San Diego State University College of Professional Studies and Fine Arts

Inspired by Music and Lyrics

A childhood infused with music inspires Julia Brown’s support of SDSU’s musical theatre program

Inspired by Music and Lyrics

Julia Brown with Musical Theatre MFA student Devon Hunt

February 22, 2019

By Lizbeth Persons Price

February 22, 2019

When Julia Brown was a little girl, her grandmother took her to shows at their local playhouse. Those trips introduced Julia to some of the classics of American musical theatre, and its most famous songs – Rogers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific (Some Enchanted Evening), Oklahoma (Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’), The King and I (I Whistle A Happy Tune, and Shall We Dance?), and her favorite, Irving Berlin’s Annie Get Your Gun (Anything You Can Do).

“I got the score and learned the words to every song,” she remembers of the spunky character Annie Oakley in Annie Get your Gun. “I loved to sing Anything You Can Do (I Can Do Better) and You Can’t Get a Man With a Gun.

These early outings sparked in Julia a life-long love of musicals, not only on stage but also on film, and she finds joy in sharing the art form with others.

Supporting Musical Theatre Through Scholarships

Julia’s foundational experiences with musical theatre, and appreciation for the art form, inspired her to support the SDSU Musical Theatre program by creating the Julia R. Brown Musical Theatre Endowed Scholarship. The scholarship has supported a Musical Theatre MFA student each year since 2016.

In addition, Julia has included SDSU Musical Theatre in her estate plans. Her generous endowed fund will provide support for students in the program in perpetuity.

2018 alumnus Vinh Nguyen was the recipient of the Julia Brown Endowed Scholarship for Musical Theatre while he persued his MFA at SDSU. “Due to the intensive coursework, teaching assignments, and artistic extra curricular activities, it was nearly impossible for me to sustain a job while in school,” he said. “Therefore, the scholarship was crucial in alleviating some of the tuition and other financial burdens so that I could focus on my studies.”

Present MFA student Devon Hunt agrees. “The scholarship has been an absolute godsend and part of the reason I am even able to attend SDSU,” he said. “I’ve been completely blown away by the generous support of donors like Julia – not just in the dollar amounts of the scholarships they make possible, but also in the faith they place in us to carry forward the torch of musical theatre and share its light to the next generation.”

The SDSU MFA Musical Theatre New Musical Initiative

In addition to scholarship support, Julia Brown is the 2018-2019 underwriter of the SDSU MFA Musical Theatre New Musical Initiative.

The Initiative was started to help writers develop new work through a two-year process of a reading, a workshop, and a full production. In Fall 2018 a selection committee comprised of faculty and students read over 100 new scripts/scores and chose a piece by NYC based writers Bobby Cronin and Caroline Prugh called Til Death Do Us Part. A workshop of the show will be held in Spring 2019, and a full production will be staged in Spring 2020. Through the process, theory is applied to practice – artists get to hear their work, and students get to experience first-hand just what goes into creating a new musical.

The SDSU Master of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre

The SDSU Master of Fine Arts (MFA) Degree in Musical Theatre has helped hundreds of students establish life-long careers as leaders and educators in the world of musical theatre. SDSU’s program is one of only three Musical Theatre MFA programs in the nation, and the only one with a focus on both scholarly and artistic curriculum.

For Julia, being a donor and ambassador for the arts at SDSU is a rewarding experience. “The arts enrich our lives, lift us, refresh, and inspire us…make us better,” she explains. “While my professional life is dedicated to human health, I can’t imagine life without music and dance. The arts just make the world a much better place.”

The content within this article has been edited by Lizbeth Persons.

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