Founder, Rock the Audition
New York, NY
After growing up in the musical theater world, Sheri Sanders noticed a new trend: Most shows were moving away from classical showtunes and asking vocalists to perform more pop and rock tracks at auditions.
“All my friends freaked out,” she said. “I very much heard the call, simple and clear, and I responded to it: ‘Absolutely.’
As the founder of Rock the Audition, Sanders instructs stage performers and educators how to adapt pop music for the theater. Besides offering a live “masterclass in auditioning for rock musicals,” she has also published a how-to guide (“Rock The Audition: How to Prepare for and Get Cast in Musicals”) and recently launched an online training component where she leads students through Skype workshops and one-on-one rehearsals.
“We use popular music to express ourselves, create empathy, consciousness, regard and respect for other cultures, races and sexualit[ies]; to get to heal, grow, change, gain courage; to feel playfulness and individuality,” Sanders said. “And now I get to do that in a training program for young adults.”
Sander’s students have went on to perform both on and off Broadway, as part of touring companies, and regional productions of shows like “Hamilton,” “Waitress,” “Kinky Boots,” “Rock of Ages,” “Sister Act” and more. Past pupils have also been on television shows such as “Hairspray,” “Grease,” “The Wiz,” “The Voice,” “Empire,” “The X Factor,” “American Idol” and “Glee.” But what she finds most rewarding is how cathartic the work is for her students, now more than ever.
“Young people—15, 16-year-old kids—in this super scary time are going to get to find a place to put their feelings,” she said. “Maybe in a raw rock song by Kurt Cobain, or in a disco song if they want to blow off steam, or a Foreigner song if they want to be in a silly ‘80s rock video on MTV. I mean, this is all really fun and healthy, and it just makes everyone so much cooler, doesn’t it?”