10 Questions With Melody Munitz, The Voice Behind Penn State’s New Sizzle Reel
While tuning into Penn State football games this fall, you probably found yourself catching a glimpse of the university’s new 30-second sizzle reel that has our staff raving.
The commercial is highlighted by a lovely rendition of Penn State’s Alma Mater provided by junior Melody Munitz. She is a junior studying both musical theatre (what a surprise!) and psychology.
Between her busy schedule of being a student and a newly minted star, Munitz took some time to sit down with us to talk about singing, Penn State, and dinosaur fruit snacks.
Onward State: You have an amazing voice! When did you first “find” your singing voice?
Melody Munitz: Thank you! Honestly, I’ve been singing my whole life. It sounds cliche, but it’s true. My family’s earliest home videos show me staring out windows singing to myself or putting on little shows. I just never grew out of that, I guess! Perhaps it was inevitable with a name like Melody! I saw my first Broadway show when I was 7 and on the way out of the theatre exclaimed to my family that that’s what I was going to do with my life — perform onstage. I was in my first show later that year and have never looked back.
OS: Do you have a favorite song to sing?
MM: Ah, this is a tough one! It truly changes every day based on a million factors that the scientist in me would be fascinated to understand but the artist in me knows can’t be pinned down. Actually, in quarantine, I taught myself guitar and started writing a lot of original music which I’m working toward releasing. I find those melodies buzz around in my mind a lot these days as I work out harmonies and instrumentation, so I guess those original songs are some of my favorite things to sing as there is always so much to be discovered about them.
OS: Can you take us through the process of becoming part of this sizzle reel?
MM: It’s been a fun and unexpected journey! It began with me getting an email back in March calling for audition submissions of an a cappella version of the Penn State alma mater. The plan was that the chosen vocalist would be brought into a studio to make a professional recording for a Penn State commercial that was meant to air later that spring. It was my first day home on spring break and I had just closed a production with the School of Theatre and had caught one of those notorious post-show colds. I wasn’t feeling my best but didn’t want to miss the opportunity to submit. I made a fast and simple recording on my phone while standing in my pajamas in my freezing cold attic where I could get a semi-quiet recording and emailed it off the next day.
Five days later, New York (where I’m from) went into shutdown and we learned that we would not be returning to Penn State for the rest of the spring semester. Unsurprisingly, the initial commercial was never produced.
However, flash-forward to October 24, and I get an email from Penn State strategic communications letting me know that they would like to feature my initial audition recording in this new commercial that would premiere on ABC during primetime of the Penn State-Ohio State Halloween White Out football game and continue to run throughout the season. I was totally shocked!
OS: How has it felt hearing your voice on national TV?
MM: Funny enough, I actually haven’t yet! I live on campus and don’t have a TV so I haven’t been able to watch any of the games and see it air. On Halloween, however, my parents Facetimed me at every commercial break of the game with their camera pointed at the TV so that we could catch the commercial’s premiere together. It was so sweet of them, and a real moment of gratitude for modern technology (even though my Wi-Fi cut out and I missed the first half of the commercial—I guess that was the ‘trick’ of the Halloween ‘treat’!). I’m excited, though, to get to tune into the games once I’m back home and experience the commercial for myself. Even still, hearing all the kind feedback about the piece and knowing I get to be part of this heartwarming message to our community during this time has been really incredible.
OS: How has this experience affected your life now, and do you think it has influenced anything for the future?
MM: The biggest impact on my end has been me experiencing a real surge of gratitude. So many people in the Penn State community and even folks from my community at home have reached out with such kind sentiments. It’s presented a lovely chance to connect and reconnect with people, which feels especially valuable in a year like this where there are so many atypical boundaries limiting connection. There have also been the surreal moments of being recognized or reached out to by folks I don’t know, which has been pretty cool! The commercial has also sparked other opportunities like this interview and a feature article in Penn State News which have been equally surreal and super exciting.
OS: Let’s switch gears a bit to focus on the other star of this sizzle reel-Penn State. Why did you choose Penn State?
MM: When I was looking at colleges, it was important to me to find somewhere that I could get intense musical theatre training while also being able to seriously pursue other academics. When I came to visit Penn State and first stepped foot on campus, I couldn’t stop smiling. It just felt right. I fell in love with the musical theatre faculty and the familial essence I could sense in the program and crossed my fingers for the next many months through the application and audition process that I would somehow get the chance to experience more than just a day at Penn State. When I got into the musical theatre program, my heart burst with joy.
My acceptance into the Schreyer Honors College a few weeks later was the cherry on top! I felt like everything had fallen into place and couldn’t wait to experience what already seemed back then like the perfect package. Two and a half years later I know I couldn’t have been more right about that initial sense that Penn State is the place I’m meant to be.
OS: What else are you involved in on campus?
MM: Within the School of Theatre community, I serve as the representative of the Class of 2022 on the Musical Theatre Student Committee. I am also a student representative on the School of Theatre Student Advisory Board, as well as an Arts Ambassador with the College of Arts and Architecture. Outside of the School of Theatre, I’m one of the founding members of the Penn State Arts for Health Initiative, which focuses on the beneficial power of the arts in promoting well being. Anyone looking to add a dash of inspiring art and positivity to their feed should follow our Instagram @arts.for.health! I also have a passion for comedy. I’m a member of the Full Ammo Improv troupe and have also been a writer for Phroth, the satirical news publication here on campus. Outside of the arts, I’m part of Penn State’s new scientific journal club and have recently gotten involved with the PSU Climate Action Grassroots team.
OS: Now, you are a musical theatre major, which is pretty hands-on. How has that been with so many classes being done virtually?
MM: This has been an unusual semester for sure, but I have been so impressed with the way the musical theatre program has pivoted during this time and am so grateful for the multitude of opportunities they continue to provide us with. Most of our classes have been moved to Zoom while our dance courses have remained in person with new safety protocols.
I’m also double majoring in psychology, so it’s been fascinating to experience how the shift to online learning has impacted coursework for different programs differently. Unsurprisingly, psychology lectures transition to Zoom much more easily than a voice lesson or an acting class, but despite the challenges, the training and education have continued to be incredible — a real testament to the skill and dedication of our faculty.
OS: Do you have any advice for future Penn State students that have a passion for music?
MM: My advice would be to surround yourself with artists you’re in awe of. That’s very easy to do in the programs here at Penn State! My peers are some of the most talented, passionate, and kind people I’ve ever met. Being around them every day is constantly inspiring. That’s the key to being a good artist, I think—being around others you can’t help but want to champion and if you’re lucky, they’ll champion you too. We can create more together than we ever can apart, so my advice is to find other passionate folks and cultivate that collaborative creativity.
OS: As per Onward State tradition, if you were a dinosaur, which would you be and why?
MM: I don’t know if this is breaking the rules, but the first kind of dinosaur that comes to mind is dinosaur fruit snacks! I’ve got a real love (okay, maybe obsession) with fruit snacks and it just makes me giggle to think about being a little purple dinosaur gummy. It’d warm my tiny dino heart if I could make someone as happy as fruit snacks make me!
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