Q&A with Karina Gonzalez

The first-year musical theater student is the inaugural recipient of the Chita Rivera Scholarship Award.

May 26, 2022

Karina Gonzalez (B.F.A. '25, musical theater) is the inaugural recipient of the Chita Rivera Scholarship Award, which is given to an outstanding student in the B.F.A. in Theater: Musical Theater program who demonstrates exceptional potential. The scholarship is named for theatrical icon Chita Rivera, a 2021 Boston Conservatory at Berklee honorary doctorate recipient. One of the most nominated performers in Tony Award history, Rivera earned 10 nominations throughout her illustrious career and won two Tonys as well as the 2018 Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theater. Gonzalez looks back at her first year at the Conservatory and talks about the theater artists who inspire her, including Rivera.

What made you fall in love with musical theater?

I was always into show tunes from my mom playing the Broadway Kids when I was young, but Hamilton is what really made me start loving musical theater. My jazz teacher at the time had just auditioned for it and told us all about the show (sadly she was not cast), but it made me do research and listen to the entire cast recording. I couldn’t stop singing the songs and my mom was the one who told me I should go into musical theater instead of just dance. 

Who are your musical theater role models and why?

Kara Lindsay is one of my biggest role models. Wow. The way she sings, the way she can dance. Though my musical awakening was Hamilton, my favorite will always be Newsies. Kara Lindsay was such a brilliant Katherine and she’s such a nice person. Ariana DeBose is such a talent. An ensemble star into a principal star. Either way, she was the one you watched. Her path is the one that I always saw for myself. Then of course there’s Chita Rivera, which I’ll get to next. 

What do you admire about her?

Chita Rivera is such a FORCE. The spice and the aura she emits in everything she does is amazing. You can’t not enjoy watching her. I’ve never been able to see her live, but I’ve seen so many videos on YouTube. When you see her dance, you want to dance. 

Why did you choose to attend Boston Conservatory at Berklee?

The Conservatory is a top-10 school for musical theater, so naturally it was in my top choices. I also wanted to live in a city, because there is more you need to prep for life on Broadway than training. Knowing how to operate in a city is very important. I did so much research on the shows and watched vlog after vlog that students who were in A Chorus Line made. After seeing clips of these performances and the vibe, I knew that this school was good quality and not just good marketing. To put the cherry on top, my brother goes to Berklee College of Music and the transition from a high schooler from a small town to a college student in Boston is much easier with family. But even with all of the research and the help, I was still on the fence. I wanted to be sure I was making the right choice. Then, I did my live audition and I knew immediately that the Conservatory was the school I would be going to. Whether I got in or not. I would have to try again to go to this school. My audition was on Zoom, so I was already nervous that my internet would cut out, but then adding the nerves of a college audition…there were a billion butterflies in my stomach, but as soon as I went into the “audition room” I was fine. I was greeted so kindly and my nerves went away. Then, not only did I get in, but I was also granted this amazing scholarship, which is actually the reason I was able to go to Boston Conservatory at all. 

What excited you most about your first year at Boston Conservatory?

I was really excited to be a small fish. Everyone at the Boston Conservatory is the best where they come from and I was so happy that I was going to be surrounded by people who care as much as I do. And I was so excited to see what was in store in the curriculum. The Conservatory is all about creating multi-hyphenated talent, not just “triple threats.” 

What surprised you most about your first year at the Conservatory?

I was surprised at how far I came in my voice training in such a short amount of time. I am a dancer first, so my main focus was my voice. With the amazing faculty and support, I was able to go so far. I was also surprised how easily I meshed with all of my classmates. I was a homeschooled student and was the youngest in all of my classes, so I was expecting to feel a little intimidated and slightly uncomfortable, but I bonded with my fellow students so well. There was never a toxic environment. Everyone is supportive of everyone. 

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