Senior Cabaret, Senior Recital set for students pursuing performance careers


Caitlin Leiker

Senior Kai Kaufman studies one of his audition pieces in Pride Time. Every college follows a different set of guidelines for their auditions, with some setting extremely competitive standards that the students must work to meet. Kaufman believes his technique must be impeccable in order to put his best foot forward.

Vocal director Alex Underwood has created a Senior Cabaret and Senior Recital for the four students looking to pursue careers in music: seniors Tom Drabkin and Caitlin Leiker will study Musical Theatre, and seniors Alisara Arial and Kai Kaufman will continue their education in classical Vocal Performance.

The projected location for both concerts is the United Methodist Church, with the musical theatre-based cabaret taking place at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 10, and the classical-based recital at the same time on Oct. 17, the following weekend.

The performing students have been told to invite their immediate family and three to five close friends to spread out in the church space to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 transmission. The performances will also be livestreamed on the Chamber Singers Facebook page.

Underwood said that solo events are the smartest and safest choice for these times.

“It will benefit those students and provide the Music Department with some of their few performances of the semester,” Underwood said. “Since we don’t have other things to be doing, why not spend time on a project like this?”

The events were structured with the material the four students will use to audition for the colleges they apply to, and depending on the school, they may be able to trim clips from their performance to cover some of the many audition requirements.

The students have agreed that organization has been one of the most difficult elements of the college application process. Keeping track of all the dates, styles of admission and seemingly countless pre-screening videos can become overwhelming.

“One of the things, especially with colleges, is that they don’t all have the same system, so organizing it in a spreadsheet — making sure that everything is clear and laid out – is the most important thing for me,” Drabkin said

Per Underwood’s recommendation, the other three students have adopted this same system, dictating every necessary detail.

“The most challenging part is getting started,” Arial said. “The deadlines are approaching, but I am on the path to getting everything finished.”

While Arial has been been fine-tuning her skills in both performance and music theory, she has been considering something in New York or taking her education abroad.

“I’ve been looking at schools to audition for, and I might go to a school in Thailand for more opportunities and because I have family there,” Arial said.

Drabkin plans to apply to a variety of schools, mostly on the East Coast or in the broader Midwest, such as Chicago, Oklahoma and New York as well.

According to Kaufman, he has known his entire life that he wanted to perform. After his transfer to Hays High, he said the rapid progress he experienced in the past year truly solidified the decision for him.

“Throughout high school, I’ve developed a sense of what I enjoy and what suits me best,” Kaufman said. “I want to make sure my craft is refined and exceptional before I apply to any college. I have to put my best foot forward.”

Kaufman is planning on auditioning for University of Michigan, Indiana University and University of Southern California, with University of Colorado Boulder as a fallback school.

Part of the college prep process for Kaufman has been learning to cope with the fear of the unknown.

“Trying to walk blindly into a new world is terrifying,” Kaufman said. “Luckily, I have a great support system to hold my hand along the way.”

In the grand scheme of things, Underwood is always up front and realistic with the students. He said it is not a pipe dream to pursue a sustainable career in performance, but students should not  plan on being rich and famous.

In the end, he said the true mistake comes with the regret of not even trying.

“Over the course of time that I’ve been here, this particular crew of students has really excelled beyond their years,” Underwood said. “I’m not telling them that they’re going to be on Broadway or whatever in four years, or ever, frankly. But, I also have many friends who make a full living as professional musicians, and I see these students as future versions of some of those people.”

What about performance draws you to it?

“The reason I want to pursue vocal performance is because it’s what I’m really passionate about. I can’t imagine doing anything not involving music.” – senior Alisara Arial

“I divide it into two parts: there’s music, and then there’s acting. On the music side, I got started when I was in the single digits [of age], and it’s been a core part of my life ever since. As for acting, I love the feeling of getting to analyze a different person and live in their life and be someone other than myself for a little bit. It’s a great experience. The marriage between those two things is musical theatre, which I love.” – senior Tom Drabkin

“Music is the first language we all learn. I became fluent, and my life has revolved around it ever since.” – senior Kai Kaufman