Four Minutes, Four Questions: Kailey Miller Erwin

Four Minutes, Four Questions: Kailey Miller Erwin

BECCA MARTIN-BROWN
bmartin@nwadg.com

Fans of Arkansas Public Theatre at the Victory in Rogers have been watching Kailey Miller Erwin on its stage since 2016, when she appeared in the chorus of “Mary Poppins.” She’s been in six shows since then, including “Annie,” during which she stepped in to play Miss Hannigan when another actress had to miss several performances.

It wasn’t until the recent “Something Rotten,” though, that audiences saw Erwin’s true passion.

“Thankfully, I was given the opportunity to play rehearsal piano and lead some vocal rehearsals, and conducted the orchestra,” she explains. “It was one of the highlights of my musical theater experience so far, and I am thrilled to be conducting ‘Disaster’ this summer at APT.”

Until then, Erwin is a little busy. She’s about to debut an original opera, which she wrote as her master’s thesis, and she and husband Alex have started their own project. Here, Erwin answers four questions for What’s Up!

Kailey Miller Erwin’s original opera, “the game,” is based on a novel of the same title by Terry Schott. His story is described this way: On Tygon, virtual reality technology is used for both learning and entertainment. Children enter the Game, competing while millions of fans watch. The Game has only one rule. Contestants have no idea that they are playing. (Courtesy Photo/Alex Erwin)

Q. Tell me all about you.

A. I am from right here in Fayetteville. My parents actually met in fourth grade at Root Elementary, the same elementary school I ended up going to, which I think is pretty adorable. My parents both went to the UA, so I always wanted to go there. … I dreamed of being in the Razorback Marching Band, so I got to do that for three years as an undergraduate student and participated in choir and concert bands as well. I finished my undergraduate degree — a Bachelor’s of Music — in December of 2015, with emphases in vocal music education, music theory and music composition. Then, I worked in public schools full time one year, then as a long-term sub for a year or so after that before fully committing to my business. I now have around 50 students, and I teach piano, ukulele, guitar and some voice lessons.

Q. Did music come first for you or acting? What was the moment you knew this was what you wanted to do with your life?

A. Music came first. I started playing piano when I was 5, so I learned to read music at the same time I learned to read books. I also loved acting in church musicals and plays growing up, and I was in the thespian group at Fayetteville High School for several years. I started exploring community theater after I graduated from the UA in 2015, and I’ve been hooked ever since.

Q. Tell me all about the opera.

A. My opera “the game” is based off of a novel of the same title by Terry Schott. I downloaded and read this book on a flight back in 2014, and I absolutely loved the story. I had been interested in writing an opera for some time, as I was involved in the opera program at the UA as a mezzo-soprano, and I thought this story had the potential to turn into a new, interesting opera. I reached out to the author, and he gave his permission for me to use the book as the basis for my opera. I was anxious to start writing the music as I had some ideas floating around in my head, so I wrote most of the prologue — the first 10 minutes — when I was in my undergrad. … As far as the composing process, I am a pencil and staff paper kind of composer. I sit down at my piano and explore ideas and write down what I think sounds good and fits the moment.

Q. How do you hope your master’s degree affects your career trajectory?

A. I actually applied to CalArts with the hope of pursuing my doctorate of music in their performer/composer program, which is a truly unique program in which composers can collaborate with other musical and artistic fields. However, this was kind of put on hold, and the opera performance has been slightly shortened because I found out I’m pregnant! We are very excited, and the opera will be the baby’s second show to help me conduct, so I think it’s safe to say that this baby will be involved in music throughout its life!

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FAQ

‘the game’

WHEN — 3:30 p.m. April 2

WHERE — Stella Boyle Smith Concert Hall in the Fine Arts Center on the University of Arkansas campus

COST — Free

INFO — If you are unable to attend in person, there will also be a link online. You can search on YouTube for Uark music or go online to music.uark.edu

Categories: Theater