By Tierney Breedlove
What makes Furman’s Theatre and Music Departments so great that even the top schools in the nation revere their work? Well, to answer such a thought provoking question, we must first dance upon their foundation; what are the basic requirements of a theatre and music major?
Furman strongly believes in a well-rounded student and firmly upholding this belief is the Theatre Department’s core curriculum. Theatre majors here at Furman, no matter what their focus is, complete classes in digital technology for the theatre, acting, stagecraft, scenic, lighting and costume design, costume crafts, directing, theatre history and a senior synthesis.
Not only do students get a taste of every aspect of theatre, they are required to get hands-on experience through what is called Theatre Practicum, a course in which students must participate in the department’s stage productions.
The Music Department has a similar way of reinforcing the truly diverse student. No matter their focus, students take four levels Basic Musicianship Theory, including written, aural, and keyboarding skills, performance studies, performance topics, music literature, music history, basic conducting, and world music all during the first half of their Furman career.
In addition to this, each major is required to attend and receive 20 recital credits per semester, and each must perform in a major ensemble each semester. Phew! Clearly, the foundations of these departments are quite rigorous and aimed to produce a well-rounded student.
Now the core curriculum is great and all, but what opportunities do they offer to their students? Everyone knows a department’s success truly lies in the student’s success and perspective.
Maranda Debusk, a Theatre Arts major, was eager to share her views about the opportunities available at Furman.
When asked what she thought of the Theatre department she replied that it is “wonderful because it is a family. We all learn together during the day, work together at rehearsals at night, and are such a tight-knit group of people that I can’t imagine my life at Furman without it. The professors all have an open door office policy, are willing to talk to students about anything, and delighted to help them achieve whatever goals the students dream up.”
She is the president of a group she hold very near and dear to her heart, Furman’s student theatre group, The Order of Furman Theatre (OFT) and a designer for the Pauper Players. Miss Debusk says OFT is great because “it gives the students a chance to try their hands at theatre.”
Each year the group puts on Back to Basics, an entirely student run 10-minute play festival, that features student directors, actors, playwrights, and production teams. She says it “gives us all a taste of making our own theatre.”
The students consistently strive to make their shows “as professional as possible by working very closely with our professors in order to ensure the highest quality of show and educational experience for everyone involved.” These shows involve less time commitment for those who have less time to commit to full main stage productions.
OFT also helps send aspiring theatre students to professional conferences such as USITT and SETC in order gain experience through the professional world.
When asked what she loved most about the opportunities available to her, she said, “I love being able to produce magic and to put it onstage for other people to see! I also love the people that I get to work with and the camaraderie between us all. They are my family, and I love spending time with them, and we love meeting new people and having other people come in and share in our fun.”
Mr. Blakely, along with being vice president of OFT, is a member of Furman’s Improv Troupe. They hold open practices for those interested in learning what improve is all about. He also holds Miss Debusk’s love for the camaraderie and family between the groups.
This feeling of passion, magic, and camaraderie is also shared among the students of the Music Department. The Music Department offers multiple performance opportunities including the Paladin Regiment, Basketball Pep Band, Percussion Ensemble, Jazz Combos and Ensemble, String Quartets, various Brass and Woodwind Quartets, Symphony Orchestra, Symphonic Band, Wind Ensemble, Men’s and Women’s Chorales, Furman Singers, Chamber Choir, Chancel Choir, Belltower Boys, Mosquitos and Honeybees, Opera Theatre, and Pauper Players.
Many students participate in the Opera Theatre. Recent productions include Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Marriage of Figaro, Lerner and Loewe’s My Fair Lady, Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi, and Mozart’s The Magic Flute.
Chase McAbee, a senior Music Ed Major, is a member of Furman Singers, Marching Band, Belltower Boys, and Pauper Players. Furman Singers is the top choir consisting of majors and non-majors alike. McAbee says he loves the “polished choir sound that few schools are able to achieve.”
The Paladin Regiment has been a crowd pleaser on campus with “epic, challenging and fun” shows. He says, “The students’ response at the games is what makes it all worthwhile.”
Past band shows he’s participated in include The British Rock Invasion (Beatles and Led Zepplin), Our Favorite Things (Thriller and Bohemian Rhapsody), GLEE (Dont Stop Believin’, Safety Dance, and Bad Romance). Be on the lookout for this year’s show: All Night Long (Jump, Forget You, and All Night Long).
Belltower Boys is an all-male accepella group that sings different kinds of music including classical and pop. His favorite moments include the end of performances when “the screams and cheers of the sorority girls” fill the room. He “loves singing forthem.”
Pauper Players is where his heart truly lies. It is a completely student run musical theatre group that puts on 3 shows a year, usually a small show in the fall, a big show in the winter, and a cabaret in the spring. Past shows include Sweeney Todd, Dreams Come True Cabaret, The Last 5 Years, A New World, and The Little Shop of Horrors.
McAbee says musical theatre is his “passion,” and he is at his “happiest on stage singing.” He has been in these ensembles since the birth of his Furman career and “it’s been the best experience of my life.”