Sheridan’s Bachelor of Music Theatre program is renowned for producing industry ready ‘triple threat’ talent – performers who are adept at singing, dancing and acting. Graduates go on to perform on stages across Canada, North America, and around the world – from Stratford to Broadway to London’s West End.
But wherever they go, they are recognized by music directors for possessing a skill that is not commonly taught with as much depth in other music theatre programs – the ability to think musically through reading, writing and performing music. “This is important,” says Greg Andrews, “because music directors want not only to teach the music quickly to performers who can read, they understand that a better educated performer is a more interesting performer.”
“By the end of first year, students are thinking musically and can read and write in simple and compound time, in major and minor keys. By the end of second year, they are ready to apply these skills in future Sheridan shows and their careers” – Greg Andrews
As Head of the Music Discipline at Sheridan, Greg has made it his mission to develop musicianship skills in his students as they prepare for their careers. His method is based on an integration of approaches that combines the Kodály concept of music education with opportunities where students demonstrate musicianship through performance. “I developed the curriculum at Sheridan based on The Kodály Method, which is a highly sequenced curriculum that I adapted to fit into the music theatre program. By the end of first year, students are thinking musically and can read and write in simple and compound time, in major and minor keys. By the end of second year, they are ready to apply these skills in future Sheridan shows and their careers.”
Since he began using this method in the early 1990s, hundreds of graduates have benefited from having this important skill. “There’s an expectation in the industry now that if you’re from Sheridan, you’re not only musical in your performance, but you can read music – and music directors love that, especially when doing brand new works,” he says.
In addition to fostering their musical knowledge and skills, Greg recognizes that his students like nothing better than performing before a live audience, and he has directed his energies to providing more opportunities for them to get on stage – over and above the annual Theatre Sheridan season. His annual spring pop tribute concert, now in its 11th year, gives students valuable experience by performing with a live band in a concert setting. It’s good preparation for graduates who go on to audition for the many popular jukebox musicals, like Mamma Mia!, Rock of Ages, Motown: The Musical and Jersey Boys.
Greg has also introduced a choral program into the degree as “another opportunity for students to apply musicianship skills through the performance of traditional choral repertoire.” While his choir class is only one semester in length, the results have been enjoyed by many in the Sheridan community through the choir’s performances at the college’s annual Remembrance Day ceremony, as well as late November choral concerts in the SCAET lobby. He also conducts and accompanies diverse groups of student performers at a variety of college events each year.
“There’s an expectation in the industry now that if you’re from Sheridan, you’re not only musical in your performance, but you can read music – and music directors love that, especially when doing brand new works” – Greg Andrews
Greg’s deep-rooted love of music was first planted in childhood and nurtured throughout his teen years. Several of Greg’s brothers are also musical so music was a big part of family life. “We always had a good stereo at home so there was always great music playing in our house. I grew up listening to everything from Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and Ella Fitzgerald, to the Beatles and The Rolling Stones,” he says. “My initial musical influence was certainly swing and big band music.”
His love for that musical era inspired him to enroll in the jazz performance program at Humber College, where he studied bass as a performance major. Now in his 26th year at Sheridan, he has also earned undergraduate and master’s degrees in music from McMaster University and the University of Toronto, respectively.
A talented musician in his own right, Greg balances his creative side and teaching responsibilities with equally consuming hobbies. A lifelong avid runner, he has completed 26 marathons and continues to plan for more. He’s also a licensed pilot, and says that his love of flying almost won out over his love of music. Luckily for Sheridan, music took precedence. But Greg has no regrets. “I’m really fortunate to work in a department where I can teach the subjects I’m passionate about, while providing performance opportunities to young students as they forge their own artistic identities.”
Pictured at top of page: Greg Andrews, Head of Music Discipline at Sheridan. Photo by Sheridan Photography Technologist Owen Colborne.
Written by: Susan Atkinson, Manager of Communications and Media Relations at Sheridan.