UNCP launches musical theatre major


Three years in the making, UNC Pembroke’s musical theatre program is playing to rave reviews and hoping for a lengthy engagement.

The new Bachelor of Music in Musical Theatre program passed its final hurdle when the UNC Board of Governors gave its approval in January. The program was approved by the National Association of Schools of Music.

 Travis Stockley

Travis Stockley

Travis Stockley, a veteran of stage and higher education, is in his third year at UNCP and has several well-received productions under his belt, including “Music Man,” “Sweeney Todd” and “Ain’t Misbehavin’.”

“This is great news for us,” Stockley said. “We’re in our third year, and we believe we have the kinks worked out.”

“We have three major goals for the future – recruitment of students, production development and job placement,” he said. “Job placement is the thing we all worry about the most because when you’ve got the degree, you want something to do with it.”

The musical theatre program falls under the Music Department and Chair Dr. Janita Byars said the program draws upon the talents and resources of several areas within the University.

 Janita Byars

Janita Byars

“Musical theatre is a bridge between music and theatre programs,” Dr. Byars said. “It enhances the options for theatrically inclined students and increases performing opportunities for both music and theatre majors. ”

The program requirements are demanding with 91 hours of music, theatre and stage courses. Courses in the program are offered by the departments of Music, Theatre and Physical Education (dance) and in collaboration with the Art Department for set design and scenic painting and the technical staff of the Givens Performing Arts Center.

David Crow, who will be one of the first graduates in 2006, said the curriculum is very challenging

“There is a lot of traditional class work, and a lot of hours outside of class rehearsing for productions,” Crow said. “The good thing about the production of ‘Music Man’ was how we involved music and theatre majors and the community.”

Crow said there are more opportunities for participating in productions than there is time. Sophomore Felicia Mangum agrees.Musical

“I was able to be in the cast of the ‘Kiss Me Kate’ production of the Cape Fear Regional Theatre,” Mangum said. “They brought in Broadway talent for the leading roles.”

Mangum had a solo in that show. She said it was a valuable learning experience.

“Musical theatre is all I’ve ever done,” she said. “It’s what makes me smile. I did ‘Achoo is Blue’ in kindergarten and I was hooked.”

Mangum is from the Raleigh-Durham area and the kind of talent Stockley is hoping to attract to the new program.

“Our graduates will have substantial exposure of musical theatre and great resumes,” Stockley said. “We need more students, but recruiting is looking up. Nine (high school) students auditioned in January, the most ever.”

UNCP is the only college in North Carolina offering the Bachelor of Music in Musical Theatre, although several others offer a Bachelor of Fine Arts. But Stockley is a bundle of optimism and energy.

“Travis brings a lot of professional stage experience,” Dr. Byars said. “He has had exposure to New York and Chicago theatre and higher education too.”

logoStockley earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts from Illinois Wesleyan and his Master of Fine Arts from Northwestern University. He was a member of the East Carolina University faculty before coming to UNCP.

Stockley won the Outer Critics Award for the best Off-Broadway musical production and the Joseph Jefferson Award for best director of a musical. He has directed over 100 productions.

The Musical Theatre program is busy this spring producing its annual musical “Babes in Arms.” The show will be staged in Moore Hall on April 1 – 2. It is a concert version revival by award winning playwright John Guare. The original show was written for Broadway by Richard Rogers and Larry Hart.

For questions about the Musical Theatre program, please call 910.521. 6230 or email travis.stockley@uncp.edu.