"Change is good... you can’t fight the Jazz!"
Jacob Brent is a veteran Broadway performer with a MFA in Musical Theatre.
With extensive experience performing, directing, choreographing and teaching (yours truly), Jacob has been recognized by The New York Times as knowing how to inspire actors.
I was honored to build Jacob's new website and put together this feature. As you'll soon see, he really is magical...
Why did you become an Actor? Director/Choreographer? Professor?
I never set out to be an actor.
I always knew I wanted to be a creator.
Growing up I never thought, “Oh, I want to play that role.” I would study shows... well, there weren’t any shows in my little town... but I would get a new cast recording and listen to it over and over and envision how I would stage it. What the costumes would be, what the lighting would be, how would I choreograph that number? I would listen and watch everything I could and think, “I want to make that.”
What are you currently working on or towards?
Currently I’m working on a production of Guys and Dolls and Once on This Island.
I guess what I want to work towards is always having creative projects on the horizon.
If you could offer advice to your younger self (and/or young aspiring choreographers), what would it be?
BE PATIENT and be a better assistant. Assisting is hard! I think there is so much more opportunity for young or aspiring choreographers today. One can get their work out there so much easier now. When I started it was a miracle if anyone even saw your work.
Who’ve been some of the mentors/teachers instrumental to your success?
There have been so many...
When I was performing, I was generally the youngest in the cast, but I would always seek out the gypsy’s. I just wanted to hear and learn from their stories. I’ve always been like that. I’ve always wanted to know the history of something and where it came from and more importantly why?
I guess this comes from one of my dance teachers when I was young. He pulled me aside and explained that this art form is passed down from person to person. One must learn from the people before them and then it is our duty to pass it on. I think this is definitely true with dance.
I remember being in the studio with Gwen Verdon learning steam heat. Thank goodness I knew enough to know that I was in the presence of greatness and a legend. But now, what’s so cool is I get to, or better yet, it is my duty to pass this information on.
What do you love about the digital age we live in?
If I have an idea or want to share something, I can. I love the exchange of ideas that happen. I’m a huge podcast listener so I love that.
I still feel like that musical theater geek that I was growing up, but now I love that I can just go on Youtube and find it all. Somehow, no matter what Youtube spiral I go down.... I always end up at Jenifer Holiday singing “And I Am Telling You.” Does this happen to anyone else?
What do you hate about the digital age we live in?
People are just free to comment however they want to. Which is a good thing... don’t get me wrong. It just sometimes makes me sad.
Recently, Hairspray LIVE was on TV and there were a lot of comments on the social that were negative. I just thought some of them were a bit much. There’s a difference between snarky and personal. In the end, it’s a miracle that there are even musicals on television. Let’s celebrate! It just helps us all. However, when I read those comments, I just think, “how many times did you audition for that show?”
What do you think makes a great website?
Having it designed by Tony Howell.
Why did you choose to work with me?
Listen, I tried to do my own and nothing was happening. I always thought I would get around to it when I had free time… I never did.
How would you describe the process/experience?
Super easy and totally fun! Once we talked about the look and feel of the website, it just took off from there. It was exciting to get the updates and make edits and see it all come together. I was sad when we launched. I wanted to keep going!
What responses or results have you received?
My agent immediately sent it out to different producers and theaters. It’s been fun and exciting to see the results of that.
What's your favorite social network? Why?
I think I am and will always be a Facebooker.
Although, I did a 365 project on Instagram where I took a picture a day for a whole year! It was incredible to go back and see everything I had done and how I changed in a year.
I love Instagram because of the creative side of it. I mean everyone loves a good filter… am I right?!
What's your favorite place in NYC? Why?
Lincoln Center! Is there anywhere more magical?
What's your favorite quote?
OMG! – there are so many. I have two that I use in every rehearsal...
I also often find myself saying...
Jazz can be anything, music, text, choreography. When I’m stuck I just listen to the “jazz.” It'll always tell you what to do.
Any last bit of advice (or perhaps an invitation) you’d like to share?
Stop thinking about it and be like Nike. Just DO IT! Get on the Creative Social Media train! Oh... and follow me @JacobBrentsagram!
Tony Howell is a digital strategist dedicated to helping you design your future—creating offline success from your online presence.