Professional Studies and Fine Arts

Professional Studies and Fine Arts

MFA Musical Theatre Students Perform at the Rady Shell

SDSU students perform at The San Diego Symphony Shell Grand Opening Gala alongside Broadway stars

MFA Musical Theatre Students Perform at the Rady Shell

MFA Musical Theatre Students

by Aleesia Benkey

September 16, 2021

It was a night of perfect harmony. On August 7, 2021, the San Diego Symphony’s Rady Shell at Jacob’s Park opened to a sold-out crowd of 3,500 and echoed with the voices of SDSU MFA Musical Theatre students performing for the gala grand opening concert.

Earlier this year, Broadway musical director Rob Fisher contacted Robert Meffe, director of the SDSU MFA Musical Theatre program, asking him to provide six singers to participate in the Opening Gala musical theatre performance by the San Diego Symphony at the Rady Shell. Meffe contacted students Victoria Matlock Fowler, Tracy Boronkay, Sarah Marie Hernandez, Chase Lowary, Clinton Sherwood, and Sheldon Gamabon, who had the opportunity to perform that night alongside Broadway stars Norm Lewis, Kelli O’Hara, Adrienne Warren, and Megan Hilty.

Sheldon Gamabon said his training and preparation at SDSU helped him feel prepared to perform among the headlining stars. “The process and approach to preparing music and connecting to our instrument under pressure was a muscle that we continued to flex throughout the school year, even though we weren’t performing live,” Gamabon said. “Without our weekly dance and voice lessons, and main stage performance opportunities throughout the year, I would not have been prepared to perform at this caliber.”

The large-scale, iconic venue on the waterfront, sometimes compared to the Sydney Opera House or the Hollywood Bowl, provided a performance opportunity like no other for the MFA students. Victoria Matlock Fowler describes the venue with admiration. “The Shell is such a stunning venue. Being right on the water, watching the boats passing by as the sun sets is really magical,” said Fowler. “The pure scale of the Shell itself is almost intimidating. It’s much larger than I anticipated somehow, and it makes the evening feel grand and special.”

Sarah Marie Hernandez described what performing at the Shell meant to her. “My biggest takeaway from such a large-scale performance at the Shell is that art has such an incredible power in creating joy,” Hernandez said. “This was my first live performance since the pandemic began, and it reinvigorated my passion for live theater, reminding me of everything I missed and love doing.”

Gamabon went on to express his gratitude for SDSU and the MFA Musical Theatre program. “A big thank you to Prof. Rob Meffe for connecting us to conductor and music director Rob Fisher,” Gamabon said. “We would not have gotten this opportunity without our connections here at SDSU and for that I am indebted to the network we are creating here at SDSU.”

Upcoming events for the SDSU School of Theatre, Television and Film include the full production of the musical Steel Pier, written by the composing team Kander & Ebb who wrote Cabaret and Chicago. Steel Pier is a delightful dance show set on the Steel Pier of the Atlantic City boardwalk in the 1920s. Tickets for all upcoming theatre events can be found on the School of Theatre, Television, and Film’s website.

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

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