Meet the 2018 faculty
Claudia Benack – Associate Teaching Professor, Voice, Carnegie Mellon University, received both her BFA and MFA degrees in Vocal Performance from CMU’s School of Music where she studied voice with Beatrice Krebs and Opera Workshop with Mildred Miller. She continued her vocal studies with Ellen Faull of the Juilliard School, the late Margaret Hoswell of the Manhattan School of Music, and Gary Race, formerly of the Cleveland Institute of Music and the University of Iowa. Benack is a member of NATS, Sigma Alpha Iota, and has served as Vice-President of the Pittsburgh Chapter of NSAL. As a performer, Benack is comfortable in a broad range of settings. In the operatic genre, she is an award-winning lyric soprano: MTNA National First place winner in Voice (1983), NSAL Regional winner and National semi-finalist (1987) and recipient of the Minna Kaufmann Ruud Fund grant. She was a leading soprano for twenty years with Pittsburgh Opera Theater, and performed frequently with Pittsburgh Opera, the Pittsburgh Symphony, the Pennsylvania Opera Workshop, and other regional opera companies. Benack also boasts an impressive array of musical theater credits. Favorite productions include BABY (Arlene), THE SOUND OF MUSC (Maria), Guys and Dolls (Sarah), OKLAHOMA! (Laurey), A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC (Charlotte), OF THEE I SING (Benson), and MY FAIR LADY (Eliza). Benack is a true advocate and promoter of healthy singing through solid vocal technique and training and continues her studies in vocal teaching by attending singing workshops throughout the country and working with numerous vocal therapists and throat doctors. She also maintains her own thriving private studio. Benack’s favorite part of her career has become watching and enjoying former and present students appear in countless national tours and regional productions. Broadway shows that presently have or have had her students as cast members include 42ND STREET, JERSEY BOYS, A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC, MARY POPPINS, WICKED, 9 TO 5, DRACULA, FLOWER DRUM SONG, RENT, THE PAJAMA GAME, GOOD VIBRATIONS, ALL SHOOK UP, THE PRODUCERS and PACIFIC OVERTURES.
Kevin Covert – Director of Musical Theatre and Assistant Professor of Theatre, Shenandoah University. As an Actor, he has been seen in the Original Broadway casts of SPAMALOT, MEMPHIS (Fred Astaire Nominee 2010), and most recently the hit revival of HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING starring Daniel Radcliffe, Darren Criss and Nick Jonas. Kevin can be heard on the Original Broadway Cast Albums of all three. He has toured the country with SOUTH PACIFIC, CATS, GRAND HOTEL, and the 50th Anniversary production of OKLAHOMA!. In addition to being a Broadway Actor, Kevin also serves as one of Tony Award Winner Christopher Gattelli’s (NEWSIES) associates, working with him on the Broadway revival of SOUTH PACIFIC as well as the World Premier of EMMET OTTER at the Goodspeed Musicals. He has directed and choreographed all across the US. Kevin has studied with Jose Quintero, Craig Carnelia and Fred Chappell. Kevin is a proud BFA Music Theatre graduate of Florida State University.
Brent Wagner – Former Musical Theatre Department Chair, University of Michigan was chair of the Department of Musical Theatre for 32 years and is credited with building the department into one of the top musical theatre programs in the world. Before joining the Michigan faculty in 1984 he taught at Syracuse University. He has directed musicals and revues throughout North America, from off-Broadway in New York to the Banff Center in Alberta, Canada. He has collaborated with Sheldon Harnick on numerous projects, including a new opera at the O’Neill Theater Center, as well as the world premiere of A WONDERFUL LIFE (music by Joe Raposo), and his recent musicalDragons, both of which were staged at the University of Michigan. Professor Wagner is currently teaching the first-year Introduction to Musical Theatre and the upper-level History of Musical Theatre courses. Professor Wagner recently held an Arthur Thurnau Professorship, an award for outstanding instruction at the undergraduate level. Among many responsibilities, Mr. Wagner also directs the senior showcase, presented annually in New York City.
Courtney Young – Professor of Musical Theatre, Ithaca Universty, Courtney Young is thrilled to be training the next generation of musical theatre professionals at Ithaca College. Because of her twenty-year performing career on Broadway, on national tours, in regional theatres, as well as in international venues, she brings fresh, current and essential information from the industry to her students. She studied drama at New York University where she received a BFA. She earned anMFA in theatre with a concentration in directing from Penn State University. Those experiences in conjunction with her current position at IC give her first-hand insight into what the top musical theatre colleges and universities want to see at auditions. As a performer Courtney appeared on Broadway in YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, THE PRODUCERS, THE FULL MONTY and LITTLE ME. She traveled the country in Cats, Fosse and JOSEPH. . . DREAMCOAT. She also danced at Radio City Music Hall asa Radio City Rockette. Her directing craft was honed alongside acclaimed directors such as Susan Stroman, Robert Long bottom, Susan Schulman, John Rando and Garry Hynes. She has worked in top regional theatres such as The Goodspeed Opera House, The Old Globe Theatre, The Papermill Playhouse, The Kennedy Center and The Apollo Theatre.She is an associate member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society.
Raymond Sage, Voice for Musical Theatre, Penn State University, received a bachelor’s degree in vocal performance from Baylor University and a master’s degree in vocal performance from the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music (CCM), followed by doctoral and post-graduate work also at CCM. Before joining the musical theatre voice faculty at Penn State, Sage was on the voice and musical theatre faculties of Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, The American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City, and New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts’ prestigious musical theatre conservatory, Collaborative Arts Project 21, Inc. (CAP 21). His students have been seen in many Broadway productions, such as GYPSY, HAIR, WEST SIDE STORY, FOLLIES, TITANIC, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, STEEL PIER, HIGH SOCIETY, CATS, SCARLET PIMPERNEL, THE LION KING, KINKY BOOTS, BEAUTIFUL, CINDERELLA and many more.
As a performer, Sage appeared in the Broadway and national touring productions of CAMELOT, BEAUTY AND TEH BEAST, and TITANIC, as well as in regional theatres across the country, such as Pennsylvania Center Stage, Paper Mill Playhouse, Sacramento Theatre Company, and Dallas Summer Musicals. In 2011, Raymond starred as Ludie in the European premiere of the Horton Foote classic TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL at the Courtyard Theatre and in 2012 at the Old Vic Tunnels as Olsen in the O’Neill Sea Plays. He has made television appearances on “Late Night with David Letterman,” “The Howie Mandel Show,” and the “Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.” Sage is currently performing on his one-man show SEEKING FLIGHT, based on the works of the great American playwright, Eugene O’Neill.
Kate Watson Gelabert, Head of BFA Music Theatre Program, Florida State University, has choreographed the majority of musicals presented in the Fallon, Lab and Studio theaters since 1981 as well as several works produced by the College of Music and the School of Dance here at FSU. Kate has worked as a guest instructor/choreographer for the Pennsylvania Centre Stage Theater, Seaside Music Theater, Florida Dance Association, The Musical Theater Project of Tampa (directed by Ann Reinking), Southern Ballet Theatre (now Orlando Ballet), Walt Disney World, the Burt Reynolds Institute for Theatre Training and the Universidad Nacional Departments of Theatre and Dance in San Jose, Costa Rica. Kate was a National Panelist for the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts (NFAA) core program, youngARTS and a founding member of the Musical Theatre Educators Alliance – International (MTEA). She has received the FSU Teaching Award and is a two time recipient of the FSU Teaching Incentive Award. Kate is also the 2008 Guardian of the Flame recipient for the College of Visual Arts, Theatre and Dance.
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