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A Master Class with the Masters

ALPHA TEST. Study the art of writing for musical theatre with NMI Founding Director John Sparks.

(A survey of the writing techniques used in successful musicals from Showboat to Hamilton)

This course is designed so that writers of each of the individual crafts involved (bookwriting, composition, lyric writing) can profit whether working alone or taking the course with one or more collaborators. If yours is a single craft, i.e. book, music or lyric writing, for instance, there are assignments you can do without collaborators. If you are a hyphenate (music-lyrics, book-lyrics) or working with one or more collaborators, then you and your collaborator(s) can work together, turning in related assignments. Fees for the course are adjusted so you can enroll and receive critiques in one, two or all three of the crafts covered.

Individuals may choose to enroll in a single craft: Bookwriter, Lyricist, or Composer. Individuals and teams may enroll in two crafts: Book & Lyrics or Music & Lyrics. Only teams of 2 or more persons may enroll in all three crafts simultaneously: Book & Music & Lyrics.

Writing for the musical theatre is an art and not a science. Think of the assignments as tools to help writers more completely communicate with their audiences, based on observations over nearly one hundred years of exciting musical theatre creation in the United States. This means that for every principle discussed, one can find brilliant exceptions. The points of craft under discussion are not rules. They are, rather, observations of how it has been done by the masters past and present, with occasional critical comments investigating why it has been done this way.

The modern American musical owes a great deal to Oscar Hammerstein II. Although the styles of music have changed, and the topics of contemporary musicals often delve into areas of human psychology that would have astounded Julie Jordan (Carousel) or Mrs. Anna (The King and I), the means of communicating the plot and emotional drama of the contemporary shows rely on the same principles of craft to render the material readily accessible to the audience.

Welcome – and bonne chance, mes amis. Have at it!


Lab Fee: $295


Lyric Lab

Whether you're a veteran looking to sharpen some aspects of your craft, or whether you're new to writing lyrics for musical theatre, this course can help you focus your lyrics and give them impact and drama.

Work at your own pace -- take one month or six months; whatever works for your schedule and workload.

Learn and write at home, or wherever you have a workstation.
Twenty-one videos on topics which include: Prosody, Structure, Rhyme, Alliteration, The Verse, The Refrain, The Chorus, Spotting Songs, Progressions, the purpose of a song in musical theatre, Which Structure to Use?, Writing with Parameters, and Alternative Refrain Structure.

Also: Interactive Tests, Exercises, Assignments, One-on-One feedback with evaluator.


Lab Fee: $795


Book Lab

The Book Lab is designed as an introduction to writing the book of a musical while also outlining the collaborative steps involved in creating a new musical with the whole team. The 'book' of a musical is not just the spoken words, but encompasses the entire 'story' of the musical. The Bookwriter is officially responsible for the writing of the 'book', but the entire writing team needs to collaborate on the 'story'. A series of six lectures with accompanying handouts, tests, exercises, and assignments, this course qualifies as the Book Lab element of the Academy for New Musical Theatre's Core Curriculum. With Evaluator Elise Dewsberry.


Lab Fee: $595


Music Lab

Write and format your musical professionally. Videos, tests, exercises and interactive assignments on the craft of composing for musical theatre, from Columbia College professor Philip Seward.

Topics include:

Setting a lyric; Creating a Piano Arrangement; Finding a rhythm in a lyric and using it to develop a melody; Creating a lead sheet (chord symbols and melody); Working with a hook; Key signatures & accidentals; Driving melodically toward the climax of the song; Supporting the melody with a piano accompaniment; When to modulate; Composing Incidental Music; Composing for the music theatre voice (head voice, chest voice, belt, legit, timbre); Formatting a Score (Dynamics, Expressive Markings, Pedaling, Rehearsal Marks, etc.); Vamps; safeties; jump cue; out on; Formatting voice parts; Swing notation; Integrating Script and Score.

NOTE: The Music Lab is designed to address the specifics of composition for the musical theatre and is not intended to be a basic course in general music composition. A successful student will begin the lab with a basic knowledge of music theory including an understanding of common tonal progressions. A music notation software will be necessary to complete and submit assignments. The best options for notation software are Finale or Sibelius, though other programs may be used as well.


Lab Fee: $795


Outlining Lab

In this practical lab, you will be led through six steps toward developing an outline for a new musical from concept through to a working outline, with detailed constructive feedback along the way from your evaluator. By the end of this ten-unit course, you should have a well-developed and detailed outline that will solidly prepare you for the collaborative task of writing your new musical.Don't start writing until your outline is rock solid!
With Evaluator Elise Dewsberry.


Lab Fee: $595


Advanced Lyric Lab

The Advanced Lyric Lab is for graduates of the Lyric Lab, and covers additional topics such as Character Through Diction, Linear Prosody, Conversational Prosody, Additional Progressions, Metaphor, Simile, List Songs and Twist Songs.


Lab Fee: $795


Musical Theatre Song Lab

The Musical Theatre Song Lab provides an opportunity to create iconic musical theatre songs and receive critical feedback - even if you don't have a collaborator. If you are a lyricist or a composer without a collaborator, you can get some practice with these song types by using our library of lyrics and music. The course contains six units: The Ballad, The Comedy Song, The Conflict Duet, The Ensemble, The Musical Scene, and the Disappointment Song. Each unit includes a definition of the type of song; a play to read; and an assignment to write a song based on the play. Your completed songs will be critiqued by WMT Staff. (If you are taking the lab as a lyricist/composer, or as a song-writing team, and wish to get feedback on both music and lyrics, the fee would be $595.)


Lab Fee: $395