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Jamie Maletz ’11 writes musicals — and her destiny
By Anna-Maria Goossens | Monday, June 10, 2019
By Anna-Maria Goossens
Monday, June 10, 2019
Jamie Maletz ’11 has been writing musicals since she was 17, but it took her a while to work up the nerve to pursue it as a career. Nevertheless, several years after leaving UMass, Maletz decided it was now or never. Now, she has a master’s in musical theater, a brand-new musical, and an upcoming night of performances to showcase her own work and that of other rising musical creators.
On June 15 at 54 Below in New York, Maletz is producing New Musicals from Emerging Artists, featuring work by herself and fellow graduates of the Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program at NYU Tisch, where she’s spent the last two years honing her craft.
A BDIC path
Maletz has always been creative.
“I’ve been writing stories and plays for as long as I can remember. I’ve been writing songs since I was about 14, singing for my whole life. When I was something like 17 I started putting them together as musicals,” she said.
When she got to UMass, she availed herself of the BDIC program.
“I loved the theater department at UMass, and I was lucky enough to be helped by some of the resources, but I was actually not a theater major! … My major was probably about 80 percent theater courses, with a little bit of creative writing, music and education mixed in,” Maletz explained.
Her first full production of a musical, for which she found grant funding and assembled a production team and cast, was in Studio 204, which was the Theater venue for independent student work at that time. The musical, Cupidity, “is about a divorce lawyer who is forced to be Cupid as a punishment from Aphrodite for breaking up a pair of soulmates,” she explained. Her musical Oh the Humanity was also excerpted as part of a new works celebration in 204.
Maletz composes for piano and vocals first, using Pro Tools Software to help her fill out the rest of the instruments. “While I can’t play them with my physical body, I can write for them,” she said.
The first draft of a musical takes between a month and a year. Then, there’s a one to three-year process of editing and refining. She doesn’t consider her works done.
“Everything I’ve ever written is still in progress!” she said.
After graduating, Maletz relocated to Arizona, where she taught at a public high school for four years. “Theater and choir, shockingly,” she joked.
In her free time, she worked on “trying to bring her shows to life.”
She loved working with high schoolers, but she guest-taught a few workshops at the college level in playwriting, produced her musicals at local colleges, and participated in Q&As there, and those led her to the next phase of her life.
Time to chase a dream
“We would present, and it would feel very much like being in a college setting and then afterwards I would think, ‘Man it could be like this all the time if I was teaching at the college level!’” she said. “If I all I was missing to teach at the college level was a master’s degree, then maybe it would be worth it to go back to school for that. And then when I found the program that I ended up doing I was like, ‘Maybe I could do even more than that, maybe I could even chase my full-on, 100% dream that I thought I’d never do.’”
During the first year of the graduate program at Tisch, students wrote several smaller projects. During the second year, they were paired with collaborators to create a full-length work. Maletz had been used to working largely by herself, and valued the opportunity to work together and refine her work in the classroom.
Maletz was paired with composer Eric Fegan for her thesis, and they created The Valley. Although Maletz is comfortable as a composer and lyricist, in this case, she handled the book and lyrics while Fegan composed. Their creative process varied from song to song — sometimes the music came first; the times it was the lyrics.
They were inspired by a myth about a Valley of Immortality and decided to create their own riff on that idea, setting it in Iceland. The elevator pitch for The Valley reads as follows:
“Four tourists believe they have signed up for a volunteer trip to help ‘repair damage caused by local elements’ in Iceland. And, technically, that IS what they're doing. But definitely not in the way they expected. And the journey they get wrapped up in brings the very problems they were running away from to the surface.”
“I’m really proud of what we wrote together,” Maletz said.
It’ll be featured at the 54 Below performance. This is the second such event Maletz has produced, and she hopes to launch a new works show choir that pairs performers with new works, getting both some much-needed exposure.
“There’s a part of my heart that’s an event planner,” Maletz said.
She plans to stay in New York and is currently working at an internship in theater management at Davenport Theatrical Enterprises as she looks for a new position, including college adjunct positions.
Maletz has also started volunteering for Maestra after she heard a presentation by the organization’s founder, composer and lyricist Georgia Stitt, about the “abysmal” number of opportunities offered to women in music theater. Maestra offers support and resources to women, non-binary and non-gender-conforming music professionals working as composers, music directors and musicians in the music theater industry, including a burgeoning directory that can be consulted by anyone in the industry looking for collaborators.
“The numbers are large and growing,” Maletz says of the directory. “No excuses anymore. … If you hear someone saying, we wanted X, we just couldn’t find X, they’re not trying hard enough.”
Maletz noted the cliché that if you do what you love it doesn’t feel like work.
“I don’t really believe in that cliché because it does feel like work — but it feels good! I would be working so hard, but then I would be like, ‘but look at this badass thing that I’m making!’” she said.
- A compilation of Maletz's works as a composer/ lyricist.
- “All In” from The Valley (Lyrics by Jamie Maletz, Music by Eric Fegan). Eric Fegan on Piano. Singers (Left to Right): Lisette Glodowski, Elyse Anderson, Jamie Maletz, Martha-Emily Harvel, Nathan Fosbinder.
- “A Delicate Dance”, (Words & Music by Jamie Maletz). Performed by Cori Jaskier. Video from "Write A Song: An End-of-Year Concert with Songs by the Students of William Finn" on Sunday, April 28th, 2019.
- “Calm Down” (Words & Music by Jamie Maletz). Performed by Eric Sorrels and Jamie Maletz.