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,”
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.”
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
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
Once completed, she gave her work to some friends and her voice teacher, Dr. Andrea
“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
“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
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,”
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
Knoll said she has been blown away with her student’s accomplishment.
“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.