Broadway star Brandon Victor Dixon connects with students during YoungArts Master Class
YoungArts Miami, one of three regional programs — the other two are held in New York and Los Angeles — brings together the most promising artists from each region to connect, learn and collaborate.
During the intensive, week-long program, artists across 10 disciplines participate in master classes and workshops with internationally recognized leaders in their field. As part of YoungArts Miami, alumnus Brandon Victor Dixon, Grammy- and Tony-nominated performer was called on to teach a Master Class to a collection of the country’s most talented and promising high school students.
Best known for roles as Burr in Hamilton and as the adult Simba in Lion King, Dixon was in top form as he doled out advice and critiqued performances by the attending teens. To get the students warmed up, he began by having them walk the grid around the room in an exercise encouraging the teens to reach deep, get in touch with their feelings and identify their place of anger. He then asked for volunteers to approach the middle of the room for individual performances; hands slowly went up.
The morning was kicked off by a singer accompanied by a guitarist, a vocal soloist with piano accompaniment, a dance performance – which began as a solo piece and after Dixon’s input became a duo – and, finally, a guitar soloist performing an original song.
During each performance, Dixon broke in and gave suggestions on how to improve each particular piece. He instructed the performers on gestures and emotional expressions while performing to help them truly connect with the audience.
Addressing the students, Dixon said “I think a great deal about energy and using that to communicate my message. Feed off the energy that you’re receiving from the audience.” He said he views his performances, “as sharing a journey I’m going on with everyone who’s watching. We need to create art to bridge that language gap and communicate what’s difficult.”
Dixon also recalled how YoungArts opened the door for his career and helped him to realize he could create art nationally, eventually leading to a scholarship to Oxford. This was after he performed theater in middle and high school, training with a voice teacher and taking acting classes. “My acting ability helps me tell my story as a dancer and my ability to communicate a story has been one of my most important tools,” he said.
He went on to encourage the students and help them to understand that they still have time to make mistakes and change the course of their chosen art form. “Don’t think you’re late,” Dixon said, “know there’s time enough.”
After his role in Rent, he explained, he began to realize that his performance and how he approaches a role can really make a difference. Later, working with a young cast in London, he learned the importance of telling a great story.
Currently, Dixon is “forced to make tough choices” when considering roles in movies and television, being on Broadway, and developing his musical career. He told the students it was like a “juggling act,” sometimes having to turn down projects due to timing of commitments.
Dixon shared the importance of staying present and engaging with his fellow actors while figuring out how to transform himself into his characters as vital to any performance. He also gave credit to working with Michael Benjamin Washington as “deeply impactful and changed (his) position in the world.”
Along with the insight, he had fun reliving memories of his own experience as a young performer, selected to participate in YoungArts in 1999. He told Artburst the students, “remind me of me and my friends and how I still interact with those friends to this day and the bond we have.”
A majority of the students in attendance expressed being there as an opportunity to help them grow in their craft. With most of the young artists attending performing art schools in Miami, Texas and North Carolina, they also recognized the importance of collaborations and enjoyed the eclectic group of artists represented. Dixon was impressed by the students’ desire to create work of meaning and collaborate and told Artburst, “I’m so glad I got to carve out a couple of days to come here.”
Next up for Dixon, a role in the anthology series Modern Love coming to Amazon in April and a debut EP that will be coming out in the Fall.
Visit the YoungArts website to learn about upcoming programs and events.
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