- Union County Public Schools
CATA alum, Hamilton performer returns to his high school to prepare students for the big stage
In 2007, Tyler McKenzie was a junior at the newly opened Central Academy of Technology and Arts (CATA). For two years at the school, he honed his craft and developed an even deeper love of musical theatre.
It didn’t take long for the hardworking singer, actor and dancer to land on Broadway, where he’s performed in the Hamilton and Mamma Mia stage productions and the Matilda the Musical national tour as well as the current 20-city national tour of the acclaimed hit Hamilton musical.
Now, nearly 10 years after graduating from CATA, Tyler has returned to his alma mater to help guide the school’s next generation of aspiring artists. On Oct. 22, he hosted exclusive dance and musical theatre master classes for the school’s performing arts students.
“This school has done so much for me. To have graduated and be walking this floor now 10 years later, it’s just amazing. I’m so glad to be home and to share what I’ve learned,” he said during a short break after back-to-back classes with students. “It’s nice for the students to have a little bit of guidance and to know there is a collective audience of people who are rooting for them to succeed whether it’s on Broadway, national tours, tech theatre or in anything they want to pursue. I’m here to support the faculty and help set them up for success.”
Throughout the day, CATA performing arts students received feedback from Tyler on their prepared audition songs, participated in a Q&A about the industry, learned what it’s like to attend a New York City dance call, recreated a scene from Matilda the Musical and more.
Having the opportunity to perform in front of an accomplished Broadway performer was not lost on the students and they took full advantage of the master classes.
For hours, the students poured their hearts out on the stage as Tyler enthusiastically cheered for them. They listened intently as he shared his guidance, practically hanging onto every word he said.
Aspiring actor Faviana Petru said taking a master class with Tyler was an eye-opening experience. The CATA junior not only walked away with practical tips on how to increase her stage presence but she also said she learned a lot about how a strong work ethic will serve her well no matter where life takes her in the future.
“After taking his class, I feel like it will help me when I go on auditions,” she said. “I’ve also gotten a lot more confidence to know that I can pursue my dreams and go somewhere because he’s just like us.”
Echoing that sentiment, Tyler said that if there was one thing he wanted the students to take away from his time with them is the importance of having a strong work ethic.
“At CATA, I learned really quickly to be the hardest working person in the room and that’s a lesson that I want the students to know as well,” he said. “I also want them to know that there is nothing standing in their way. And if there is, to shoot over it and go for their dreams because it can really happen.”