Student Profile: Matt Pedersen
A question & answer with a dual major in marketing and integrative neuroscience, and dual minor in theatre and music
By Jacqueline Eizak
Question: What made you choose Binghamton University?
Answer: If we’re going to be totally honest, Binghamton was not one of my first choice schools - one that I didn’t even visit. I applied simply because it was the best SUNY school and my mom went here. The day before I decided on where to go, I was made aware that attending a private school is not a feasible financial endeavor. With that in mind, instead of choosing to attend NYU or University of Rochester for Music or Theater, I came here and tried to pick a more “reasonable” major (don’t ever let anyone tell you that arts isn’t reasonable, by the way, because if it’s your passion than it is more “reasonable” than any other option that exists).
Q: What made you choose a dance minor?
A: Well I actually am just a general “theater” minor, because there are no specialized
minors in the theatre department. However, if we were going to designate my minor
as something, it absolutely would be dance considering I’ve taken some 40-odd credits
in dance alone.
I didn’t plan on doing anything theater related in college initially. I was under the impression that if I pushed it far enough out of my mind I wouldn’t be upset that I wasn’t doing it, and could settle on something more “reasonable”. I took one acting class freshman year and met some of the people that, to this day, are some of my best friends. They pushed me to audition for my sophomore year show, which I ended up getting into, and along with that came “well why don’t you take this jazz course with me”, which turned into “what about taking tap next semester”, which snowballed into me adding more and more theater classes. I just became so immersed in the courses and the life of theater that it didn’t make sense for me not to get a minor. In my junior year I met with the head of the department and was basically told although I don’t have the requirements, I have enough credits to essentially become a major so I should just take the extra two or three classes and tack on the minor to my degree, which is exactly what I did!
Q: How do you balance being an double major and double minor?
A: Honestly, it really is something being in the theater department teaches you to do
very well. While most believe that theater is a “fluffy” major, my theater courses
often involve more work than the rest of my course load. Each class involves reading,
rehearsals outside of the class, some meetings with professors, and so much more.
On top of that, our shows rehearse from 7-11 Monday through Friday and 8 hours on
Saturday or Sunday. All of these things are so micromanaged and scheduled into our
available time that it teaches us to really be able to track what you have to do,
when you have to do it, and be able to get things done. Thus, managing when I have
time to accomplish all of my other coursework has become exponentially easier.
Don’t get me wrong, though. There are plenty of times that I have 4 tests, 2 papers, 3 rehearsals, 2 tech rehearsals, a presentation and 8 costume shop hours that my head spins in circles and falls off. It’s not easy, but I manage to get through it.
Q: What are your goals/plans post-graduation?
A: Those are fairly up in the air. Ideally I’d love to dive headfirst into performing professionally, but as most know, this field is not an easy one to get into. I’ve been looking at different internships in the business field along the lines of Media Marketing, which is an option I’m considering. At the same time, I’m looking for auditions to attend in the city to see where they may take me. My trajectory is fairly up in the air at the moment, but I’m excited and ready to take it on nevertheless!
Q: What shows have you been in for the theatre department?
A: This December I just finished up my sixth show during my time at Binghamton. I’ve done every single musical since 2013 (Rent, A Chorus Line, Spring Awakening, and Bells are Ringing) as well as the dance shows for the last two years (Impulse, Jazz Nutcracker). It may seem like a lot, but we have some stars here that have just finished up their tenth and eleventh show, so I promise it’s not THAT impressive.
Q: How do you balance the time commitment of being in a dance show with your other school commitments?
A: Like I said before, it’s mostly about micro-managing and being really on top of your
responsibilities - knowing when you can do work, leave enough time to eat dinner,
and head off to rehearsal, with how much time before I pass out at night to handle
homework and other responsibilities. Being really diligent is key, even though there
are plenty of times I’ve thrown caution to the wind and went to bed without doing
what I should have… and boy did I suffer.
The great thing though is that although the show is PLENTY of work, it’s something I love doing so the time flies and I enjoy (almost) every minute. It’s not as though I’m adding on another science or business course. Its pure fun.
Q: What is your favorite performance you’ve been in or been to?
A: Oh lord, What a question. I’ll answer both with like little addendums because they’re very different answers.
My favorite performance that I’ve been in (here) is Rent, hands down. It was my first show here and really exposed me to what the department was and how full of life and love everyone here is. It changed my entire college experience, quite honestly and was such a great, energizing start to the rest of my time at Binghamton.
My favorite performance I’ve been in (ever) was a show called The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, a show that details a spelling competition where all the actors play fifth graders that say really vulgar, inappropriate things. It’s basically a spelling bee adapted for adults, and it’s so much fun because the show uses audience members and actually has them compete alongside the children. It involves so much improv, interaction, and craziness, and every single performance is completely different than the last. If you ever have the chance to see it anywhere, by all means go!
My favorite show that I’ve ever seen is a toss up between Book of Mormon and Kinky Boots. Both shows are so high energy that the feeling of excitement and fun is contagious. There wasn't a moment in either show that my eyes weren’t riveted unto the stage. On top of that, both shows have done such transformative things for the theater world, which is exciting to see in my lifetime.
Q: What is your favorite class you’ve taken in the theatre department?
A: And another one of these impossible questions! Each class in the department has offered me radically different learning tools and taught me different things about myself as a performer and as a person. Every dance class I’ve taken with JoEllen Kuhlman has pushed me as a dancer and has made me appreciate the art so much more. She has one of the most brilliant creative minds when it comes to choreography and I’m blessed to have been able to learn from her. Each acting class I’ve taken has given me something so different that it’s impossible to pick one: Tommy Iafrate’s courses have helped me learn all the great things my voice can do, Anne Brady’s scene study class really allowed me to trust myself in what I do and unlock the use of powerful emotions in my acting, and Tom Kremer’s Meisner class is currently teaching me the importance of nonjudgmental acting and letting go in order to have fun. Each class is its own treasure trove of wisdom that I recommend every theater performer take.
Q: What is your favorite thing about being a part of the Binghamton Theatre Department family?
A: This question is worded perfectly because I truly view everyone in this department as a family, and that is my favorite part. These are the people I go to when I’m excited, when I’m sad, when I need a hug, when I need to scream. My freshman year was a bit rough in the respect I didn’t feel settled and at home, something that is so important in a college student’s life. As soon as I put myself into the department, it was an immediate sense of warmth and belonging, and I don’t think I’m the only one that feels that way. These people are the most loving, caring, welcoming people I’ve met in my entire life, and have provided me with friends I’m going to have for the rest of my life. The best part about this family is feeling you belong, and that everyone belongs. It’s a great feeling.
Matt Pedersen is anticipating graduation in 2017.
- more coming soon!