Major: Vocal Performance
Accomplishment: Paid background actress in Hollywood
Marissa Roberts is a triple threat: She can sing, she can dance, and she can act. She was a star in Lamoni as a Vocal Performance major, and now, only four months after graduating from Graceland, she’s landed work as a paid extra in Los Angeles.
Three weeks after Marissa moved to L.A., she signed with Central Casting Los Angeles, one of the largest casting agencies in California. “Being out here in L.A. is definitely a whole new world,” said Marissa. “You really have to want it and keep your head up no matter what. And that's one of many things I can give Graceland credit for. I feel more confident in myself, my career, and my knowledge surrounding my degree.”
But Marissa wasn’t always so confident in her abilities. “I've been singing most of my life, but I was really shy about it,” said Marissa. “I would get really nervous and overthink everything from the song to the audience's facial expressions to if it’s really a good choice to go down the ‘performance’ route. But when I auditioned for the music department and received encouraging words from the choral director, I knew Graceland was going to be a life-changing experience for me.”
Marissa’s turning point as a performer came during her sophomore year. One of her professors asked her to perform in a Homecoming concert, and while Marissa agreed, she was “freaking out inside,” anxious about the large Homecoming audiences and intimidated at the thought of singing with Paulette Votava Resch, a brilliant musician, educator, and vocal instructor. “I'm not exactly sure what happened opening night,” Marissa recalled. “I remember hyperventilating as I was walking to my spot on stage behind this sheer curtain, but the moment the lights came on me everything just stopped. It's like I became a different person. I was trying to wrap my head around it all and the crowd’s reaction to what had happened. It was an unreal, unexplainable three days of performance.”
After that Homecoming of her sophomore year, Marissa learned that performing “isn’t about just going on stage and standing there singing a song, but making it come to life through the performance,” said Marissa. “After the Homecoming concerts, I saw all the emotion in the audience and in myself, I knew that performance in general was something that I was supposed to do.”
Marissa’s dream is to be on Glee, the hit TV show that combines singing, dancing and acting “and always affects someone watching in a positive way,” said Marissa. “For me, that's something I would love to be a part of. The other day I was on the set of the show Community, and [Glee creator] Ryan Murphy drove past me and was filming a stage down from us. To be that close to a show that has so much meaning for me really puts things into perspective. I believe this is what I'm supposed to be doing, and it's only the beginning.”
Marissa is eternally grateful to have had her Graceland Experience, especially with the Music Department. “They were there through thick and thin and continuously supported and pushed me to my limit, never once doubting me,” said Marissa. “They are so passionate about what they do and they care about you, not only as a student in the classroom, but as an individual.
“I can't thank my Graceland family enough for the constant support and love. I feel so lucky to have that; it's unreal.”