Arts and Entertainment

Penn State junior Melody Munitz: 'Creativity can't be quarantined'

Musical theater and psychology student discusses her unconventional audition for Penn State’s latest video ad, the nuances of studying musical theater during a pandemic and her post-grad aspirations

Penn State Schreyer Scholar Melody Munitz, a junior double majoring in musical theater and psychology, has made the most out of challenges the global pandemic has posed. In addition to providing a voice for Penn State’s latest video ad, she has managed to produce numerous works in a short amount of time, including a radio play.

Penn State's latest video advertisement, featuring the voice of Penn State Schreyer Scholar Melody Munitz, a junior double majoring in musical theatre and psychology. 

Munitz who after graduation hopes to combine her musical theater practice with psychology studies to perform groundbreaking research on empathy.

Q: Why did you choose Penn State?

Munitz: I wanted to find a school that would allow me to pursue intense musical theater training while also seriously pursuing academics. From the moment I set foot on campus, Penn State felt like home — it was the best audition that I had. I immediately fell in love with the faculty and the program. Especially once I was accepted into Schreyer, it felt like the perfect package.

Penn State Schreyer Scholar Melody Munitz, a junior double majoring in musical theater and psychology, recently lent her talents to Penn State’s latest TV video ad. Credit: John El-JorAll Rights Reserved.

Q: Tell us about your audition for this video ad.

Munitz: I received an email requesting a female vocalist to sing the Alma Mater. I was home over spring break in March and had just come down with a classic post-show cold, but I figured I should try out.

I was standing in my freezing-cold attic in my pajamas, sick and trying to sing. I ended up just sending in my first take.

A few months later, I got an email that Penn State wanted to use my initial audition. Even though the original plan was to have me professionally record in a studio, they loved it as is. This ad on national TV is just me singing in my attic!

Q: The Alma Mater is known and loved by Penn Staters near and far and young and old. What does the song mean to you?

Munitz: One of my first memories from Penn State was learning the Alma Mater to perform with Penn State Musical Theatre during the halftime show of the 2018 whiteout football game. This was right at the beginning of my Penn State journey, and I didn’t know the lyrics. My friends and I would rush to rehearsals, reading the lyrics and listening to the music, just trying to get it memorized. When I think of the song, my first memory is the joy of suddenly being immersed into the incredible Penn State environment.

Looking back now at the commercial, the Alma Mater takes on a totally different tone — it’s somber, almost melancholy. When paired with the footage and the current moment of where we are now, the song has an even richer meaning to me. I’m so grateful that I’ve been able to represent Penn State in this way.

Q: Community is one of the hallmarks of Penn State. How has the Penn State community influenced your student experience?

Munitz: It’s impossible to think of my time at Penn State without the tight-knit community, especially in the musical theater program. It feels like a party when we’re together. It feels like home.

I am so lucky to be surrounded by people who always make me feel supported. Even while we’re all taking some Zoom classes, it hardly feels different — it still feels like I’m with a family.

Q: As a junior, what advice would you give to incoming and current students?

Munitz: The one thing I wish I could impart on others is to be kind. I don’t think that statement ever grows stale, and it’s especially important these days. Being kind is relevant to yourself, too — extend love to everyone around you and yourself. We’re all handling a lot right now, and we deserve a metaphorical hug from ourselves and others.

Q: How has the pandemic impacted your learning experience this year?

Munitz: I’ve been amazed by the musical theater program’s ability to pivot during this time. It’s also been a really exciting time for me to delve into my own works. I recently wrote a short radio play titled “On the Line” and collaborated with artists from Penn State and Muhlenbeg College to put this piece together. The play explores the nuances of what it’s like to live in politically polarizing times, so it was really important to us for it to release it in its moment of most impact, on Nov. 2.

Currently, I’m working on a devised theater piece with the School of Theatre as an actor, writer, choreographer and composer. I have a feeling that these sorts of unconventional opportunities are going to continue to flourish. Despite this being a time where a lot of things are being shuttered, I don’t think that creativity can be quarantined.

Q: What do you hope for your future beyond Penn State?

Munitz: When I graduate, I want to move back to New York and get on the audition grind! At later points in my career, I also hope to be a professor and a researcher to explore the intersection of science and theater. I’m really interested in the neural bases of empathy and how it’s at play while people are watching a live show or performing on stage.

I think there’s a real untapped pool of what makes theater and storytelling so impactful, scientifically speaking, and I am eager to dive in. I think we’re right on the cusp of this field exploding, and I’m really excited to be there when it happens.

Last Updated November 13, 2020