As he approached the podium at the New Student Convocation, it was easy to tell Kyle Dean Massey, ’04, is no stranger to the stage.
From his performances on Broadway to his roles in movies and television — most recently as Kevin Bicks on ABC’s musical drama “Nashville” — he’s a veteran when it comes to facing down cameras and crowds.
At the Aug. 16 convocation, Massey appeared before the incoming freshmen not as one of his starring roles, but as himself — an actor, singer and MSU alumnus.
Massey said his passion for his career first took shape when he discovered the soundtrack to the musical “Pippin” at the library in his hometown of Jonesboro, Arkansas, when he was in high school.
He wanted to major in musical theatre at one of the few universities to offer that degree. And he knew exactly which song would usher him into this musical future: “Corner of the Sky,” in which Pippin, much like the ambitious Massey, sings about his hopes of finding his place in the world.
After a demanding day of multiple auditions in Chicago for different schools, he went home to wait for the arrival of his acceptance letters only to be let down — not a single college had accepted him. It would have been easy to give up, but then Massey heard about Missouri State and its brand-new musical theatre program — when he entered the program, only one other MSU student had graduated with the degree.
After touring campus, Massey didn’t doubt that MSU was his “Corner of the Sky.” But when his audition song still failed to earn him any performance-based scholarships, he knew success was a long way ahead of him.
“I knew that I needed work, and I was finally at the place where I was going to get the help that I needed. I knew that in order to succeed, I was going to have to change.”
He took advantage of everything the program had to offer.
“It opened up a world of possibilities for me — things that I could never have even imagined.”
Massey graduated and started to make a living doing musicals (“yes, that is something you can actually do!”). Even more possibilities opened when he got a call from his agent about an audition in New York City for none other than a Broadway revival of “Pippin.” The role he would audition for? Pippin himself. The song they wanted him to sing? “Corner of the Sky.”
“So I dusted off my old college audition song, and I went in, and I auditioned for the starring role in Broadway. And guess what? I got that job. I got that job singing the exact same song that got me rejected across America.”
This is the kind of change Massey wanted every student to believe was possible.
“That change did not happen by itself. It happened with the training and education that started right here. With the education you’ll get here, whatever it is that you want to do, whoever it is that you want to become, believe me when I say that, yes, that is something you can actually do! The education and the experience you’ll get here will open up a world of possibilities for you.”
He ended by reiterating to students that whatever their previous successes or failures, they now have a clean slate.
“This is a chance to redefine yourself — a chance to change. So, go to school. Go to class. Study and work hard. With the education you’ll get here, whatever it is that you want to do, whoever it is that you want to become, believe me when I say that yes, that is something you can actually do!”
Video by Chris Nagle