Santa Monica College will soon offer an expanded musical theater curriculum after joining a partnership that aims to develop students’ skills in the industry.

The local community college is expected to host more classes in the field this coming fall as it builds on an ongoing relationship with the Festival of New American Musicals.

Seeking to capitalize on musical theater’s momentum in popular culture, SMC and its partners are hoping to attract talented young composers and writers and prepare them for possible careers while connecting them to professional producers and directors.

SMC was chosen to participate in the initiative, known as Musi-Cal, because of its experience in theater education and its commitment to developing original musicals, according to Ruslan Idiatov, art director of the festival agency.

“Initially, we reached out to SMC, as we reached out to colleges and universities all over Southern California to explore their interest in presenting new musicals under the Festival umbrella,” Idiyatov said. “SMC was one of the most responsive. … That says a lot about the school’s willingness to innovate.”

Plans to grow musical theater education in the area involve SMC and the festival group as well as UC Irvine and Valley International Prep, a Van Nuys-based charter high school. This will be the first such curriculum offered west of New York, Idiyatov said.

Santa Monica College’s involvement in the musical theater pathway came about in part because it has been working with the festival agency for years.

It offered a Hispanic-American musical called “Camilla” in 2008, becoming the first junior college to produce a show for the festival organization, and it has put together two other original productions since then.

Idiyatov also cited the efforts of Perviz Sawoski, chair of the community college’s Theatre Arts Department, as central to the birth of the new educational initiative.

“Wouldn’t it be logical to offer two years of training at our low costs,” Sawoski said, “knowing that the most talented students could transfer to a four-year school to complete their studies?”

The new musical theater courses at SMC will augment a performing arts department that is already positioned in a region with a robust entertainment industry.

Students from the college have gone on to transfer to Juilliard, Columbia University and New York University, and alumni work around the world as actors and technicians in theater as well as in film and television.

“Why do I think it fits? Because of the need in this entertainment-dominated economy to train professionals,” Idiyatov said. “And because, geographically, Santa Monica is the most centrally located to serve the theater, TV and film communities. Many showbiz families live within shouting distance of SMC. That makes it easy for their kids to hike, bike or bus to school.”

SMC’s partnership with the festival group will go beyond the classroom.

The college will play a major role in ShowSearch, an annual showcase of 10-minute musicals written by 14- to 25-year-olds. The event was launched in 2012 and is scheduled to be staged at SMC in 2016.

Creators of the six ShowSearch finalists will be offered mentorships with industry professionals and flown to Los Angeles to see their shows presented, Idiyatov said.

The Festival of New American Musicals eventually hopes to establish a full-time development center for new musicals with anchor sites at SMC and UC Irvine.

Contact Jeff Goodman at 310-573-8351, jeff@www.smdp.com or on Twitter.

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