Broadway Veterans Join MSM’s Musical Theatre Faculty

Manhattan School of Music’s Musical Theatre Program begins its second year with new additions to its already distinguished faculty.

Launched in the fall of 2016, this exciting program has the distinction of being New York City’s first conservatory-based degree program in Musical Theatre.

Joining the program are Broadway theatre veterans:

  • Randy Graff (Acting for Musical Theatre)
  • Robin Morse (Acting)
  • Elizabeth Parkinson (Dance/Ballet)
  • Mimi Quillin (Dance/Jazz)
  • and Eleanor Taylor (Alexander Technique).

Other 2017-18 contributors include:

  • Steve Marzullo, who earned his Bachelor of Music at MSM in 1984 and will be Music Director on the Musical Theatre Program’s Freshman Spring Showcase (An American Songbook: Irving Berlin);
  • Joe Locarro, who will direct and choreograph the Sophomore Fall and Spring showcases (The Tony Awards: The Early Years and An American Songbook: Jerome Kern, respectively).

“From the beginning, with this program, we have made it a priority to draw from all New York City has to offer,” said Luis Perez, Associate Dean and Chair of the MSM Musical Theatre Program.

“Musical Theatre is a discipline that has a tradition of being passed down from person to person, from one generation to the next. These formidable additions to this exciting new program’s faculty underscore that tradition and MSM’s commitment to it.”


Location, location, location

Manhattan School of Music’s proximity to New York’s vibrant, thriving theatre scene allows MSM to provide its students with unparalleled training and real-world experience.

Through participation in master classes, workshops, showcases, and fully produced shows, students have countless opportunities to interact with and learn from New York theatre professionals.

Highlights of the second season

The exciting second season of MSM’s Musical Theatre Program includes class showcases and two mainstage productions:

  • Nine (based on Fellini’s classic film, 8 ½; music and lyrics by Maury Yeston; book by Arthur Kopit; adapted from the Italian by Mario Fratti)
  •  Smile (music by Marvin Hamlisch and book and lyrics by Howard Ashman).

These high-level productions will demonstrate why MSM’s newest program is already drawing the attention of the Musical Theatre world.

As Norm Lewis, Tony Award nominee and member of the program’s Artistic Advisory Committee, has said:

“I look forward to watching future generations of Broadway talent come of age at MSM.”

As do we all. We hope that you can join us!

MSM’s inaugural Musical Theatre class with the legendary Kristin Chenoweth at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre


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Bronx street named after jazz legend and MSM alumnus Donald Byrd

By Bobby Sanabria

September 9, 2017 was a significant day in the borough of music as the late, great Donald Byrd (DP ’58, Trumpet; BM ’62, Trumpet; MM ’63, Music Education) was honored with a street named after him in the Bronx.

Donald Byrd, the legendary jazz trumpeter, composer, arranger, bandleader, educator, and NEA Jazz Master, moved from Detroit to the Bronx in the mid-1950s to pursue a Master of Music Education degree at Manhattan School of Music. He passed away on February 4, 2013 in Dover, Delaware, at age 80.

During the early years of his career, Byrd taught in the Bronx public school system. One of his students was Willie Colon, a young trombonist and soon-to-be salsa star. While teaching public school, Byrd grew into a legendary figure in the New York City jazz scene.

Later, Byrd mentored and helped establish The Blackbyrds, a rhythm and blues and jazz-funk fusion group. The Blackbyrds would go on to create influential crossover recordings that continue to be sampled by DJs all over the world.

To date, Donald Byrd is the fourth Bronx jazz legend to be honored with a street naming. Previous honorees include vocalist Maxine Sullivan, pianist Elmo Hope, and trumpeter Henry “Red” Allen. Additional anticipated namings will bring much-deserved recognition to the Bronx’s rich jazz history.

Many thanks to Bob Gumbs and City Council member Vanessa L. Gibson for pursuing this project and to Co-Artistic Director at the BMHC Elena Martinez for organizing the reception at the Bronx Music Heritage Center.

