Bright lights, big city: UW‑Green Bay’s Schommer gets to train with Broadway’s stars

Nicholas Schommer in the Weidner Center

Out of the thousands of people who applied, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay senior Nick Schommer was one of only 60 aspiring actors to be selected to a prestigious opportunity — the Open Jar Institute summer session, in New York, July 31-August 6.

The Open Jar is a program which provides aspiring actors with intensive, one-on-one training from some of Broadway’s biggest stars, directors, choreographers and more. During the day, Schommer will attend intensive master classes and workshops with Broadway professionals, while in the evening, he will be able to meet the cast members and attend the hottest new Broadway shows.

This isn’t the first big-stage opportunity that has come Schommer’s way — in fact, earlier this summer he auditioned for NBC’s popular TV show, “The Voice.” He didn’t get a call for a shot on the show. Instead, he quickly turned his attention to preparing for The Open Jar.

Although the seasoned college actor and musician has been training since the eighth grade, he was astonished to learn of the exclusivity of this particular opportunity.

“Every year, hundreds of thousands of students in theatre apply one way or another,” he says. “They only accept 60 students from all over the world. The fact that I was one of those 60 still surprises me.”

A native of Jackson, Wisconsin, Schommer expects to graduate in May of 2017, with a double major in Music and Arts Management. He is currently a marketing assistant intern for UW-Green Bay’s Weidner Center for the Performing Arts, where he helps with ad plans, media buys, promotions and more.

His road to the Open Jar actually began in January of 2016, when he attended the American College Theatre Festival (ACTF) in Milwaukee where he was nominated for the ACTF’s Irene Ryan Scholarship auditions and he applied to be in a new competition called the Musical Theatre Intensive.

Prior to auditioning for the Musical Theatre Intensive, participants were asked to sign up for the Open Jar Institute; thus, if organizers see tremendous potential in the participants, they recommend them for the Institute. Although he didn’t win the competition, just a few weeks later he received an incredible consolation prize — an e-mail inviting him to this year’s summer session.

Though Schommer got his start in a middle school production of The Hobbit, he later decided that music would be his college focus, and theatre would be something he did on the side. However, getting accepted into this Institute has given him a “new-found appreciation and passion for acting.”

In preparation for the program, Schommer has had to prepare two musical theatre pieces, get headshots taken, make a resume and business cards, and prepare himself for anything else they may throw at him during his week in the Big Apple.

Before summer’s end, Schommer plans to complete a musical he has been working on, while preparing for UW‑Green Bay’s upcoming production auditions. He also has a few compositions and arrangements he would like to bring to the public and will be performing a full senior recital in spring of 2017.

Whatever happens, Schommer knows that “being able to say that I attended a program like this at such a young age gives me an edge for future auditions and opportunities I may not have otherwise been a part of. This is sure to open up lots of different avenues once I graduate.” While he may not even end up pursuing acting, this once in a lifetime opportunity will undoubtedly have a huge impact on the rest of his life.

Photos by Dan Moore, story by intern Kelsie Vieaux, UW‑Green Bay Office of Marketing and University Communication

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