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Broadway World: Inside look at CCM Musical Theatre

Rising junior Cassie Maurer shares her experience and interviews Professor Katie Johannigman

Rising junior Cassie Maurer gives readers an inside look at UC College-Conservatory of Music's BFA Musical Theatre program in a series of blog posts on Broadway World. Maurer shares her experience in the program so far and interviews Musical Theatre Professor Katie Johannigman (BFA, '12) about her journey at CCM.

"The past two years have been nothing shy of crazy, wonderful and tough," writes Maurer, who is originally from Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. "From getting acquianted to living in a big city by myself to the reckless storm that has been the COVID-19 crisis, I am excited to share with you my adventures at CCM and the incredible impacts the program has made on my life."

Actors on stage dancing with show lights in the background

CCM's fall 2019 production of "42nd Street," directed by Diane Lala. Photo by Mark Lyons.

The Musical Theatre program at CCM was the first of its kind in the country. The program is widely recognized for its comprehensive approach to training that focuses on creating well-rounded artists with exceptional acting, singing and dancing skills. Many of its graduates are following careers as performers and creative artists in every facet of the entertainment industry — alumni include Kevin McCollum, Ashley Brown, Andrew Chappelle, Shoshana Bean, Betsy Wolfe, Alysha Deslorieux, John Riddle, Christy Altomare, Max Clayton, Nikki Renée Daniels and more. The program is regularly ranked near the top of Playbill Magazine’s annual list of “10 Most Represented Colleges on Broadway.” In August, Broadway veteran and CCM alumnus Eric Santagata will begin his appointment as Associate Professor and Patricia A. Corbett Distinguished Chair of Musical Theatre at CCM.

Assistant Professor of Musical Theatre Katie Johannigman has attended CCM since she was nine months old, when she sat in the dance hallway and watched her sister take ballet classes. Johannigman took classes through CCM Preparatory and Community Enagament until she graduated high school, and then enrolled in CCM's BFA Musical Theatre program. 

"I grew up going to see all the shows at CCM, and I was the kid in the shows if they ever needed a kid... that's how I got my start, and the teachers [at CCM Prep] were fantastic," Johannigman says to Maurer. "I loved my time at CCM, my class and my teachers. It was like a dream!"

After graduating, Johannigman moved to New York to perform there and regionally. She also helped start the Broadway Method Academy in Connecticut, which is where she started teaching. She eventually returned to CCM to teach the next generation of musical theatre stars. When the COVID-19 pandemic cancelled spring semester performances and forced teaching to move online, Johannigman worked with her fellow faculty members and CCM administration to create a remote learning environment for students.

"CCM has always made it their mission to prepare us for anything, and even with this obstacle thrown in their way, our faculty did not flinch," Maurer writes of her experience taking online classes during the pandemic. "I feel so lucky to be part of this program where work and growth are constants, and where my education and success remain the priorities even in the wake of the unexpected."

Actors dancing and singing on stage during "The Hunchback of Notre Dame"

CCM's spring 2019 production of "The Hunchback of Notre Dame," directed by Aubrey Berg. Photo/Mark Lyons.

During her time at CCM, Maurer has performed in the college's productions of The Hunchback of Notre Dame42nd Street and The Secret Garden. Her freshman year classes included acting, vocal coaching, jazz, ballet, suzuki, technical production, music theory, freshman showcase and private lessons in addition to rehearsals and performances. Sophomore year included tap, characterization and repertoire, chorale, dialects and vocal health — but in-person classes were interrupted by the pandemic. 

Maurer says she was given personal notes and feedback on all of the videos and work that she submitted during remote learning. Even though the circumstances were challenging, she feels she "grew significantly in those weeks of taking class via laptop."

I feel so lucky to be part of this program where work and growth are constants, and where my education and success remain the priorities even in the wake of the unexpected.

Cassie Maurer, rising junior in CCM Musical Theatre

A female singer performing on stage.

Recent CCM Musical Theatre graduate Kylie Liya Page (BFA, '20) performing at the Senior Showcase in CCM's Patricia Corbett Theater..

In addition to moving classes online, CCM Musical Theatre also moved its 2020 Senior Showcase to a virtual format. This annual Showcase usually takes place in front of casting agents and industry professionals in New York, and serves as a launch pad for the graduating students' professional careers. CCM filmed the Cincinnati performance of the Showcase and worked with alumni to create an online platform that industry professionals can access to learn more about CCM Musical Theatre's class of 2020.

"I think it goes without saying at this point that the BFA Musical Theatre program at CCM is exceptional, not only for its alumni, but for its driven faculty who strive to continue the program's reputation of excellence," Maurer writes. "I am so proud to be a part of the CCM MT family. If you are a prospective Musical Theatre student looking for an intense, conservatory experience within a university, this is it. Go Bearcats!"

About CCM Musical Theatre

The Musical Theatre program at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) is the oldest in the country and was the first of its kind. A four-year bachelor of fine arts (BFA) program, it was used by the National Association of Schools of Theatre in formulating the guidelines for the accreditation of Musical Theatre programs nationwide.

The program provides professional conservatory training designed to help singers, dancers and actors become accomplished musical theatre performers. Students participate in a number of productions while in residence and create a freshman and a senior showcase, the latter functioning as their New York debut for agents and casting directors. In addition, students undertake courses in English, history, psychology, dramatic literature, social and ethical issues and the humanities.

CCM Musical Theatre is widely recognized for its "triple-threat" approach to training and many of its graduates are following careers as performers and creative artists in every facet of the entertainment industry. CCM Musical Theatre graduates are working on Broadway and throughout the nation in such productions as AnastasiaHamiltonWaitressMoulin RougeThe Phantom of the OperaThe Book of Mormon, Pippin, WickedJersey BoysLes Misérables, Kinky Boots, Big Fish, Newsies and The Lion King. Students represent CCM in national and international touring productions, in dinner theatres and theme parks, on cruise ships, on television, in talent agencies, as producers and in many of the related entertainment fields.

The Musical Theatre program is part of a larger academic division known as TAPAA: Theatre Arts, Production and Arts Administration. At the time of its establishment in 1991, the Patricia A. Corbett Distinguished Chair of Musical Theatre at CCM was the only academic chair of its kind in the United States, the American equivalent of the Chair in Musical Theatre endowed by Cameron Macintosh in honor of Stephen Sondheim at Oxford one year later.

Learn more about CCM's BFA Musical Theatre program.

Feature image at top: CCM's fall 2019 production of 42nd Street, directed by Diane Lala. Photo/Mark Lyons.