Monday, April 14, 2014

Student has Masterclass with Broadway Star

by Becky St. Clair

Earlier this year, Afia Asamoah, junior music and political science major and honors student, sent an audition recording to Southwest Michigan College, hoping to be accepted into an upcoming masterclass with Jason Robert Brown.

“I have been a huge fan of Jason Robert Brown since high school,” says Asamoah, “and my favorite of his musicals is ‘The Last Five Years’ and I love his ‘Songs for a New World’ song cycle.”

Brown, a prolific musical theater composer, lyricist and playwright, has won several awards and had his work produced hundreds of times around the world.

When Asamoah received word that she had been accepted and would be participating in the masterclass with Brown, she was thrilled.

“I literally screamed into a pillow and danced around my room,” she admits. “I was so excited and honored to be given the opportunity to perform for and learn from someone I admire.”

For a voice masterclass such as this one, Asamoah would stand on stage, introduce herself and the song she would be singing, and then perform. Following the performance, the expert critiques the singer.

“Basically they take apart the song to improve your overall performance,” she says. “The purpose is to help the student grow in their performance style and have the opportunity to perform in front of peers and experts.”

On March 20, Asamoah sang for a crowd of about 200 people while Brown stood in the back and observed. She chose to perform “Gimme Gimme” from Thoroughly Modern Millie by Jeanine Tesori.

When she finished the song, Brown came up on stage and, asking the accompanist to step aside, started playing, transposing the song into various different keys to play with Asamoah’s sound.

“He refined my performance in a few notable ways,” she says. “First, he helped me to internalize my character and properly convey the feeling and emotions. Secondly, he got me to open up my voice more in the ‘belter’ range which was a fun learning experience.”

Asamoah said Brown paid her many compliments, but “fantastic” and “gorgeous instrument” were some that stuck out the most, and were part of what made the whole experience unforgettable.

“I’m grateful to have talented, learned professors who are still compassionate and humble enough to work with me on an individual level and encourage me to succeed,” she says.

Though she doesn’t know for sure what she wants to do with her life, Asamoah has many high hopes for her future.

“I have many dreams,” she says, “but I just put everything in God’s hands and trust Him to work out everything for the best.”

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