By Jordan Cochran  

The multi-talented faculty of the Reinhardt School of Performing Arts (SOPA) routinely tap into their own creative masteries and professional experiences to inspire students. As professional performers themselves, they recognize the impact of shared knowledge when helping students expand their personal repertoires of skills and techniques. When faced with in-person limitations caused by the pandemic, SOPA faculty went beyond their routines to engage musical theatre students – with real-world masterclasses!

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Sheri Sanders offered insight and perspective on auditioning in the musical theatre field.

Sheri Sanders – by invitation from Brian Osborne, assistant professor of music – held virtual masterclasses on the audition process for Reinhardt musical theatre students. Sanders is the author of “Rock the Audition: How to Prepare for and Get Cast in Rock Musicals,” a book that offers guidance and inspiration from her personal experiences.

“Sheri is the authority on the subject, and works with young performers all over the country,” said Osborne. “She also focuses on ‘on-camera’ auditioning, which is becoming a new format for musical auditions because of the pandemic, and because it is simply more efficient.”

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Nini Hutcherson was among several students who performed a song for Sanders on Zoom, receiving feedback from the expert.

Sanders interacted with Reinhardt students over three days of workshops via Zoom where they performed live “pop cut” auditions with actors singing popular music heard on the radio. Broadway musical auditions often request pop cuts, with many musicals being written in a style that resembles this type of music. Sanders provided students with feedback, and they performed again.

“She is a ball of fun, a rare commodity of a human being,” said musical theatre major Malu Omeonga, Jr. ’21 of the “Rock the Audition” author. “So passionate, full of energy and doesn’t shy away from telling you what’s what.”

During the masterclasses, Omeonga learned techniques on how to achieve natural performances, which – he learned from Sanders – are the types of performances that audiences want to experience.

“I’ve never been able to fully be in a state of being raw and natural in a performance setting when singing,” he said. “Nowadays that’s what audiences want – a fully formed person with all kinds of flaws, dirty laundry, mistakes that need to be aired out, and what better way to achieve that without any filters or limitations holding you back.”

Osborne found that Sanders created a “fun, interactive safe space” for the young performers to feel uninhibited.

“There were some amazing moments over the three days; joyful, hysterically funny, intimate, and some where there just weren’t words. We all got out of our comfort zone, but then found a new comfort zone in the process,” said Osborne.

“Sheri encourages performers to tap into not only personal experiences but also the period in which a song was written, such as the Civil Rights Movement of the 60s, the anti-war sentiment of the 70s, the decadence of the 80s and the angst of the 90s.”

The inspirational masterclasses, led with Sheri Sanders’ expertise and Brian Osborne’s creative thinking, brought the experience of auditioning to real life. From learning new techniques to rich personal growth and development, Reinhardt musical theatre students shared an important moment in their journey, with a master in the field – an experience they will never forget.

To learn more about the Reinhardt University’s School of Performing Arts, visit our website.