Guest Artists Inspire Audition Prep Students in Cypress Hills

Our theatre students are no strangers to hard work and dedication—it’s what drives them to put hours of focus and energy into perfecting a full-length musical adaptation year after year. Since 2010 we’ve partnered with Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation to harness those qualities to help our students navigate the rigorous high school auditions process. Through our Audition Prep companion program, interested 8th graders in our Musical Theatre program attend intensive workshops preparing them to audition for top performing arts high schools throughout New York City.

This year we have five students auditioning for competitive high schools outside of their neighborhood. TA Taylor Valentine coached the group for a fourth year, leading them through afterschool and Saturday sessions to perfect their audition pieces over the course of the fall semester. In October, he brought in special guest artists to help the students experience the intensity of a real audition environment.

“I like to bring in the guest artists and hold the mock audition the weekend before LaGuardia auditions, to really give the students a chance to both get professional insights and feel the pressure of an audition setting,” Taylor said, adding that he was pleased with how well the students responded. “They really rocked it!”

Kent Nicholson, Director of Musical Theatre at Playwrights Horizons, and Lelund Thompson, CEO of YellaFella Entertainment, were on-hand to provide 10-minute individual coaching sessions to each of the five students. Afterwards our guests joined Taylor and Mr. Skelton, CHLDC’s long-time musical director, to evaluate the students in a mock audition setting using a modified version of a real performing arts high school audition rubric. Kent and Lelund were “impressed with the talent level and preparation” displayed by our young actors, said Taylor.

Our deepest thanks go out to Kent and Lelund for taking the time to share their professional insights with our students, and to Taylor for making it all happen!

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