Lifting the Curtain | A Look into the Lives of Conservatory Students


The Conservatory is one of the more mysterious parts of Webster. Often, students hold misconceptions about what life is like being a part of the Conservatory. Despite the differences, they are all just students trying to earn a degree, with late nights followed by early mornings, classes filled with the same people everyday and lots and lots of work.

While all Webster students are hardworking, students in the Conservatory face a different type of hard work. Dramaturgy major Katey Blauvelt tries to balance her schedule between school, theatre and life just like regular students.

“Some semesters it’s a balance between theatre and your general eds, but every major is slightly different as well. It’s a full commitment,” Blauvelt says.

Not only are they balancing both Conservatory and academic work, they have tech weeks, which add on extra required hours for shows they are involved in. Tech weeks include “10 out of 12s” which are 12-hour shifts with a two-hour break in-between. Jamie Morris, a freshman concert lighting major, knows the struggles of working long hours during tech weeks.

“We normally have two tech weeks every month,” Morris said. “Normally it’s 7 to 11 every night. On Saturdays and Sundays, we have 10 out of 12s where you show up at 9 a.m. and work until midnight.”

Even when they are not on tech weeks, Conservatory students have long hours to add to their stress levels.

“Some nights we go until 2 or 3 a.m., and then you have 8 a.m.’s the next day,” Morris said. “There are nights where you don’t get a dinner break.”

These long hours are filled with building and perfecting shows. The directors, actors and crew want the show to be the highest quality it can be. Like most things, it takes time to reach that point. The Conservatory does their best to schedule practices and performances with the limited amount of time students have due to classes and assignments.

Jack Theiling, a freshman musical theatre major, knows that despite the hard work, his passion for performance makes it worthwhile.

“It’s hard, but you know you love what you’re doing, so that makes it worth it,” Theiling says.

The Conservatory teaches students more than just how to work in theatre — they gain life skills just like students in non-Conservatory majors. While advertising and marketing majors learn the proper way to market to a target audience, Conservatory kids learn to be the best performer they can be.

“Part of the real-world is balancing your art and real life responsibilities, and you definitely get a taste of that here,” Theiling says. “What you learn here is very applicable to the outside world.”

While prestigious conservatories all require a lot of work and dedication, Webster has a few things that make its program stand out. The head of the Musical Theatre program, Lara Teeter, remembers the moment when he knew Webster was special.

Teeter looked into Webster’s history, finding exactly what makes Webster unique, starting at the beginning with the Sisters of Loretto.

“Those rebellious nuns took Webster College, which was an all-girls, Catholic college, and said ‘we need to teach all genders, all religions and we need to have a repertory theatre company,”’ Teeter says.

According to Teeter, the Sisters of Loretto set an example through their dedication, and those principles are still followed today in the school.

“The students come first,” Teeter says. “You look at Peter Sargent, our dean here, and he knows every [Conservatory] student’s name.”

It seems there would be more competition in the Conservatory. Usually, 600 people apply every year and only about 30 kids are accepted. Those 30 kids are all extremely talented and hardworking. Additionally, when deciding who to accept, the staff looks at who the student is as a person.

“One of the biggest differences from other conservatories is that there is no toxic energy among the faculty. If we smell it in the students, we call it out,” Teeter says.

The Conservatory’s atmosphere is positive overall because they are particular in who they chose. While many would think the constant competition for roles and future jobs causes tension between students, Conservatory members say tension amounts stay surprisingly low.

“I love that it is such an open, collaborative and creative place in so many different ways,” Theiling says. “Not everyone here is moving towards the same goal. Everyone has their own path, and Webster and the Conservatory are very supportive.”

While it is generally a positive and supportive environment, there can be personal issues. Surprise! Not everyone loves everyone else. However, students learn to overcome issues even if they don’t get along with everyone they’re working with in a show.

“Name a field where there isn’t drama,” Theiling said. “But regardless of what happens outside, people can really put it aside and work together to create great stuff. Every day is a chance to get better at working with and listening to others.”

Not only do the students commit fully to learning, but the teachers must too.

“When I put the key in the door everyday, my hope is that I will rise to the same kind of commitment and stamina that my students have,” Teeter says. “It is because of their commitment I have to be committed.”

Students learn a lot from teachers, but they also gain skills from real world experiences outside of Webster. One of the first weeks of college, Morris was able to experience that.

“I was only here for two or three weeks, and they were like, ‘oh, they need extra stage hands to help out with the Beyoncé concert, you can go to it.’ I got to work backstage,” Morris says.

Morris gained skills from helping backstage at a concert, where it is fast-paced and very different from theatrical shows put on by the Conservatory and The Repertory Theatre.

As most people know, going out in the real-world is not unusual at Webster. Instead of interning at a marketing agency, Conservatory students work lights for shows. Because of the difference in activities between the two groups of students, there is often a disconnect between them.

“The one place where I do see a divide is between Conservatory and non-Conservatory students,” Theiling says. “The biggest obstacle is time. There just aren’t a lot of opportunities to get to know each other. Honestly, I wish I had more time to have class with people in other majors.”

While their future may be very different from an economics major’s future, Theiling suggests not letting that get in the way of possible friendships.

“The biggest difference [between Conservatory and non-Conservatory students] is perspective and time, but [the divide] is nothing too big you couldn’t change if you didn’t want to,” Theiling says. “So get to know a Conservatory member. To my Conservatory people, get to know people outside the Conservatory because there are awesome people everywhere.”

Story by Natalie Wagner

Photo by Katie Dineen

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