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CLCS Commissions Work For Spring Musical

Members of the Chautauqua Lake Board of Education, Ben Spitzer, district superintendent, Jennifer Davis, Chautauqua Lake Central School musical director, and students are pictured after the board approved commissioning a new musical rather than licensing an existing musical. Submitted photo

MAYVILLE — The Music Department at Chautauqua Lake Secondary School is trying something new this year.

Instead of repeating one of the standard shows performed frequently over the years, the department has commissioned a new work which will receive its debut this spring on the Chautauqua Lake Central School stage.

The idea started in the early spring when musical director Jennifer Davis had the opportunity to meet Brian Usifer, a State University at Fredonia graduate. Usifer, the music director of Disney’s Frozen on Broadway, was visiting SUNY Fredonia as guest conductor of the Fredonia Wind Ensemble. Davis and Usifer discussed their shared passion for musical theatre and music education, which led to the idea of sponsoring a new musical that would not only support a contemporary composer, but provide a once in a lifetime educational experience for students. Usifer introduced Davis to Adam Wachter.

Wachter is a composer, lyricist, and music director. He is featured as music director on six episodes of the forthcoming 2019 Disney+ series “Encore!”, produced and hosted by Kristen Bell. He is the recipient of the 2018 Stiles and Drewe Prize for songwriting, and his original musical “Tarrytown” won the 2017 San Diego Critics’ Circle Award for Best New Musical. His Broadway keyboard credits include “War Paint,” “Allegiance,” “Finding Neverland,” “Peter Pan,” and The Addams Family. Wachter received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan and a master’s degree from Goldsmiths, University of London, and is on the faculty of Point Park University’s musical theatre department in Pittsburgh. For more information, visit adamwachter.com.

After discussing the project with Wachter,

Members of the Chautauqua Lake Central School Musical Core Team meet via Facetime with Adam Wachter, a composer, lyricist and music director who is writing the school’s next musical. Submitted photo

Davis presented her idea to Ben Spitzer, district superintendent, and the project was taken before the CLCS Board of Education. Members were enthusiastic about the new learning experience for students.

Davis said she is excited that students are part of the creative process from page to stage. She has been meeting regularly with the “Musical Core Team,” a group of students who first met over the summer to brainstorm possible story ideas Wachter might choose to use. The team is working to promote the show, identify and head off any obstacles that arise, and add their voice to the show’s creation. The group has FaceTimed with Wachter once already and the next video chat will be with the full cast.

The characters and synopsis have been developed and audition videos and forms were uploaded online through Google Classroom so Wachter could assist in the casting. A working draft of the musical is expected at the beginning of January and Wachter is scheduled to visit the school shortly after to rehearse with the students and to share insight into his work and creative process.

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