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Anderson University Revealed: School of Music, Theatre, and Dance

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Size doesn’t limit opportunity at the Anderson University School of Music, Theatre, and Dance. The university’s Orangehaus record label launched the music career of Jon McLaughlin. Voice professors helped hone the skills of internationally known opera tenor Larry Brownlee. And Anderson University was the only Indiana school selected to perform at the National College Dance Festival at the Kennedy Center in June.

But that’s not all. Music majors from Anderson University are teaching all over the world, making a living as songwriters and arrangers, working in recording studios, serving in music ministry, and performing professionally as backup artists or headliners in small venues across the nation.

Finding Your Passion

Dr. Jeffrey Wright, dean of the School of Music, Theatre, and Dance, explains that most music schools are laser focused on only one type of graduate — the high-powered performer. In today’s market, however, musicians are finding more places to perform and they’re not always in big houses. Plus, collaborative artistry projects are on the rise, outpacing available solo projects. 

“Students come into the performing arts with a lot of different goals and dreams that don’t fit into traditional majors,” says Wright. “We help students find their passion. Not many schools do that.”

Becky Chappell with saxophone studentAnderson University offers eight different music majors and three dance majors:

The Kennedy Center

The fastest growing program in the School of Music, Theatre, and Dance is dance, which has also supported students studying musical theatre. Shauna Steele, the director of the dance program at AU, identifies reasons for the success of AU’s dance program: Society seems to be coming back to the idea that the arts are important, that the arts provide balance and good health. Steele adds, “Also, there are few Christian universities that offer dance. And of those universities that offer a dance major, not a lot of them are small universities.”

In the spring, Anderson University hosted the American College Dance Association. A performance by Anderson University dancers led to an invitation to perform at the National College Dance Festival at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

dance team at The Kennedy Center

“Being selected to perform at the Kennedy Center puts us in an elite group of university dance programs, and it elevates our visibility to a national status,” says Wright. “This is an honor afforded to few universities, and it is a strong testament to the high level of dance instruction and performance that students enjoy here at AU.”

Summer Camps

Orff Schulwerk classAU’s School of Music, Theatre, and Dance is also invested in inspiring future and current music educators. Before college even begins, high school students are welcome each summer to attend AU’s music education and leadership camp. The workshops at the camp give students hands-on opportunities to conduct, work on aural skills, and learn more about marching band and musical theatre. Students also attend leadership seminars. All of this to give students a taste of what it is like to work in music education.

Wright explains, “If you want to be a music education major, here are the kinds of classes you will be taking and the options for you in terms of employment. We are really trying to help students focus on a major and career path before they get to college.”

The summer schedule at the AU School of Music, Theatre, and Dance also includes workshops every summer for current music teachers wanting to learn more about or work toward certification in the Orff Schulwerk teaching method, a highly effective way to engage children in making and enjoying music. Anderson University is one of the few universities in the country to offer these workshops. 

musical theatreThe School of Music, Theatre, and Dance offers the most academic summer camps on campus each year for high school students. In addition to the music education and leadership camp, the university offers:

In addition to learning more about their craft and their career interests, students also experience campus life by living in the dormitories, eating in the cafeteria, and experiencing and performing concerts in the university’s newly built York Performance Hall and Galleries.

Constructed for student, faculty, and guest recitals, this beautiful venue features orchestra space for 45 musicians, a choir loft for 75 voices, and an advanced acoustical design. The main floor of the facility seats 250 while the balcony space seats approximately 75.

Experiences and Opportunities

chorale at York Performance HallStudents in AU’s School of Music, Theatre, and Dance have performed across the nation and in Europe as members of the university’s ensembles. The ensembles at AU are not only for music majors but any student with a passion for music.

Anderson University offers opportunities to perform through three vocal ensembles and six instrumental ensembles:

  • Chorale
  • Women’s Chorus
  • Valley Voices (a men’s choir)
  • Wind Ensemble
  • Jazz Ensemble
  • Symphony Orchestra
  • Percussion Ensemble
  • Guitar Ensemble
  • Jazz-tet. 

Any student on campus is also welcome to participate in any of the theatre productions during the year. 

In whatever area a music student focuses, they will need creativity, entrepreneurial skills, and the ability to self promote. These are strengths Orangehaus Records, the student-run record label, hones in students. The publishing house began by scouting and promoting student talent, but the program has branched out to other facets of the music business. Most recently, Orangehaus students collaborated with St. Vincent Health to provide music to individuals in Hospice. This project included compiling sounds, songwriting, producing a cd, and performing live for people in Hospice.

Next Steps

Layke Jones at Senior RecitalThe School of Music, Theatre, and Dance attracts many students on the AU campus as majors, performers, and as music, dance, and theatre appreciators. It links students to the Anderson, Ind., community as well as audiences around the world. There are no shortages of academic challenges or performance opportunities on the AU campus but many ways to grow as an artist.

Applying is the easy part. #StartYourStory today and take the first steps.

  1. Explore offerings at anderson.edu/music-theatre-dance.
  2. Visit campus and start the journey. 
  3. Apply and audition to Anderson University.

— Deborah Lilly is the publications editor at Anderson University.

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Anderson University is a private Christian university in central Indiana. Anderson University continues to be recognized as one of America's top colleges by U.S. News and World ReportThe Princeton Review, and Forbes. Established in 1917 by the Church of God (Anderson, Ind.), Anderson University offers more than 60 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in businessmusicnursing and theology.

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