At this year’s Performing Arts BC Provincial Festival, SMUS student Benji Schaan took home first place in the Intermediate Musical Theatre category and was runner-up in the Intermediate Vocal Variety category.
Benji was representing Victoria in the competition, held in Prince Rupert, after winning multiple awards in the Greater Victoria Performing Arts Festival, including the title of Musical Theatre Intermediate Solo Performer of Great Distinction. Grade 10 student Olivia Krusel, who performed with Benji in West Side Story, also took home the top prize in the Junior Vocal Variety Category in the GVPAF competition.
“I’ve always had a natural ability to sing,” says Benji. The Grade 11 student sang his first on-stage solo when he was four years old and has competed in many vocal competitions. This was his third year at the provincials, but the first time he competed in musical theatre there.
“Generally, I sing musical theatre and classical voice – I really like them both,” says Benji. “It’s a lot more fulfilling to sing classical, but musical theatre is more fun.”
For his first-place provincial finish, Benji sang “The Cuddles Mary Gave” from A Man of No Importance and “She Loves Me” from the 1963 Broadway musical of the same name. Benji says that both classical and musical styles present their own challenges in competitions.
“Musical theatre requires a lot more in terms of overall package,” he says. “But in terms of singing, classical voice is a lot harder.”
In his last year at SMUS, Benji will be busy applying to and auditioning for performing arts programmes at universities all over North America, including Juilliard and New York University. This summer, he will be enrolled in a summer vocal program at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Ohio in July.