Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Spotlight Feature: Once Actor Shares Lessons in Vocal Auditions For Students in Broadway 101 Master Class

Donna Garner, a member of the national touring cast of Once,
coaches local students on vocal audition techniques during
a Broadway 101 Master Class on October 29, 2014, in
Pat Halloran's Broadway Club at the Orpheum.
Donna Garner gives Rachel Thomas tips on her audition song.
It takes a lot of guts to perform in front of your friends, but imagine singing in front of a professional musical theatre actor – as a high school student. The talented students in our Broadway 101 Master Class Series did just that on Wednesday, October 29, as ONCE co-star Donna Garner taught them about vocal auditions.

Garner plays Baru┼íka, a Czech immigrant and “Girl’s” mother, in the enchanting musical that played at the Orpheum October 28 through November 2. Garner has appeared in productions throughout the U.S. and Canada, including Buddy Holly, Cabaret and The Full Monty, and was trained classically as an opera singer and musical theatre actress.

Years of performing and teaching vocal lessons makes Garner the perfect coach for our aspiring stars. Among her advice: exude confidence and excitement the minute you step on stage, and pour as much emotion and subtext into your performance as possible.

“You have to use everything you have to sing the message,” she told her students.

Rachel Thomas was one of the students who sang for Garner, and the Tipton-Rosemark Academy senior appreciated that Garner pushed them out of their comfort zones, especially in front of their peers.

“You have professionals, who have such a passion for what they do, helping you and helping you become better,” she said of the Master Class Series.

Overton High School senior Robert Dockery was also impressed with Garner’s workshop. “She was connecting with each of us, like we were members of Broadway, not just kids,” he said.

Master classes are held before select Broadway shows and include dinner and a ticket to the show for participating students in grades 7-12. As Magnolia Heights junior Emily Cockrell points out, many teenagers can only perform in their schools or local community theaters, the Master Classes help to provide a broader range of theatrical experiences.

The Orpheum’s education programs give them the chance to learn on a larger, professional scale – not to mention getting to perform on our historic Orpheum stage. Participating in Broadway 101 and summer camps over the last year “made my dreams bigger,” Cockrell said.

The next Broadway 101 Master Classes are scheduled for February 12 and February 19, when cast members from Disney’s The Lion King will take their turns as coaches. For more information about the series, call 529-4242 or email

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