Rider Offers Rare Music Theater Program for Piano Students

Rider's Westminster College of the Arts has one of the nation's only Music Theater programs with a piano track.
Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Not many college students can say that they are one of very few people in the nation studying a particular major. Rider University students Alexander Harrington ’13 and Wendy Feaver ’13 can.

Rider is one of the only schools in the country where students currently can pursue a Bachelor of Music in Music Theater with a primary track in Piano.  

“The program is exciting because it’s virtually unique,” says Nathan Hurwitz, assistant professor of Music Theater. “Most piano students are also interested in musical direction. I work very hard to make sure they get both that and piano skills. I was a musical director for several years and I know what skills are called on and what skills are nice to have.”

Harrington and Feaver are grateful for the opportunity to pursue such a degree, and have made the most of it durng their four years at Rider.

“I was never really a performer,” said Harrington. “I don’t like the spotlight on me, and I really don’t like classical music. When I was looking for schools, the Music Theater and Piano option was a rare find for me.”

Since arriving on campus, Harrington has worked as musical director for performances of A New Brain and this year’s fall musical, Nine.

Nine is great,” he says. “It’s really made people think. It’s a good show, and the set was one of the best this school has seen.”

 With the connections he’s made since beginning college, Harrington has also had the opportunity to work on Broadway with The Addams Family and Avenue Q. He is currently a sub-player/conductor for Sistas, an off-Broadway show.

“The location of this school in respect to New York City was a huge selling point for me,” said Harrington.

After graduation in May, Harrington hopes to spend some time touring before he settles down and looks for work in his dream job as a musical director or conductor.

“Alex is really setting up a career for himself on Broadway,” says Hurwitz.

Feaver grew up doing theater and attended a musical theater conservatory after high school. She came to Rider because it is the only program that allows students to play more music theater than classical in a piano program. Since she’s been at the University, she’s been playing piano almost nonstop.

“There are days when I come in at 10:30 a.m. and I play until 10:30 p.m.,” she says. “It’s great. We do a lot of accompanying; we play for all of the music classes that we’re in.”

Harrington and Feaver take all of the same classes that Music Theater Voice majors take, but instead of singing, they play for the singers.

Feaver was the musical director for the fall production of Cole.  

“It was two hours of Cole Porter music with a bit of biographical dialogue thrown in,” said Feaver. “It’s been a good learning experience.”  

Under the direction of Trent Blanton, professor of Musical Theatre, Feaver was also given the opportunity two years ago to build her own cabaret act that she performed for the Rider community.

When she graduates in December, Feaver plans to work on campus as an accompanist before she pursues plans to travel.

“The dream is to eventually open up a theater … attached to a vegan café … attached to a bed and breakfast,” she said with a smile. “Apparently they exist in Europe.”

Both Feaver and Harrington have made connections and gained experiences that have furthered their careers in their time at Rider. The unique opportunity to pursue the Music Theater Piano Track degree has allowed them to do exactly what they’ve wanted.

“We play a lot of piano,” she said.

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Alex Harrington '13 and Wendy Feaver '13 were drawn to Rider by the Piano track for Music Theater majors.