The 2019 Chancellor’s Arts Showcase gathered current MU students and alumni at the Missouri Theatre on April 8 for an evening of music. Performances ranged from the Show-Me Opera singers performing a classical piece to the voices of the Hitt Street Harmony ensemble. All performers shared a common theme: being #MizzouMade. MU music major Marques Jerrell Ruff served as the master of ceremonies for the evening.
“The performances this evening feature performers that reflect the world we walk around in every day,” Ruff said. “This showcase also gives the chancellor and the rest of the Mizzou community an opportunity to witness firsthand the inclusivity, diversity and creativity in the arts on our campus.”
The showcase was also where graduate student Niko Schroeder was awarded as the winner of the Sinquefield Composition Prize. He had the chance to have his original piece performed by the University Philharmonic Orchestra during the showcase and professionally recorded.
One of the main highlights of the showcase was a performance by Bryson Bruce. The MU alumnus graduated in 2014 with a degree in theater performance and is now touring the country with the Broadway cast of “Hamilton” playing Marquis De Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson. He performed a selection of musical theater songs, including the piece “Run Away with Me” from the musical “The Mad Ones.”
Before the showcase, Bruce had a Q&A session with musical theater students in the green room of the Missouri Theatre. When asked about how it felt to be a big fish in a small pond in college and then be faced with a quite different situation after graduation, Bruce shared a piece of advice with the students.
“If you start small, just keep eating,” Bruce said. “Keep improving until you’re not small anymore. It sounds easy but it’s not. It’s hard to move from Mizzou, where you’re always feeling supported, to a completely different place.”
When he is not traveling with the “Hamilton” cast, Bruce is based in New York City. During and after the Q&A, the actor kept reminding himself and students the importance of the education he got as an undergraduate at MU.
“It’s hard to replace the college experiences on your resume because they shaped you,” Bruce said. “They shaped me so much that I still want them as a part of my resume. I learned something in every class and every show here in Mizzou. Everything has a piece that I carried with me to New York and that I carry with me now.”
The alumna Caitlin Reader was also taking questions during the Q&A. She graduated in 2013 with degrees in journalism and theater performance and now lives in New York City working in finance. Reader expanded on how she managed her time while pursuing two different majors.
“There’s more hours in a day than you realize,” Reader said. “You make it work. [These degrees are] both amazing learning opportunities. Just keep yourself healthy and have fun.”
Reader also compared her experience as a student to now being a speaker. She remembered when she was the one listening to professionals in the field.
“Lindsey Alley came and spoke to us and it was so inspirational and made me feel so much better,” Reader said. “You feel like you have this huge mountain in front of you to climb. Then you graduate, you climb the mountain and don't even realize you’re doing it. You come back five years later and you realize that you do have a lot to say. My experience is now so different than what it was five years ago, but it changes so slowly that you don’t feel it happening.”
Bruce also addressed the new feeling of inspiring others instead of being inspired by someone. He recalled the feelings he had that resonate with the undergraduate students.
“I remember feeling that same fear, but somehow I did get through that uneasiness,” Bruce said. “I remember moving to New York and not knowing what was going to happen on the next day, month or year, but as years go by, somehow you’re further up the mountain. So when someone asks, ‘What’s it like up there?’ I still feel like I’m climbing. I can find a way to throw a rope back down a little bit further to someone who might need it but I still got a long way to go.”
The Chancellor’s Arts Showcase final number was a collaboration of Bruce with music and theater performance students singing the song “Light” from the musical “Next to Normal.” The event was directed by Joy Powell, an associate professor at the MU Theatre Department, who was also moderating the Q&A. During said session, Bruce focused on one main piece of advice not only for auditions but for every trying situation in musical theater.
“This is me. I love this. Let me show you my love for it,” Bruce said.
Edited by Janae McKenzie | firstname.lastname@example.org