Congratulations to the Byrd family, and big ups to the place where only the strong survive and thrive – Da’ Bronx!

City Councilwoman Vanessa L. Gibson; Bob Gumbs; Dr. Mark Naisson, Head of African American Studies at Fordham University; John Dudley, Head of BX Community Board District 3; Donald Byrd III.



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MSM student “Talking Circles” rooted in Native American tradition


Report by Rosalind Zhang

Earlier this month, 16 MSM students attended the first annual Talking Circles Retreat hosted by the Department of Student Affairs at the YMCA Greenkill Retreat Center in Huguenot, New York.

The gathering is rooted in the Native American tradition — specifically that of the Mi’kmaq people of Canada — who used the Talking Circle as a method for solving interpersonal problems (more photos below).

During their time at the retreat, the MSM students took part in various activities to generate dialogue and leadership on issues such as diversity and social justice.


For the Department of Student Affairs, the Talking Circles Retreat gives MSM students an opportunity to advance their communication and social interaction skills, and become even more effective at connecting with students from other cultures and backgrounds.


The group enjoyed views of Lake Marling during hikes, made s’mores in the fireplace and slept in Kleinstuber Lodge.

Huguenot, New York is about two hours northwest of New York City in Orange County, not far from the Pennsylvania and New Jersey borders.










At the end of their Talking Circle journey, the students shared their belief that they’d acquired a new family at MSM!


It was incredibly inspiring for me. The giant quilt weaved by our individual stories made me realize I am part of this wonderful group of human beings — Rosalind Zhang

I hope everyone got to take something away from this eye-opening and overall lovely experience, because I know I will never forget it and I will always hold you gorgeous angels in a very special place in my heart — Melanie Dubil

This was thus far the most heartwarming, life-changing experience that I will never forget. Trust the process and challenge by choice #MSMTalk360 — Veronica Mak

The retreat was led by four MSM staff facilitators: Jim Love, Director of Residence Life; Melanie Dorsey, Director of Student Engagement; Crystal Wilson, Coordinator of Student Engagement; and Min-Jung Kim, Graduate Hall Coordinator of Residence Life.



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Multiple Grammy Nominee Stefon Harris Named Director of MSM’s Prestigious Jazz Arts Program

Stefon Harris,  One of the Most Important Artists in Jazz today, will Join Manhattan School of Music  in July 2017

November 14, 2016 (NEW YORK, NY) – Manhattan School of Music President James Gandre announced today that four-time Grammy Award nominee and eight-time Jazz Journalist award-winner Stefon Harris – himself a distinguished alumnus of the School – will join MSM in July 2017 as Associate Dean and Director of the Jazz Arts program.

“We are thrilled to announce that Stefon Harris, who earned both a Bachelor of Music in 1995 and a Master of Music in 1997, will formally return to MSM next year to lead our renowned Jazz Arts program,” says President Gandre. “As the music world already knows, Stefon is an endlessly talented musician and composer, but he is also an extremely accomplished educator with an impressive track record in and passion for jazz education. We know that he will bring that depth of experience to bear on his work leading MSM’s Jazz Arts program, and we couldn’t be more excited to welcome him home.”

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Manhattan School of Music will be the first-ever independent music conservatory in New York to offer a musical theatre degree program.

Last week, Manhattan School of Music made the announcement that the New York City Conservatory will be adding a new musical theatre degree program to their current academic roster. Manhattan School of Music president James Gandre made the formal announcement during the Spring gala Manhattan School of Music Broadway Melody at the Rainbow Room, honoring Bebe Neuwirth, and featured special guests Angela Lansbury, Barbara Cook, Marlo Thomas, Phil Donahue and Tommy Tune.

