Four lucky Point Park University students got the opportunity of a lifetime when they performed a workshop audition for Marvin Hamlisch.
On Monday, Mr. Hamlisch conducted "The Art of the Audition" for 175 students, board members, professors and university president Paul Hennigan at the George Rowland White Performance Studio at the campus' Dance Complex, Downtown. The workshop was closed to the public.
He dispensed career advice.
"I believe everyone gets one big break in life. It's the decision that you make when it comes your way, because it's probably never coming again."
Then he told a story about getting a phone call to play piano at a party, and even though it wasn't his norm, he accepted when he learned it was for film producer Sam Spiegel. That gig led to his first film score for "The Swimmer." The rest is history.
He's one of only two people to have won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony and Pulitzer Prize. The other is Richard Rodgers. As Point Park University's 2011 Distinguished Master Artist in Residence, he will provide two more workshops this season and is visiting rehearsals for "A Chorus Line," which opens Friday at the Playhouse.
Students Leah Fox, Jaron Frand, Connor Russell and Elissa DeMaria performed two songs in differing styles and were given feedback from Mr. Hamlisch. They were sent out to work on their performance strategy and returned to perform.
He noted the difficulty of the audition process.
"In your lifetime, to get 90 seconds of autonomy is unheard of, so make the best of it," he said, and cautioned his young charges: "If you think you can fool professionals that you are great when you're not, think again."
He reminded the students that Broadway casting directors work on six or seven shows at a time, so "even though you may cast for the one you came for, you may be contacted for something else."
Some students followed his advice to the letter with great success while others did otherwise -- without much success. That was also a lesson learned as he explained that songs have to "fit" the performer.
Mr. Hamlisch offered some interesting insight into his own journey as well.
"I only spent six hours in an orchestra pit in my life -- I hated it."
He suggested students spend a season doing summer stock theater to "learn if you can really live this life."
Correction/Clarification: (Published October 20, 2011) Jaron Frand, a student at Point Park University, performed in a workshop for Marvin Hamlisch. His first name was misspelled in a story Wednesday.
Rosa Colucci: 412-263-1661 or firstname.lastname@example.org .