The college experience comes to life

Three-week summer class in musical theater at Ithaca College draws rave review


Raider Times photo / Courtesy Kira Peterson

Arno Selco (center) and accompanist Dave Klodowski (left) pose with their Musical Theater summer class at Ithaca College.

Kira Peterson, Raider Times staff

When I arrived at Ithaca College in New York at the beginning of the summer, I felt nervous, apprehensive, and overwhelmed by all the new faces swarming around me. I had signed up for a three-week class, Introduction to Musical Theater, and would be living in dorms with other rising high school juniors and seniors who were studying a variety of other subjects, including sports management, cultural anthropology, and more. I had spent the six- hour car ride bracing myself for awkward dorm living, bad cafeteria food, and over- competitive classmates.

I had no idea that I was about to have one of the greatest, and most educational experiences of my life; meet some of the most incredible, creative people I had ever encountered; and have a blast while doing it. The program didn’t just meet my expectations or exceed them — it blew them out of the park! I expected to only make a few close friends in my class, but instead we are all still making the effort to keep in touch, and hope to organize a reunion sometime soon. Most students in the program were from the East Coast, but the Midwest and West Coast were also represented.

Dorm life was one of my favorite aspects of the summer college program. The students were given a huge amount of independence, and my friends and I really enjoyed being able to go into town, which was easily accessible by public bus. Many late nights were spent hanging out, eating pizza, and watching TV and movies.

We roomed in pairs; my roommate was from New York City and was taking an acting course. Each floor had two RAs, but their purpose was to make the students feel comfortable, not to monitor them. The RAs organized some really great activities, including hikes, yoga, and even a color run around campus.

My professor, Arno Selco, was funny, experienced, and an incredible teacher. The exhilaration I felt watching myself and my peers improve daily was indescribable. Friends of mine in other classes always had great feedback about their professors as well.

Arno taught us with the same curriculum he uses for his college students. On the first day of class, we came prepared to perform two musical theater songs. We then critiqued each other’s performances and received an additional critique from Arno.

Next, each student chose one of his or her songs to continue working on for the next week. After we had finished working with that song, we picked a second one with help from our accompanist and voice teacher, Dave Klodowski.

We went through a long process of exercises and workshops with each song, focusing on the meaning of the lyrics and the characters’ objectives. We read the scripts, or librettos, of the shows our songs were from in order to get to know our characters more deeply.

We also had a chance to meet with some amazing and talented alumni and current students of the Ithaca College Bachelor of Fine Arts Musical Theater program. They performed for us, we performed for them, and they gave us advice on applying to college and finding work in the performing arts business.

On the very last day of the program, all the summer college students and their parents were invited to a lunch, and my classmates and I provided the entertainment. We were very proud of our final showcase, which consisted of each student’s second solo song, as well as a group number, “Light”, from the musical “Next to Normal.”

After experiencing this small taste of what college will be like, I feel more motivated to perform well in high school. The summer college program gave me a much clearer idea of what I want out of college, and how to get it, along with a very educational and enjoyable experience, and I’m incredibly grateful for that.

–Oct. 4, 2014–