work! (and in case you’re wondering, the photo above is from Master Class.  but it’s kind of what it looked like today with me at the piano, and Blayne standing behind as I nervously played)

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