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Department Of Theatre And Media Arts

Music Dance Theatre Major Braeden Anderson Threads a Theatre Tapestry

After Dealing with Vocal Instability, Music Dance Theatre Major Braeden Anderson Found Himself in TMA

These last two years as a Music Dance Theatre major in the Department of Theatre and Media Arts have been truly endearing and filled with incredible growth. Every semester I tell myself, “Wow, I have grown so much this semester. I cannot possibly grow more next semester” — then the next semester comes and blows my expectations clear out of the water. This has led me to believe that knowledge is compounding. Each class I take builds on the last until at the end I’m left with a lovely tapestry, threaded by the connections I make with professors and my fellow students. Although it can feel like the big picture is far away or unclear, it’s important to find the thread, hold onto it and use it to make connections. I know this because I lived it.

At the beginning of 2023, I had the opportunity, through the MDT program, to get my vocal folds scoped, which revealed that my vocal folds were red and swollen instead of the milky white they’re supposed to be. This was a massive confirmation of an insecurity that I had been harboring my whole life: I couldn’t speak properly. There was a vocal instability in my voice and the idea of it felt like it was consuming me. How do you find the confidence to be intimate and open with others when you don't even have a voice that you can trust? As an actor, my voice is my lifeblood, because it’s what allows me to pursue my passion. In that moment, my soul was crushed, my tapestry was ripped in two and the thread to fix it felt lost.

Braeden Anderson on the set of “The Secret Garden.” Photo courtesy Braeden Anderson

Thanks to the wonderful faculty in the MDT program and my voice teacher Rob Moffat, I was given a solution that would help me find that lost thread and continue to weave my tapestry. They put me in contact with an ear, nose and throat specialist, Jordan LeBaron, who was going to provide me with tools to find my voice. I spent the rest of the semester and the following summer learning to speak basically from scratch. It was a long and arduous process, consisting of doing very basic exercises multiple times a day in order to rehabilitate the muscles in my larynx and build new healthy vocal habits. Looking back almost a year later, I’ve seen my tapestry come to fruition and the big picture made clear. While I am certainly not done in my journey, I can say that — and this may sound cheesy — this program has quite literally helped me find my voice.

One thing that I have learned as a result of this experience is the importance of having a community. I learned this with my vocal journey and the idea was reinforced in my time acting in BYU Theatre’s production of “The Secret Garden” this fall semester. I didn’t progress solely on my own merits, but from the support and love of the TMA faculty like Kris Peterson, the director of “The Secret Garden,” who never doubted me. Theatre and acting are not self-exalting practices, but rather a joyous union of people coming together and living in a shared imagination to tell stories. No matter what part you play, you matter. What a beautiful thing it is to be able to tell stories, to make real what was fake, to affect people in a transformative way. If one person grows for the better, then it would have all been worth it. Even if I’m the only one who grew — and I did — then all I can do is humbly say thank you to the theatre community. Through all the connections I’ve made and threads I’ve found in TMA, my tapestry is far more beautiful than I could ever have imagined.