Can-Do Attitude

Alumna Corinne Aquilina brings extensive professional experience into her musical theatre classrooms.

by Elise Miklich ’13, ’16G

Corinne Aquilina

Assistant Professor and Director of Musical Theatre and Nazareth alumna Corinne Aquilina has one rule in her classroom: No defeatist attitudes allowed.

It’s a lesson she had to learn early on in her extensive career as a composer, arranger, lyricist, and musical director for shows including the long-running off-Broadway Menopause the Musical, the national tour of Annie, and most recently, Sir Tim Rice’s From Here to Eternity.

Looking back on her 37 years of experience, Aquilina recognizes that keeping a can-do attitude wasn’t always easy.

“When I first started out [as a musical director/conductor], it was a man’s world,” she recalls, going on to explain that at auditions, the disadvantage of being a woman with a family was very real. When she revealed she had a family, she says, it could often be met with a response such as “you can’t possibly travel for eight weeks at a time.”

The determined Aquilina, who has two children of her own, never let the industry trend get her down, going on to become a member of the Broadway pit for shows like Boy From Oz, Annie, Five Guys Named Moe, and The Great American Trailer Park Musical.

The field has changed its tune since the ’80s, but one thing’s still for sure—whatever your gender, you’re going to work hard and you have to stay positive.

“You cannot let the world see your troubles in this business,” she stresses. “In both life and in art, people want to forget their troubles—they don’t want to know yours.”

Aquilina’s professional experience stands her in good stead in the classroom. She prepares her students not only to be great performers but also to be marketable by gaining proficiency in multiple aspects of musical theatre. As a result, there is a palpable resiliency among them.

“She teaches us that by obtaining an understanding of the arts as a whole, you will become a better, more well-rounded performer, stage manager, technician, or whatever you want to be,” says Nolan Todd ‘19, a technical production major.

With all of Aquilina’s experience comes a robust professional network, and as a junior Todd has already had the opportunity to work under a director whose Broadway show was nominated for seven Tony Awards and a dancer who previously worked as a Rockette at New York City’s Radio City Music Hall. Last summer, Todd interned at the Finger Lakes Merry-Go-Round Theater (MGR) where Aquilina serves as musical director.

Balancing her roles as professor and industry professional, she broke from her summer position at MGR only to travel to London, where she shadowed a study-abroad opportunity in the West End. Within the next year, Aquilina hopes to have Nazareth students studying with these professionals in the best West End shows.

“I’m on top of the world when I see a student leave here and get an agent, or arrive at something they never thought they could do.”

With four students landing New York City agents just weeks after graduation, one already performing in his first off-Broadway show, and another in the national tour of Cinderella, we hope she’s enjoying the view.

Elise Miklich ’13, ’16G is the social media coordinator in Nazareth’s marketing department.