Music Magic Q&A Series: Sandra Okuboyejo

Sandra Okuboyejo first came into my life a couple of months ago for Women of the Wings: A Celebration of Female Musical Theatre Writers Volume 1, and I am all the better for it. Sandra is a junior BFA Musical Theater major at Pace University. While actively involved in the performance aspect of her career, she discovered her love for writing in Ryan Scott Oliver’s “Musical Theater Writing” course that is offered at Pace University. Since then, she’s developed new works, but her proudest work is a full length musical named “Halona & Ophelia” with her writing partner and best friend, Hanako Greensmith (book and co-lyrics). Her music has debuted at Feinstein’s/54 below, and is continuing to showcase in different venues. Connect with Sandra: @sandraokuboyejo.

MM: When did you first realize you wanted to be musical theatre writer?

SO: I always thought I’d go down the spoken word route since I am obsessed with spoken word/slam poetry. I am also an avid journaler. I truly didn’t know I wanted to be a Musical Theater writer until my sophomore year of college – I’m obtaining my BFA in Musical Theater at Pace University. A variety of classes are offered and one of the most impactful classes I’ve taken was a Musical Theater composition class taught by Ryan Scott Oliver. I was in the beginner level of music theory, so when the first assignment was distributed and I was asked to write music for it, I was appalled and thought I would fail. I spent countless hours at a piano teaching myself the basics, seeing as the clarinet was the only instrument I was proficient in, and I eventually realized how much original music I had on my heart. Since then, I’ve been writing avidly, and have accepted that this is an addiction I never want to let go of. 

MM: Of all the roles you’ve written thus far, which ones is closest to your heart?

SO: Of all the roles I’ve written thus far, I believe Halona in “Halona and Ophelia” is my favorite character. My best friend Hanako Greensmith is on book/co-lyrics on this Musical with me, and we both have our hearts invested in this piece. The names of characters are super interesting to me. Halona means “Fortunate”. I love this character the most because I relate to her tie to culture, but her yearn to break free from customs she doesn’t believe in. She’s also been brought up to lead, but equally yearns to listen and grow. She’s the perfect balance between teacher and student, and her honesty is admirable.

MM: When one walks into your home, what books are permanently on your bookshelf?

SO: There are so many books permanently on my shelf but three books that will never move are “Americanah” and “Purple Habiscus” by Chimimanda Ngozi Adiche, as well as “Letters to a young artist” by Anna Devrea Smith. I take such pride in Adiche’s work, being a fellow Nigerian who  believes in the empowerment of females which translates to the empowerment of man kind. They are all books that feed my soul and mind.

MM: If you were stranded on a desert island, what television shows and/or movies would you want available to you, (assuming of course you have a television and Internet connection?) 

SO: I absolutely would love to watch Lost, just because the situation would be ironic and I embarrassingly watched all of the seasons in a week. But in all seriousness, I also love ‘black-ish, The Bachelorette, etc. I’m more attached to good books!

MM: What’s the best piece of advice you’d want to offer aspiring musical theatre writers?

SO: Something my writing partner and I collaborated on is thus: let your voice and heart speak and you shall reach those beyond yourself – the only art that fails is silence

MM: What sound do you love? What sound do you hate?

SO: I love the sound of a full piece orchestra. I experience a visceral reaction when I hear a well orchestrated piece that incorporates all the instruments. Truthfully, there is no sound I dislike, but I definitely have sounds I prefer.

MM: What literary or musical theatre character is most like your personality? Least like your character?

SO: The Musical Theater character that I feel is most like my personality is Eliza from Hamilton. I think at first glance, people may think I’m Angelica because she’s super unapologetic, and powerful. But I believe Eliza possesses those traits in her quiet moments but is also very eloquent, and experiences a multitude of emotions. She loves beyond her believed capacity to love , and believes in the power of love and forgiveness.  I would say the least like my personality is probably the witch from into the woods. It’s ironic because I’m playing her right now, and I have found a few parallels, but she doesn’t lead with optimism as her forefront. I personally believe she leads with pessimism that sometimes blends with realism, but I definitely feel a detachment from myself though I can find justifications for all of her actions. Understanding doesn’t always equate to relate-ability   for me. 

MM: In today’s economic state, arts education programs are being cut. What reasons would you give to a school board or politician for preserving arts education programming in schools?

SO: I believe my answer for this question may be too long, so I’m hoping my art and the art being produced speaks large enough volumes  to support its validity. If you care about lives, you care about art.

MM: Who is/was your greatest teacher? (Can absolutely be more than one)

SO: I’ve been so blessed with an abundance of amazing teachers who have dedicated themselves to making me a better human, which inevitably made me a better artist. I think it would be unfair to credit just one. But Michael Warner, Alexandra Silber, JV Mercanti, Erin Dilly, Amy Rogers, Katie Knoblock, Kerstin Lynch-Walsh…thank you. Thank you. Thank you. 

Thank YOU, Sandra!

Live, Love, Learn,

Megan & The Write Teacher(s) 

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Music Magic Q&A Series: Sandra Okuboyejo