Mississippi Made: From the Mississippi Delta to Living the Dream of New York

Tue, 09/13/2022 – 09:37 | By: Ivonne Kawas

In his 18 years of studying and auditioning, traveling from concert to concert, experiencing many successes and failures, and living through a global pandemic, Ezekiel Andrew (2017), a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi, has been at the peak of his career. . Over the summer, he fulfilled his NYC dream thanks to an invitation to join the cast of Disney’s The Lion King on broadway.

Growing up in the Mississippi Delta

Growing up in the small Mississippi Delta town of Itta Bena, Andrew grew up singing gospel music in the church choir and traveling often with his father, Reverend Joe McCall, who is a minister, motivational speaker and phenomenal singer. Andrew was always amazed and intimidated by the freedom of expression in worship he felt when he sang or heard others sing.

Her father was her most influential figure. Andrew knew early on – from watching his father sing – that he loved music and wanted to be a singer.

“I wanted to possess the ability to stand in front of an audience or congregation and share my heart through song,” Andrew said. “It wasn’t until I attended and graduated from the Mississippi School of the Arts, a boarding school in Brookhaven, Mississippi, where I studied vocal arts, that I began to understand what could be look like a professional career as a singer. ”

The Miss of the South Experience

Andrew spent most of his time at USM on stage. Almost like a shrine to him, the Mannoni Performing Arts Center holds a place in his memory and heart. He came there with low self-esteem and was afraid to sing; however, it was on this stage that he rediscovered his love and joy for singing. It gave him the courage and confidence he needed to pursue his dream.

Ezekiel Andrew as the GhostDuring his time as a graduate student at USM, he was blessed with professors who believed in and nurtured the potential of students. “They pushed us and challenged us, and they let us figure it out,” Andrew said. “What a joy it was to create with the most intellectual, creative and generous teachers,” he added. Professors who had a profound impact on Andrew by providing him with a culture of support were Drs. Jay Dean, Mary Ann Kyle, Michael Miles and Mike Lopinto.

A particularly defining moment in his career came when he performed the title role in USM’s 2017 production of The Phantom of the Opera. It was a role he had always dreamed of doing, and coming out on the other end of it ignited a spark in him: “I can do it. I can chase the Broadway dream and make it happen. And I did,” Andrew said.

The Broadway Way

Very early in his career, he learned to chase music concerts. Even at USM, he was always looking for professional opportunities. Andrew was hungry for experience and exposure. “I have made it my daily task, and I mean daily, to search for casting sites like Playbill, In the wings, and several more,” he shared. “I would do my research on theaters, and if the role suited me, I would audition and apply. A comprehensive process? Yes. Worth it? Yes,” he said.

Eventually, Andrew joined the Actor’s Equity Association, the trade union for actors, singers, theater musicians, and got an agent. Each successful audition brought him closer to where he is now as a Broadway performer.

Ezekiel Andrew in suitHe first auditioned for The Lion King in May 2016, while still attending USM. “The cast went through New Orleans for open auditions and I was given a spot,” Andrew said. “It was my first audition for a Broadway show, I remember that day vividly. Through myriad nerves and anxiety, I showed up and did my best,” he said. -he declares.

However, Andrew didn’t land a role in that particular audition, but he persevered and continued to audition for The Lion King over the next five years.

“The audition process itself for this production was like the recital classes we had at USM,” Andrew explained. “I showed up to my appointment prepared and ready. I performed the material I had prepared, including the repertoire listed in the audition requirements.

“After the initial audition, there is usually a cut,” he continues. “The production releases those who do not move forward and keeps those they would like to see for the call of the movement, which consists of choreographies of the show. After that, those auditioning must wait to hear the results from their agent.

With courage, your dreams can come true, and that’s what happened in October 2021. Andrew got the call he was waiting for from his agent who invited him to join the cast of The Lion King on Broadway.

A magical start

Ezekiel Andrew in suitLater in 2022, Andrew was able to achieve his dream in New York thanks to his debut. “My Broadway debut was a day I will always cherish,” Andrew said. “I had been in rehearsal for about a month and I was ready. On my debut day, I had a rehearsal where I got to do the show in costume with the other cast members for the first time. Later that evening, I made a magical debut.

Andrew recalls the feeling he had while on stage: “I felt like I had an electric current going through me all the time from start to finish and it all happened so quickly”, did he declare. “At the end of the show, I looked at the audience with tears in my eyes and I said to myself: Look at God! I’m on Broadway and it’s wonderful!

As for his future plans, Andrew shared, “New York is one of the greatest cities in the world. I intend to extract every drop of success I can while I’m here.

Don’t be surprised if you spot Andrew on TV or on a digital billboard in Times Square: “In addition to being on Broadway, I’m also a professional model and currently work with my agents for TV and cinematographic. Hopefully, you’ll see me on a TV show soon! »

And that passion and relentless pursuit of success is what he hopes to promote to the next generation of Mississippi dreamers and artists. “This industry is hard to get into and can be even harder to maintain once you’re in it,” Andrew said. “Fortunately, it’s also full of opportunities and there’s always room for those who are prepared and want to succeed. Have faith and take that leap.

Learn more about the School of Music.

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