When it came to choosing a school to study musical theatre this fall, Fiona McIntyre narrowed her picks to eight.
And all but one were in the United States.
This past winter, the Grade 12 Heritage Woods secondary student hopped on a plane - twice - with her mom to audition, tour the campuses, speak with faculty and review their programs.She wanted a good fit, a school that not only provided a comfortable environment thousands of kilometres away from home but also supplied a well-rounded education for her future years.
So when five out of eight schools gave her the green light, McIntyre was a little taken back. "I didn't expect to get multiple offers," she said. "I was just happy to get into one."
With letters from Oklahoma City University, Randolph Academy, Wright State University, Pace University and Montclair State University, she settled on the latter, a public institution in Montclair, New Jersey, that saw 560 candidates but accepted only 21 studentsfor its 2011 freshman year.
What sealed the deal, McIntyre said, was that, unlike at a conservatory, Montclair had a bachelor's of fine arts degree available.The $9,000-a-year academic scholarship for four years was the cherry on top, especially since it's the highest award Montclair gives to international students.
Obtaining a BFA is important to McIntyre because while performing "is what I love and this is what I'm passionate about, I'm also passionate about teaching and sharing what I've learned. The BFA will enable that... because musical theatre isn't always stable work," she said.
In fact, McIntyre is so committed to teaching that, before she was hired at Lindbjerg Academy of Performing Arts in Coquitlam this year, she was a volunteer instructor for four years at the school where she has trained since she was six.
So, when she was tapped to teach her Heritage Woods peers the steps for their spring production of All Shook Up, she was ready.Instructing fellow students "is a tough thing to do," she admitted, "because I had to balance giving them direction but being their friends after, too."
During the process, she thought of advice her mentors (Lindbjerg's Melissa Assalone and Chad Matchette, and Royal City Musical Theatre (RCMT) and Arts Club Theatre choreographer Valerie Easton) gave her when showing a routine: be professional, be inspiring and, most of all, be supportive.
The result? All Shook Up broke records for ticket sales and was deemed a success for director Shanda Walters, its cast and, of course, McIntyre.
McIntyre was on her toes for all of Grade 12, carrying a double course load and earning a honour roll entry to boot. She started in September playing Lucy in Awkward Stage Productions' 13 The Musical at the Vancouver Fringe Festival (the show won the Pick of the Fringe nod). In December, she portrayed Duffy in Gateway Theatre's Annie and, later, she appeared in a short film as the lead actor.
Last month, the Association of BC Drama Educators' recognized her achievements and awarded her with a drama scholarship. It also named McIntyre the top graduating performing arts student, top graduating vocal jazz student and outstanding guitar student.
Heavy workloads don't bog her down, she said; rather, she thrives on them.
"I don't find myself super-stressed out because I don't see it as pressure," she said. "I see it as high expectations for myself and, if I surpass them, then all the better."