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Program Spotlight: California State University, Chico (Chico State)

Updated: Jun 17, 2021

Chico State's production of "American Idiot"

Now for a trek across the country to a school on the beautiful West Coast. Chico is located about an hour and a half north of Sacramento, is a top outdoor and cycling city and hosts the world's largest yo yo competition. Matthew Teague Miller shares about Chico State's BA in musical theatre program.

How long has your program been around?

This is kind of a two part answer.  Musical theatre has had its own degree at Chico State for about twenty years.  But, unlike most other musical theatre programs, Chico State offers a BA in musical theatre as opposed to a BFA.  While Chico State’s course catalogue includes all the courses that a BFA musical theatre program would require, many of those courses are offered as electives rather than requirements.  Chico State's philosophy is that a strong liberal arts general education enhances the performing artist and an understanding of courses like history, political science and psychology makes us better at our craft.  The core foundation of the degree relies on music, dance and acting courses but the BA requires a strong component of traditional liberal arts requirements as well.  This unique philosophy makes Chico State rare, particularly on the West Coast.

How many students, in general, does your program accept every year?

Chico State does not have a maximum or minimum number of students that we accept into the program each year.  Instead, the University looks at the applicant pool and accepts the strongest class possible.  This allows us to have a wide range of students and a very diverse student population.

How many students, in total, are currently enrolled in your program?

There are currently 60 musical theatre students at Chico State, spread out over the freshman through senior class.  They work alongside the 40 theatre students on four mainstage productions each year.

What's unique about your program?

In addition the the well-rounded BA philosophy explained earlier, Chico State is unique as it is the only musical theatre degree in Northern California.  Our commitment to educating the “whole-student” sets us apart from other programs, as we strive to prepare students for the business as well as preparing them for life outside of their education experience.  Deeply committed to learning and the growth mindset, students are pushed to improve and only be in competition with themselves.  In addition, musical theatre students are required to audition for all four mainstage productions each year--

two plays and two musicals.  Chico State has three very different performance spaces that are used regularly.  A 115-seat black box theater, a 470-seat proscenium theater and a 1200-seat road house with a balcony.  The experience of performing in all three of our theaters, and in both plays and musicals, gives students a diverse experience unlike any other.

Tell us a little bit about the musical theatre faculty at your school.

Musical Theatre Program Coordinator, Matthew Teague Miller, is an Equity Actor and Professional Director who continues to work regionally.  As Producing Artistic Director of Clinton Area Showboat Theatre, Matthew transitioned the 30-year old professional theatre to Actor’s Equity Association designation and directed the region’s premieres of Bridges of Madison County and Disney’s Newsies.  As a performer, Matthew performed for three years in the Broadway National Tour and China premiere of Les Miserables, which included an opportunity to perform in Colm Wilkinson’s final performance as Jean Valjean.  Miller’s BFA in Musical Theatre came from University of Cincinnati and MFA in Directing from University of North Carolina at Greensboro. With the program housed in the Department of Music and Theatre, professors are specialists in those areas and give students a strong foundation and unique industry perspective.

Are there any recent productions you're particularly proud of?

Chico State's four annual mainstage productions occur in three different theaters.  Each production offers students an exciting and unique learning opportunity.

How about alumni?

Chico State alumni are successful in many walks of life.  Unlike other programs who publish lists of their students on Broadway--we do have students currently performing of Broadway--Chico State measures its success based on the happiness of its alumni regardless of the final career path they choose.  In addition to our alumni performing in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, Chico State is equally proud of its alumni who have found success and happiness in business, parenthood, management, technical theatre, arts management and many other areas.  Chico State aspires to inspire its students to unlock their own personal artistry and creative spirit.


What is your program's "best-kept secret"?

Our best kept secret is that musical theatre exists on the West Coast too! Also, our program shares resources with one of the largest recording arts programs on the West Coast, and students have many opportunities to participate in recording sessions in our two state of the art recording studios.

Anything else?

Thanks for including us in your series.  There is such attention paid to the large BFA programs in the midwest and east coast, that people often forget about the different types of programs that exist in other places.  The Chico State musical theatre program is one of a kind and we are very proud of the unique, and well-rounded, education that it provides our students.

Thanks so much for taking the time to share a brief overview on Chico State's program, Matthew! To learn more, visit

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