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Friday, June 2, 2023

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Bradley Behrmann in Perth. Bradley Behrmann in Perth.

Spotlight on Musical Theatre

An SDSU MFA student's research examined the lack of connection between contemporary musical theatre and today’s popular music.
By Jack Haworth

San Diego State University's Musical Theatre Master of Fine Arts program is one of only two programs in the nation, and the only one with a focus on scholarly and artistic curriculum.

In the spring, current MFA student Bradley Behrmann presented award-winning research at SDSU's Student Research Symposium, which explored the lack of connection between contemporary musical theatre and today’s popular music.

"Reclaiming the 'Top 40’: Broadway's Relationship with Popular Music” received the President’s Award for the Creative Arts at the Student Research Symposium. Over the summer, Behrmann presented his research to his peers at the premier conference for his industry — the Musical Theatre Educators Alliance Conference, held in Perth, Australia.

“It was very gratifying to have my research recognized in this respect,” Behrmann said. “Our MFA class works very hard performing and conducting research, and it is rewarding to have University-level recognition.”

Behrmann was given 30 minutes to present his research at the conference. One of many presentations, his research was recognized for its academic rigor. Additionally, Behrmann made a number of international connections in the musical theatre world that he said will be invaluable for future research collaborations and new opportunities.

“Like the Student Research Symposium, it felt great to be among other people doing similar research,” Behrmann said. “The conference felt like a researcher’s home.”

Trends in musical theatre on radio

Behrmann’s research was borne of a curiosity about the decline of Broadway music on the radio. While American musical theatre does not have a long history, it does have a strong and loyal following augmented by radio airplay in the years following the Great Depression.

In more recent years, airplay has declined. Behrmann’s research examined the trends related to that decline and what may need to happen to re-introduce musicals to a younger and potentially new audiences.

“It is a fantasy of mine to see what it would take for Broadway music to be on the radio,” Behrmann said. “I wanted to know what happened and if there were certain trends that took Broadway away from the charts.”

Conference coming to SDSU

The 2016 MTEA conference will be held at SDSU on Jan. 8 through 10, bringing musical theatre researchers together from all over the world to present their research.