Two-time Grammy-nominee to direct Biola musical

Amick Byram, a two-time Grammy-nominee will be guest directing “Into the Woods,” next semester’s Biola musical.

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Mike Villa

Amick Byram, guest director, held auditions for the Biola Conservatory’s production of “Into the Woods.” Byram is a two-time, Grammy-nominated vocalist, and has sung in several films including “Shrek” and “The Lion King.”

Sheena Boyd, Writer

Amick Byram, “The Prince of Egypt’s” lead vocalist, will call the curtain at the Biola Conservatory of Music’s production of “Into the Woods.”

About 80 students auditioned last week for the show directed by Byram, which will debut Feb. 11, 2011. Byram sang the voice of Moses in the 1998 Dreamworks animated film, “The Prince of Egypt.”

Freshman Erica Martinez said she tried out for the musical on a whim after a friend with musical interests suggested it to her.

“How can I find out unless I try,” she said.

Martinez said she did not know who Byram was before she auditioned, but she was glad the information came after the fact.

“Knowing who he was would not have helped my nerves,” Martinez said.

Byram will give students real-world experience

Jeanne Robison, coordinator of vocal studies and director of Opera Theatre at Biola, usually directs the spring music production, but stepped back from directing this year. Originally hired 15 years ago to start an opera program at Biola, Robison said she believes the students have the talent to do a musical this year and decided to bring in Byram for the expertise.

“A professional outside of the academic environment is real important for students to have,” she said. “It will make them richer when they leave here.”

Musical draws student interest

Students at Biola’s Conservatory of Music influenced Robison’s decision, voting not for an opera, but a musical. The chosen musical, “Into the Woods,” is a combination of classic fairy tales like “Cinderella” and “Little Red Riding Hood,” and ultimately teaches moral lessons about family, community and the fight to unite against evil.
Only 25 out of the 80 students who auditioned were music majors.

“I gave it everything I got,” said freshman Lisa Itani, a communication disorders major. “I’m hoping for the best and am excited to see the results.”

More students have showed interest in being a part of this year’s musical than last year’s opera production, according to Robison. The talent that the singers and actors possess this year is phenomenal, Robison said.

Byram brings a background of diverse experiences

Byram will add to that talent. Two-time Grammy nominee, Byram has sung in a plethora of animated films including “The Lion King” and “Shrek.” He starred in many professional stage productions including “Phantom of the Opera” and “Les Miserables.”

Byram made guest appearances on television series such as “Fraser,” “Friends,” “Saved by the Bell” and “Superior Court.” He produced “Radio Gals” in New York, and he directed five musicals, one of them being “Ben Hur,” an $8 million stage production in Orlando, Fla. Byram has also been teaching part time for five years at Vanguard University.

Byram excited to be at Biola

According to Robison, Byram has showed interest in teaching at Biola for some time now, even though Biola does not have a musical theatre department.

Byram said participating in the direction of “Into the Woods” has been a lot of fun so far.

“Biola is so full of talent,” Byram said. “This musical is great for the university. There are lots of lessons for everyone in it, believers and non-believers.”

In dealing with the professional world, Byram said the hassles of being a Christian in the spotlight can be difficult.

“In any business you work in, there are always difficulties walking with the Lord,” Byram said. “However, being in a business that focuses on self-glorification has its own particular struggles as well.”

Byram said he is grateful to be a part of Biola’s new musical endeavor and hopes the audience will be entertained and moved by the themes and the journeys of the characters.
“It’s like the characters stepped out of a fairy tale book, but their journeys are based on the reality of life,” he said.

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