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Want to be the next Lin-Manuel Miranda? Check out UNC's newest minor.

<p>Sophomore Barbara Ramsdell writes on sheet music in Avery Residence Hall on Sunday, April 8, 2018. Photo courtesy of &nbsp;Annie Bennett.</p>
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Sophomore Barbara Ramsdell writes on sheet music in Avery Residence Hall on Sunday, April 8, 2018. Photo courtesy of  Annie Bennett.

If you’re interested in creating various sorts of musical or theatrical performance, UNC’s newest creative writing minor concentration may be for you.

Starting fall 2018, UNC’s Creative Writing Program will be partnering with the UNC Department of Music and Department of Dramatic Art to offer students a new minor concentration called Musical/Musical Theatre Writing. 

The new concentration will focus on the writing and analysis of song lyrics, the creation of musical composition, collaborative songwriting through composer and lyricist teams and playwriting with an emphasis on scripting plays with music, revues and book musicals.

To complete the new concentration, students must complete five courses from the following list, with at least three of those courses being within the creative writing program.

From the Creative Writing Program:

ENGL 306:  Playwriting or Playwriting/Libretto

ENGL 408:  Collaboration:  Composers and Lyricists

ENGL 409:  Lyrics and Lyricists

ENGL 490:  Musical Writing Part I, the Revue

ENGL 490:  Musical Writing Part II, the Book Musical

From the Department of Music: 

MUSC 166:  Introduction to Composition 

MUSC 381:  Analysis of Songcraft 

From the Department of Dramatic Art:

DRAM 231: Playwriting I

Bland Simpson, professor of English and creative writing, said that the Creative Writing Program has been offering “Playwriting or Playwriting/Libretto,” “Collaboration: Composers and Lyricists” and “Lyrics and Lyricists” intermittently beginning in 2010 to gauge whether or not students would be interested in the minor concentration.

Simpson said that student interest and reception to the classes were strong. So, with the support of Senior Associate Dean for Fine Arts and Humanities Terry Rhodes, the program decided to launch the new minor concentration this fall.

“The interest and the talent is certainly here on campus,” Simpson said. “Just after getting those things off the ground, I thought that we really should promote and offer this, not only as individual courses within creative writing, which we would certainly recognize related classes outside of our program, but that we should offer a real concentration to tie it all together.” 

Simpson said that while designing the new concentration, the program considered the interests of students who may be majoring other departments, such as music or theater. He said that the program wanted to offer courses that would interest a variety of students from all types of majors at UNC.

“I thought it wise that we not only have five related courses in writing music and tied to musical theater, but that we also reach out to music (majors) and interest composers, or offer music students who are mainly interested in composition, that we offer them a concentration in our creative minor that would potentially be appealing to them, and useful to them,” Simpson said.

Simpson also said that students with all kinds of experience are welcome within each of the classes, and students are not obliged to fulfill the concentration if they wish to take only one or a few of the courses offered within the minor concentration.

There are no prerequisites for any of the courses, including the ability to play a musical instrument. Simpson said that there will be students in the class who already have that capability, so students who do not have that skill can serve as lyricists and secondary composers in collaboration with their peers.

Jocelyn Neal, a professor within the UNC department of music, will be teaching “Analysis of Songcraft” in the fall. She said she is excited that the new concentration will span three departments and that it will be focused on collaborative peer and faculty experiences.

“I’m very excited about this opportunity for a couple of reasons,” Neal said. “We’ve always had a terrific creative writing program at UNC, and what this new minor concentration does is build on those strengths, but combines that with both the music department and the dramatic arts department. And so you have an interdisciplinary approach to something that we know our students want, and we know our students are doing anyway, and you’re bringing together faculty experts from three different departments into classes that are going to teach skills and help cultivate skills in a very exciting area. I like the fact that it’s interdisciplinary.”

Alexis Byrd, a sophomore majoring in English and completing the creative writing minor with a concentration in fiction, said she thinks the new concentration will broaden the program’s accessibility to other majors and interests.

She said that the program’s flexible pathways have allowed her to explore new avenues of creative expression that she never would have otherwise, and she anticipates that the new minor concentration will maintain that flexibility.

“I think that’s really great for students who are interested in musical writing because it provides a new opportunity for writing and it gives writers who may not have experience the chance to get experience. You don’t always know what kind of writing you’re really good at.” 

Simpson said that he would advise any students who have interests in any field of musical or theatrical performance to consider pursuing the new minor concentration. He said that the program’s customizable pathways are for students to explore their interests and to create their own creative experiences at UNC.

“Give it a whirl,” Simpson said. “If you’re interested in the creative arts and — for whatever reason — poetry writing and fiction writing is not your thing, if you’re interested more in music and theater, then there ought to be something in this concentration for you.”


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