Acclaimed Broadway actor Michael McElroy named chair of U-M’s Department of Musical Theatre

Michael McElroy, an award-winning performing artist, educator, vocal arranger, composer and a leader in forging diversity initiatives for the performing arts, begins his tenure this fall as the Arthur E. and Martha S. Hearron Endowed Professor of Musical Theatre at the University of Michigan School of Music Theatre & Dance. He is pictured here at the 2019 Tony Awards. (Courtesy: University of Michigan)

ANN ARBOR – The University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance has named musical theater actor Michael McElroy as the new chair of the school’s award-winning Department of Musical Theatre.

McElroy’s appointment was approved by the U-M Board of Regents at its most recent meeting.

The Tony-nominated Broadway veteran is a composer, vocal arranger and a has introduced a number of diversity initiatives to the performing arts. McElroy will begin his tenure this fall as the Arthur E. and Martha S. Hearron Endowed Professor of Musical Theatre.

His predecessor, Vincent Cardinal, is stepping down from the position after five years to focus on teaching.

“This is a thrilling appointment for us,” dean of the U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance, David Gier, said in a release. “Michael McElroy brings a trifecta of invaluable experience: As a seasoned artist with 30 years on the Broadway stage, as an educator with impeccable credentials and as a leader working for diversity, equity and inclusion in the performing arts.

“With this unique background, he is ideally suited to guide our celebrated musical theater program into the future at a pivotal time for the theater industry and for higher education.”

McElroy joins U-M’s SMTD after spending 10 years at New York University as an associate arts professor at the school’s New Studio on Broadway.

McElroy founded the diverse, professional choir Broadway Inspirational Voices in 1994. He served as music director for the choir consisting of Broadway artists until he stepped down last month. BIV received the Tony Award Honor for Excellence in the Theatre in 2019.

He also co-founded numerous organizations focused on propelling an equitable performing arts culture, including Black Theatre United, MUSE and Music Theater Dance Professionals in the Academy.

“Professor McElroy is a leader in the teaching of our craft and is committed to raising up diverse voices in our field,” associate professor in the Department of Musical Theatre who led the search committee for the new chair, Jason DeBord, said in a release. “He is one of the most respected individuals in musical theater education and performance, and we are fortunate to have him at the university and at SMTD.”

“(I’m) excited to be a part of such an amazing program, at a university that looks at its musical theater program as something of absolute value and importance to the institution,” McElroy said in a statement. “And I’m thrilled to be in conversation with faculty who are really excited to build upon the legacies of Vince Cardinal and Brent Wagner.”

McElroy began his career upon moving to New York in 1990 after graduating from Carnegie Mellon University.

His Broadway credits include:

  • “Sunday in the Park With George”
  • “Next To Normal, Rent”
  • “The Wild Party”
  • “The Who’s Tommy”
  • “Miss Saigon”
  • “Patti LuPone on Broadway”
  • “High Roller Social Pleasure Club”
  • “Big River,” for which he received a Tony nomination

“I know what that long-term journey is,” McElroy said in a release. “I can now help students understand what longevity is in a career and the importance of reputation, consistency, building relationships, having joy in the room—all these things that the world in which we live doesn’t always help you to cultivate.”

McElroy received NYU’s Martin Luther King Jr. Faculty Award earlier this year, presented to “outstanding faculty who exemplify the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. through teaching excellence, leadership, social justice activism and community building.”

McElroy said his role in various diversity initiatives has become an innate part of his identity and career.

“It’s a part of who I am, because I have to deal with these issues,” McElroy said in a release. “Having to navigate these challenges, I know how it builds resilience, and I’ve come to believe that it’s the next iteration of musical theater training: how we build those skill sets so we’re able to really see and value every lived experience in the space, and then engage in complicated subject matter through the work.”

McElroy served twice as U-M’s Broadway Artist in Residence and has for the past three years developed a relationship with SMTD.

About the Author:

Meredith has worked for WDIV since August 2017 and was voted one of Washtenaw County's best journalists in 2019 by eCurrent's readers. She covers the community of Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in International Broadcast Journalism from City University London, UK.