Today, we are celebrating the remarkable Gary Kline! Gary has been teaching at Carnegie Mellon University since 1989, offering voice lessons and performance classes of all kinds in the School of Drama. He has been on the forefront of CMU’s important partnerships with national organizations including CLO, ASCAP, and Stephen Schwartz’ New Writers Workshop.
Gary has been the Artistic Director for ArtsBridge Summer Musical Theater program for the past 13 summers – almost every single year ArtsBridge Summer has been in existence! Gary has helped to guide this program through many stages and to build the curriculum that has changed students’ lives and propelled their artistic journeys. Students have come to know our ArtsBridge Summer as a one-of-a-kind opportunity to prepare for the rigorous college audition process. We are so grateful to Gary for all he has done to help make the program what it is today.
Since ArtsBridge Summer began in 2010, our student body has grown by more than 7 times! What started as a two-week musical theater program in New York City with 20 students has evolved into a collection of programs including offerings for classical singers and actors. We now operate more like a festival of arts programs on a college campus with more than 140 students.
Gary has been an anchor of our ArtsBridge Summer Musical Theater program. He worked tirelessly with our students, even coming in on weekends to review students’ songs and cuts. He was looked up to by all not just because he was a Carnegie Mellon faculty member but because of his dedication to the program and the students to bring out the very best in them. He would be so excited at the end of the day when he was able to make a student’s eyes light up as they “got” what he was teaching. From NYC to Boston Conservatory at Berklee to Sarah Lawrence College to Depaul University to University of Minnesota to Baldwin Wallace, what a blast we’ve had with this wonderful man, artist and colleague.
As Gary plans to bid farewell to Carnegie Mellon at the end of this academic year, ArtsBridge Summer must also say goodbye to him in his role as Artistic Director for our Musical Theater program. What a decade(+) it has been! We’ll announce our faculty plans for summer 2024 very soon, but first we want to take a moment to celebrate the amazing educator that is Gary Kline!
Tell us about your journey with ArtsBridge Summer! How did it begin? How has it evolved?
In 2011, I received a phone call from my wonderful colleague Ingrid Sonnichsen who taught for ArtsBridge Summer in its inaugural year – before it was called “ArtsBridge”! A musical theater faculty had dropped out of teaching for the second week, and could I jump in to help out? Yes, of course I could! This conversation was followed up with a phone call with Halley, and it was love at first chat! Our common passion for educating young artists was, and is, mutual, and exciting – and a real friendship formed over the years through this common endeavor towards excellence.
The ArtsBridge Summer “mission” has remained the same, and rather simple: To prepare young talented artists to successfully audition for a terrific college program. I happily subscribed to Halley’s mantra that “Stars” were not to teach at ArtsBridge, rather those who taught the stars should make up the faculty. Genius!
The first year I taught, there were 20 students (musical theater only) with a few living in dorms in NYC and the others commuting. Classes were held at rented studios. It was a bit rough but terribly exciting!
Now, there are 56 students in Musical Theater and many more than this in the total program. These students are hand-selected from about three hundred applicants, all of which share a dream and a talent to succeed in musical theater. The program, with Ari’s leadership, has continued to blossom and evolve into what it is today.
Any moments from your years with us that stick out as most memorable?
The housing situation when we were all housed on the Sarah Lawrence campus – colleagues like Ralph Zito, Joe Price, Cameron Knight and others were put in a college “dorm house” with amenities like no air conditioning, rubber mattresses, super thin walls, and a front door that came off its hinges. It was hilarious for all of us, and we still laugh about this living arrangement to this day. Of course Halley saw to it that this only lasted a few nights and immediately moved us to terrific off-campus housing.
But the most beautiful memories are those made in the classroom- the magical moments when students were gently guided into finding their truth and humanity that brought us all to tears. Some of those memories are magical and will remain forever.
And who can forget we survived ArtsBridge Summer online with the COVID pandemic? We did not give up when presented with this challenge, and some of our best classes came from shifting to our online program for two years.
Finally, those magical moments when we had guests like Corey Cott springing out of a door and surprising the students with “Santa Fe” while he was doing the role on Broadway; or Megan Hilty walking in at Sarah Lawrence to the students to screams of delight; or Micaela Diamond appearing on Zoom last summer to encourage and advise our students. Planning those inspiring surprises for the students was incredibly fun!
You’ve taught at many different summer programs and workshops – what makes ArtsBridge Summer unique?
ArtsBridge Summer is unique from many programs because it is a gathering of college professors and not Broadway or film professionals. This gathering of two weeks during the summer has allowed deep friendships between some of the most foremost educators in the business.
ArtsBridge Summer has changed a lot since you started with us! Any changes you’re particularly proud of?
I’m proud of the mission remaining the same from year to year while faculty and students have shifted on a yearly basis and new classes have been introduced. Working with Ari and Halley, we’ve always had a stellar group of educators that, as the Artistic Director, have unified with us to form a common bond of excellence and empowering students to audition at their very best. The success rate of our “graduates” speak volumes!
Anything else you’d like to share with the community as you bid farewell to both Carnegie Mellon and ArtsBridge Summer this year?
It’s strange, that word “retirement.” I am just shifting into a more relaxed schedule, but will always do what I love: teaching the vocal instrument, searching for great repertoire for students, and using my experience and professional connections to guide others toward a pathway to success.