Last month, Theatre and Musical Theatre students were visited by alum Jose Ramos (Musical Theatre '11)! Jose discussed his role in Hamilton and offered advice for young actors and singers on how to be successful once you finish school. Check out some of their conversation below. Thank you Jose!
Why did you decide to come to The Academy?
I came to The Academy my junior year. I lived in Joliet, where I performed in a couple of shows that made me realize I was really into performing. From there, I looked at all of the artists that I loved, and I thought about how they all had formal training. I realized I had to learn a thing or two, so I got an audition at The Academy. When I got there, the faculty had me in tights for the first time in my life, and I said to myself “Wow, I’m in an actual dance pose!” It was totally awesome.
Later on, The Academy spoiled me with Sondheim. We were able to put on very challenging shows, that I only realized were so difficult later on in my theatre career. It was hard work at The Academy- very sophisticated work. You are very spoiled here. You all should know that you are learning a lot already and are well ahead of your peers. Pay attention now, because you will impress your future teachers and professors with how much you know.
What specifically did you learn from this school that helped you in your future career?
I learned the importance of music. At The Academy, they taught me how to learn music very quickly. I think that is how I was able to audition successfully later on in my career. When you get a piece of music, you only have a short period of time to get it, and once your time in the audition room starts, that’s it. You have to be ready and you have to know the songs. The Academy really helped me understand that kind of preparation.
You were a junior transfer. How long did it take to acclimate to the school and feel like you were part of the culture?
Honestly, it probably took a semester. I was still learning how to sing and I felt like I was playing catch up. It is a new culture, and you see all of these kids that have been great for two years, and you think “Wow, how can I keep up with them?” But then again, you just take in as much knowledge as you can, and understand that you can always still learn. It doesn’t matter when you start, it’s about how much work you put into it, and how badly you want it.
Do you think it was difficult having a different type of voice than what is typically heard in musical theatre?
When I came to The Academy, they taught me all of the classics. We learned the golden age of musical theatre. I fell in love with that material and I realized how important it is to the work that is coming out today. But I also recognized that something new was beginning, and I knew that my voice was different. Therefore, at every one of my auditions I sang mostly pop music.
You are going to get what you are right for. Don’t worry if your voice is different, or if you look different, or sound different. With everything you audition for, you are a puzzle piece. If you fit into that bigger scheme, that’s because you fit it.
How do you stay true to a classic character while still making the part your own?
As long as you understand what the character's true message is, you’ll be fine. There are so many shows that you're going to audition for, and everyone has played these roles before, so it’s about bringing yourself into the existing character. The most successful performances that I've seen are the ones where the choices are unique to the actor.
How to do go from being a normal Academy student to having fans and people recognizing you?
No matter who you meet or audition in front of, you have to realize that no one is better than you, and there is no one that can make you feel afraid. We are all the same. If you understand that, and you go into an audition understanding that, they are going to want to work with you. Most people understand that it’s not about being the most beautiful person or being rich, it’s about going out there and just sharing your heart.
That’s what I try to do. Hamilton is a super popular show, so I have been very fortunate. The popularity is nice, but it’s not why I do it. However, the attention is something that you have to understand is part of the industry.
You've gone through this long and amazing process. What is it like to come back here to where you started?
It has been awesome. I love everyone here at The Academy. These people are your rock and they will always be here for you. Lean on them now, listen to them. You'll soon learn that it is never going to be the same. For you guys together in this room now, especially those of you who are going to graduate, next year is going to come and you’ll be somewhere else. More new students will come here to The Academy, but it’s never going to be this moment again. My group of friends from senior year at The Academy is still tight, but we're never going to be the same as when we were all walking up the stairs every day to do theatre exercises with Ms. Rusk.
It only happens once, so pay attention to it. Don’t be afraid to fail, and fail on your own. Be relentless. You are safe here, so fail in this room. Don’t make fun of each other’s acting choices. Don’t make fun of each other’s work, because you are going to go out into the real world and nobody’s going to want to watch you or listen to you. Really dig in deep now. Be fearless and make memories. There are moments from my senior year at The Academy that changed my life.