The new musical theatre program will begin in fall 2016, and Manhattan School of Music will be the first-ever independent music conservatory in New York (and only the second in the country) to offer a musical theatre degree program. The new program will be directed by Luis Perez, who will leave his post at Roosevelt University’s Chicago College of Performing Arts to join MSM. Perez is joined by an Artistic Advisory Committee that includes Broadway veterans such as Norm Lewis, Susan Stroman, Tommy Tune, Kelli O’Hara,Ted Chapin, Bebe Neuwrith, Christine Ebersole, Graciela Daniele, James Naughton, Shuler Hensley, Ron Raines and more.

Below is a message from Gandre regarding the new musical theatre program, which will “leverage MSM’s New York City setting to attract a top-flight artist-faculty and give the program’s students the kind of performance and real-world experiences that only New York can provide.”

“It is with great pleasure that I announce the launch of Manhattan School of Music’s Musical Theatre Program, which will provide students with a fully accredited Bachelor’s degree. Remarkably, it will serve as New York City’s first-ever conservatory-based degree program in an art form that was birthed on Broadway and has, since the early part of the 20th century, become inseparable from this city in the popular imagination. Like jazz, which MSM introduced to its academic programs in 1984, musical theater is New York, part of the city’s heartbeat. It’s the ‘great’ in the Great White Way. In becoming the first independent music conservatory in New York, and only the second in the country, to offer a Musical Theater Program, MSM will dramatically further its mission to provide excellence in education, performance, and creative activity, while providing students with all the advantages that New York City and the Broadway community can offer (including a top-flight artist-teacher faculty). Already, the School has assembled an Artistic Advisory Committee for the program that is comprised of many of Broadway’s best and beyond, a who’s-who list of musical theater professionals that reflects the full range and scope of what’s possible within the art form. Although MSM has many alumni active on Broadway, in pit orchestras and on stages (including Artistic Advisory Committee members Shuler Hensley, Jose Llana, and Joseph Joubert), and although the School has long provided related training via its superb American Musical Theater Ensemble, this new offering will be a full-blown professional Bachelor’s degree program. It will provide each student with a solid foundation in fundamental musical and theater skills, as well as a broader background in practical courses, literature, and humanities. If it is remarkable that New York City has until now had to make due without a conservatory-based program in the art form with which Broadway is synonymous, it is equally noteworthy that it will be MSM, just a few years shy of its centenary celebrations, that ends that drought. I am truly delighted to have the honor as MSM’s President to announce that the lights are at last coming up on such a program. Raise the curtain, cue the orchestra, and let the show begin!” – See more at:


Did you know?

Music lessons for students of all ages and levels at Manhattan School of Music! The MSM Sunday program is designed to provide a lively and rewarding experience for students of all ages and levels. Whether you are an aspiring or advanced musician, the parent of a young beginner, an adult learning a new instrument, or even a student interested in extra help for NYSSMA, pre-college, and music school auditions, MSM Sunday has something to offer you. Visit MSM Sundays for more information.


Joan’s Closet Dresses Aspiring Performers For Success

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – They say if you want to be a star, you should first try to look like one. That’s what one organization is doing for some struggling music students in Manhattan who aspire to be the next generation of world-class performers.
As CBS 2′s Emily Smith reported, Joan’s Closet is giving more than 200 Manhattan School of Music students in need access to high-end, gently used dresses to wear at auditions.
“This will help me probably look good for some of that,” said Caroline Braga, a senior opera singer as she eyed one dress.
Joan Taub Ades, a prominent member of New York’s premier music circles, said she started the organization five years ago because she saw a need.
“I heard judges say they could look better.” she said. ” Coming from this school, they have to be the best. They have the best talent.”
In addition to leaving with an entire outfit — shoes, scarf and handbag included — students can enter a lottery for a chance to win one of six dresses, some that cost more than $3,000 apiece.
“I love the lottery,” said Julia Lamon, who hopes to take the stage at the Metropolitan Opera someday. “They have the most beautiful dresses.”
Lamon took home an eye-catching, jewel-tone dress, something she can wear more than once for major auditions.
When asked how she might pay for an audition dress without the help of Joan’s Closet, Lamond said: “Just save every month. You put money into an account to save.”
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