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Faculty Spotlight: Cyndi Harrod

Cyndi Harrod came to ShufflesNYC by way of Oklahoma (and quite a few stops in between). Cyndi teaches Musical Theatre as well as Voice lessons with us. I sat down and chatted with her about her career as an actress, teacher, and mother.



Shuffles: Can you tell me a bit about your childhood and what got you into the career of musical theatre?


Cyndi: My parents were involved in the arts. They had "normal jobs" but we were always around the arts. I did a little bit of everything growing up. I started dance at 6 years old, played sports, continued dance and became a pom-pon girl in mid-high (10th grade). I did not make the squad going into high school and that changed things for me. I auditioned for our Show Choir "Act 2" and made it. Show Choirs (Glee to this generation) were/are HUGE in Oklahoma. It narrowed my focus and I knew I wanted to perform for the rest of my life. I also knew I wanted to direct. I did tell my parents I would NEVER teach (The word never will come back later...I promise). I LOVED being on the stage. I LOVED the process. Creating something was HUGE for me. I had Incredible teachers/mentors who instilled in me a work ethic and passion. I wasn't taught to take the easiest path. I was taught to take the challenging one and to learn from it. I wanted one person or the entire audience to Escape for a few hours. 


What was your first professional show?


Singing In The Rain at Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma (starring Lara Teeter). It was my first time to be cast in the ensemble for their summer season (there were five shows in the season). I learned so much, made incredible friendships and understood the true meaning of an 18 hour day! It was Incredible. 


You have lived all across this country, working off-broadway, national tours, regional theatres and community theatres, what led you to choose NYC as your home?


When I was around 7-8 years old my dramatic self began to proclaim I was "never going to live in Oklahoma!" I have no idea why I said that. Mind you, my first visit to NYC was when I was 19 years-old. So, I don't know where that came from? I was always going to live here. I moved here in '92, single. Chris and I started dating in '93 and we married in '95.  We moved to Palm Springs in '96 (had a baby boy named Dalton) then onto Nashville and then back to Oklahoma because I was pregnant again and had been diagnosed with cancer. So, much for never in Oklahoma. We had an amazing time there with Lyric Theatre and Chris started their Academy. I was a voice teacher and co-directed all the musicals with him. We really became a TEAM there. Circumstances changed and we decided to move back to NYC in 2007. I swore we would NEVER (see the pattern) raise my kids here...but we did. It was the best decision we could have made. 


What was your favorite show to work on as a performer? As a director?


There are a few favorites. I would say the most challenging and favorite was Sunset Boulevard. Norma is a complicated soul and there are so many different ways to approach her. I learned a lot about myself with that show. As a director, I would have to say Carousel. It is one of my favorite shows and I directed it about seven years ago in Oklahoma. It was just a special, special cast and crew. 


How did you become part of the Shuffles team?


Dalton was in an Off-Broadway Show with Emma Kantor and Gail Kantor told us about Shuffles. Shuffles was about to have auditions for Peter Pantomime and I took him to the audition and he was cast as Tiger. Chris and I met Gail and Buddy during the process and we realized we had so many of the same friends in the business. Mostly from our relationships living in Texas and Oklahoma. We shared about our time at the Academy in Oklahoma and she offered me a Music Theatre class and to be a Private Voice Teacher. I was thrilled and grateful! 


If you could go back 20 years, what piece of advice would you give to Cyndi?


Be Fearless! Don't limit yourself to the "idea" of what success is. I should have done more regional theatre. I had the opportunity and I was afraid to leave the city (after two tours). I should have left, I could have made relationships with those people as well.  


Where do you hope to see yourself in 10 years?


I ask this question to all my College Prep Students. I have never asked this to my middle-aged self. Teaching, Directing, Acting. Enjoying Life. I love the ability to be creative...it is a gift. My greatest gift is my family. So, all that and being near my family. 


What do you think the biggest difference is in training today to when you were a child?


Dream Big was not a term we used in my day. Every sentence for creative types ended with "yes, but what is your back-up job?' Also, I was on the end of the term Triple-Threat..now we use Quadruple Threat (Thanks to the Brits & John Doyle...and yes they are my favorites). 


What is it like having two sons currently going through the journey you went through? How important is that balance of sharing your experiences with them while also allowing them to learn what you had to to learn yourself?

 

I saved this question to answer for last. This is a hard question and an answer that could change next week. As a parent, you want to protect your kids from pain and heartache. This is a profession that no parent "hopes" their child will pursue. We knew when they were young they had an "it" factor. The boys have said they are grateful they have parents that "get it" and at the same time I know that is hard for them. I want to "fix" things that sometimes I can't fix. I just have to let them learn and make their own experience, their own journey. Chris and I never had these opportunities growing up because we didn't live in this city. It is exciting to see them grow. I have to remember sometimes to take off my teacher/director hat and put on my mom hat. Just enjoy being their mom!   


If you could drill one piece of advice into all of your students, what would it be?


Dream Big, Character, Integrity and Work Ethic are all you have starting out. The moment you think you know more than the people in the room you are in trouble...keep true friends around you to keep you grounded and living in reality. Okay, I needed a paragraph. 


What is the biggest mistake young vocalist make?


Trying to be someone else. We don't need that star, we need you. Of course, we can be inspired by people and some can even be our mentors. You bring your own style and interpretation. BE YOU. Also, not everything has to be belted! I promise! 


What tips do you have for students as they choose a song to learn as an audition piece?


Tell Me A Story! Please! It is not about the money note. Some of these vocal competition shows are great but the money note thing can be exhausting! So many singers have NO IDEA what they are singing about. Know your story. Tell your story. Also, If there is a song that works for you and you have had it awhile...don't get rid of it. If a director has never heard you sing it...show them what you've got! Show them the "old song" that you Love! I have had songs in my book for 20 years. Some of songs are from roles I am finally right for. 

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