Wednesday, July 6, 2011



It was a gorgeous, sunny Montana day as this year's students and their parents arrived at the Missoula Children's Theatre building on East Broadway.  As with any new experience, there was some nervous laughter and some anxiety, but within a few minutes the students were chatting and laughing and getting to know one another.  We celebrated the kick off to our third year with a BBQ on the MCT patio, grateful for the grilling skills and yummy treats courtesy of our #1 meal planner, John Arvish.  With students from the Northeast, Midwest and Europe, we are excited to see what the summer brings with this wonderful diversity of talent.

It is with great pleasure that we welcome Kels, Giuliana, Kable, Jewel, Shelbi, Emma, Brenna, Rylee, Kelsey, Lexi, Kasi, Rachel, Sarah, Tori, Caleb, Stormy, Micaela, Josh, Laura and Chance!  WELCOME CLASS OF 2011!!!

 (not pictured here:  Kels, Kelsey, Kari and Shelbi)

Students Stormy, Rachel (fresh off her performance as Maria Von Flytrap in MCT's production of The Frog Prince) and Rylee.  

Our core instructors are all returning this year, and you will hear more about them in upcoming posts.  Dane Madsen (acting), Traci Traasdahl (dance) and Troy Bashor (music) have returned to head up the main portion of our course instruction.  We are joined this year by Michelle Payler and Andy Pokel, who are our dorm counselors but are also instructing in dance and music, respectively.  Nancy Caron has returned as a voice teacher.  She and Andy will be providing individual voice lessons to the students each week.  Anne Bashor has returned as our accompanist.  Our home staff of Greg Boris and Michelle Nigh-Mogstad has been busy getting everything ready for this summer.  John Arvish (aforementioned purveyor of great food and good swimming holes) will head up our meals and some of our weekend entertainment.  And Maureen Roy (that’s me) will be heading up photography and oversight of this lovely blog.

Anne, Troy, and wonderful dog, Stewie...  Stewie was quite sad that he was denied for Next Step Prep because his howl did not have perfect pitch.'s a dog's life.

This is Greg's son, Graham.  Rhymes with ham (wonder why I said that?).  He was fresh off his performance as a Flytrap in MCT's production of The Frog Prince.  His mother informs me that he used this watermelon rind to go fishing in the bathtub after the BBQ.  We know this skill will serve him well when he enters the Next Step Prep Class of 2021 :)

Dance instructors Traci (right) and Michelle (left).

This summer we will welcome the talents of some fantastic guest artists as well.  We are excited to welcome back Andy and Alet Taylor, instructors during our inaugural year of Next Step Prep (2009).  Both Andy and Alet are instructors at the prestigious American Musical and Dramatic Academy in Los Angeles.  Andy is a highly skilled comedic actor and his focus with the Next Step Prep students will be on acting and comedy.  Andy played Leo Bloom in the National Tour of The Producers and performed on Broadway in Titanic and Moon Over Buffalo (with Carol Burnett).  Alet is an accomplished performer and dance instructor at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy.  Her focus will be on musical theater dance styles.

Mezzo-Soprano Lynn Helding (Guest Instructor 2010) will be returning to us this year.  She is an Associate Professor of Voice and Performance Studies at Dickinson College (Pennsylvania), a recitalist specializing in recital and chamber music of our time, a trained vocologist and singing voice specialist, and an active presenter on current topics in vocal pedagogy (for us lay folks, vocal pedagogy is the study of the art and science of voice instruction).  Lynn was fantastic last year and led the students through several exercises to help them focus on specific vocal challenges (if you recall last year, this included having students squash their face with their hands while singing “tawkey tawkey tawkey”, breathing through a straw, or standing with their entire body flat against a wall).  The students jumped right in and were amazed at the difference in their performances after making recommended adjustments!  We’re eager to see what Lynn brings to the classroom this year.

Georgia Stitt joins us this year.  Georgia is a composer and a lyricist. Her musicals currently in development include: Big Red Sun (NAMT Festival winner in 2010, Harold Arlen Award in 2005 and and written with playwright John Jiler); Hello! My Baby (a "new-fashioned musical" written with Emmy Award winner Cheri Steinkellner using the great American songbook); The Water (winner of the 2008 ANMT Search for New Voices in American Musical Theatre and written with collaborators Jeff Hylton and Tim Werenko); Sing Me a Happy Song (a musical revue); and Mosaic (commissioned for Off-Broadway in 2010 and written with Cheri Steinkellner). Georgia is married to composer Jason Robert Brown (Guest Instructor 2009, 2010).  She will be working with the students to understand the different tiers of expectations within music rehearsals.

The dynamic duo of Alex Gemignani and Erin Ortman returns for the third year and we are delighted to have such wonderful artists make this multi-year commitment to Next Step prep.  Alex has appeared on Broadway in Sweeney Todd, South Pacific, Passion, Sunday in the Park with George, and portrayed Jean Valean in the 2006 Broadway revival of Les Miserables.  Alex also performed in the NY Philharmonic's Gala honoring Sondheim's 80th birthday, singing "Something's Coming" from West Side Story. His focus with the students will be acting through song.  Erin has been a private acting instructor and is currently a faculty member of the Voice and Music Program at the prestigious CAP21 (Collaborative Arts Project) Musical Theatre Conservatory in New York City. Erin is also the in-house producer for the numerous CAP21 shows.  She will work with the students on acting techniques.

Linda Murphy returns this year as a guest dance instructor.  Linda is an adjunct professor of dance at The University of Montana. She earned a BFA in dance from Southern Methodist University, and has studied and performed in New York City and Los Angeles. She also teaches tap at On Center Performing Arts and Ballet Arts Academy in Missoula, and continues attend major tap festivals around the world.  She will be teaching tap to the students over the course of three weeks.  Linda has wonderful energy and we are excited to have her return to Next Step Prep. 

Marni Nixon joins us this year as a guest vocal instructor.  A Broadway, film, and TV veteran, Miss Nixon was just named the winner of the 2011 George Peabody Award for “Significant Contribution to American Music.” She is the singing voice of Deborah Kerr, Natalie Wood and Audrey Hepburn in the Motion Pictures and on the Soundtracks of The King and I, An Affair to Remember, West Side Story, and My Fair Lady.  She will focus on voice expression through song with our students.   

We will round out the summer with guest instructor Mary Anna Dennard, a nationally recognized college audition coach and author of I Got In – The Ultimate College Audition Guide for Acting and Musical Theatre.  Mary Anna will focus on preparing the Next Step Students for college auditions.

PHEW…we’ll end this post here.  Look this week for photos from our first week of instruction some other staff bios, and hey…while you’re at it…FRIEND US ON FACEBOOK!!!  You’ll be glad you did!


  1. Maureen,
    Thank you for the blog and the Facebook updates. My son is Kable and my wife and I check your blog and Facebook all the time for updates. We love the pictures! Thanks again!
    Anthony Barnhart

  2. You are absolutely welcome! It's been great getting to know Kable and all the students this many talented, determined young people. They are a constant inspiration! Already in a week they are better performers and are honing their craft. It never ceases to amaze me.