Michael Kelleher (Class of 2021)
- Theatre & Fine Arts
- Buffalo, N.Y.
When I began my search for colleges three years ago as a junior in high school, one thing I knew was I wanted to go to a university with a strong sense of community. I was looking for an institution where I would be an individual, where I knew professors would take time out of class to help with course material and where I could live in an environment that pushed me to excel.
Within my pool of universities, I quickly found what I was looking for at Niagara University. As I now settle into my spring semester of my junior year at NU, I’ve been able to learn, experience, and accomplish so much more than I thought I’d be capable of doing in such little time.
What drew me to Niagara was the people. The students, professors, and staff are so supportive and eager to guide your academic journey to what you want it to be. The atmosphere here is something that has given me a lot of confidence in and out of the classroom. It is really comforting to be familiar with your peers and succeed in a smaller university setting, while still getting the experience of attending a larger institution because of the resources that Niagara is able to provide, not only within your field of study, but in regular student life as well.
As a junior, I’ve already started to accumulate an extensive theatrical resume, which includes a professional credit with the Niagara University Reparatory Theatre, a student-directed production, and five mainstage musical productions. This semester, I look forward to starting rehearsals for NU Theatre’s production of Pippin in which I will be playing the role of Pippin.
Getting these casting opportunities has connected me with my professors outside of the classroom, allowing me to have additional one-on-one guidance from them. I have also directed my own short play and choreographed two dance pieces through the curriculum in my major.
Through these experiences, I found out that I also have a passion for dance and American Sign Language. I’ve picked both as my minors to help solidify what direction I want to take in my field as a performer.
As a part of the performance program, students take a crew assignment every semester from which I have learned skills in wardrobe and costume maintenance, acquiring props, and working as a deck hand.
Niagara University is also a great resource for bringing outside professionals to their students to help begin the networking process. In the fall of 2018, I was chosen to sing at two vocal master classes with vocal specialists, one of whom is on the board of directors at 54 Below, a concert club in New York City where Broadway actors often perform. Just recently, Gary Flannery, one of Bob Fosse’s lead dancers, came to speak and teach dance masterclasses for theatre students, including myself.
Not only has Niagara University given me confidence and direction within my intended career, but I’ve found that the student life here on campus is what really separates this university from the rest. I’ve found a real sense of purpose within my community. Those who know me know I am one to get involved, so I quickly joined organizations as a freshman at NU. I now work for admissions as a tour guide, am the co-president of the NU Players and I served with student government as the Class of 2021 treasurer for two years. Niagara has allowed me to get out of my comfort zone and push what I thought I was capable of doing.
To drive my momentum even further, I studied abroad this past summer in London, England, taking courses on British drama and literature, William Shakespeare, and performance. Living in central London with fellow theatre students for six weeks was an experience that I learned so much from. Not only was I able to flourish on my own, but I grew as a performer.
As a part of the program, I was cast in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream as Theseus/Oberon, which we performed for audiences in London and Salcombe-Devon. We were given private master classes with professional British Shakespearean actors, tours of theatres, and talk backs after multiple performances. I saw a total of 28 shows while I studied in London and every single show proved to be a unique and thought-provoking experience. I made memories in London that I will never forget.
Here on Monteagle Ridge, Niagara has given me the resources and opportunities to write my own accomplished story and it is exciting to know that there will be more to come. As I look to the future, my goal has been aimed at honing my skills as a performer and begin auditioning for professional casting opportunities.
With the training, guidance and experiences I’ve had at Niagara, I know I am ready for the next step, even as a junior, which gives me confidence moving into my senior year to know that I will be ready for any challenges that lie ahead.