Student’s musical looks at college life

Student’s musical looks at college life

Dec. 9, 2016

When senior Lizzy Clements signed up for an Interim Term class about composing music on a computer, she couldn’t imagine the journey she was about to take.

“As a teenager, I always liked writing music and lyrics, but I wasn't talented enough with any instruments to write well,” said the Musical Theatre major from Gainesville, Georgia. “When I saw that there was a course on how to write music on the computer, I thought this was a great way to develop those skills.”

Under the instruction of Dr. Mitch Turner, Professor of Music, Lizzy learned how to use Garage Band, a line of digital audio workstations that allows users to create music or podcasts. She decided to use her new skills for her senior thesis.

“I certainly had no idea I was going to write a musical when I took that class,” she laughed.

On Saturday night, she will debut “Notes to My College Self,” a mini-musical written, composed, produced and performed by her and her cast. It will be presented at 7:30 p.m. in Price Theater. Admission is free.

The show takes place in 2043 as Kathryn writes a letter to her younger self, Kate, who attended LeChamp University, a small private college, in 2016. As Kathryn writes the letter, her college memories come to life on stage.

Lizzy said she originally wrote a completely different show.

“My initial idea was to write about a day in the life of a college student,” she said. “I found several (existing) songs that fit into the plot. But then I decided to sit on it for a while.”

Student’s musical looks at college life

She spent this past summer living at home with her parents, giving her time to revisit her idea.

“It just didn’t feel right,” she said. “So I started playing around on Garage Band again. The first song I wrote was ‘Got It Made,’ the opening song of the show. That’s when I started thinking this may turn into something.”

Soon she had two more songs – and then got stuck.

“My first goal was to write six songs, then I went to eight,” she said. “My thinking was to write about four characters and their college experiences, but I just couldn’t push past where I already was.”

Suddenly, she had an idea.

“I emailed 10 of my favorite professors and faculty members and asked them to write a letter to their college selves, what they would tell themselves from their perspectives today.”

She received six replies.

“As soon as I got those, it all came to me,” she said. “I realized this is a story that is shared by all students, no matter their ages. It gave me the confidence to finish.”

Once completed, she gave her work to some friends and her voice teacher, Dr. Andrea Mueller.

“I wanted their honest feedback before I sent it to Professor (Kim Barber) Knoll,” Lizzy said. Knoll is Director of Theatre Arts at the college.

After hearing very positive things from her friends and Mueller, she sent it to Knoll.

Student’s musical looks at college life

“Lizzy said, ‘So I’ve been writing this musical,’” Knoll said. “‘Here is the script and all the music tracks. Will you read it and listen to it and tell me what you think?’”

Knoll was impressed that she had sent her a completed work, including music and a script. She read the script first.

“I thought it was a unique idea,” she said. “Then I listened to the music. The music was really good – the songs were complete and told terrific stories.  We set up a meeting to talk about the department producing the musical as her senior thesis production, and we met with Lee Johnson and Dr. Toni Anderson to talk collaboration with music students.”

Knoll said she immediately thought of who could play Kathryn, the adult Kate.

“Kelly Finley did ‘The Laramie Project’ here several years ago, and I thought she’d be the right choice to play Kathryn,” she said.

Finley is drama director at LaGrange Academy. She also works as a professional actress, having appeared in episodes of “Drop Dead Diva” and “The Vampire Diaries.”

“Professor Knoll spoke so highly of Lizzy and her creativity and commitment (beyond her years) to this project that I knew I had to see what this show was all about,” Finley said.

The show includes seven original songs, with choreography by students Kelsey Seals and Sadie Gibson. Students of Lee Johnson, Fuller E. Callaway Professor of Music, mixed and produced the tracks for the production. Lizzy was able to procure undergraduate research funding for the project and arranged for it to be designated as a Cultural Enrichment event.

Knoll said she has been blown away with her student’s accomplishment.

Student’s musical looks at college life

“Lizzy put the show together from the ground up,” she said. “She’s been involved in every single part of this production – casting, staging, set and lighting design, costuming – everything. Lizzy knew what she wanted.”

Lizzy said the best part of the entire process is the opportunity to collaborate with faculty and fellow students.

“Working with Professor Knoll and Professor Johnson and getting their own perspectives has been wonderful,” she said. “They didn’t want to alter the script, but just wanted to make sure it was the best it could be. The actors have been the same way. It’s been an absolute joy and dream come true.”

“Notes to My College Self” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Saturday on the main stage in Price Theater. No reservations are necessary.

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