ASU welcomes new full-time music theater faculty


Headshot of Toby Yatso

Toby Yatso, ’05 MM in performance, has been named a full-time clinical assistant professor of music theater.

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Arizona State University's School of Music, Dance and Theatre recently welcomed Toby Yatso as a full-time clinical assistant professor of music theater.

“We are thrilled that after a national search, Toby Yatso has accepted our offer to join the faculty full time,” said Heather Landes, director of the School of Music, Dance and Theatre. “Toby has been instrumental in the development of the music theater program, and we look forward to the future growth of our program and his excellent mentoring of our students.”

Yatso, an ASU alumnus with a Master of Management in performance, has been a member of the music theater performance faculty as a part-time lecturer since 2011.

“I am deeply honored to be a member of the faculty at my alma mater,” Yatso said. “What attracts me the most is the passion, creativity and humanity of (the School of) Music, Dance and Theatre students, the devoted and brilliant faculty and staff colleagues, the dedicated and visionary leadership who cared for us and saw us through a shutdown and pandemic, as well as the vibrant and evolving community of the Phoenix metropolitan area.”

Yatso said teaching has been a part of his nature since high school.

“I remember feeling the ecstatic drive to share ideas with and borrow ideas from others, and to figure out the journey of how someone went from discovering something to becoming fluent at it,” Yatso said.

He said he was a lonely child and fell in love with the music theater art form by watching musicals on VHS tapes. He was fascinated by the way the storytelling and human-shifting powers of music, acting, and dance and movement were combined. He would practice each discipline separately, Yatso said, but couldn't ignore the itch to immediately synthesize them all together.

“The intentionality and abstractions of music theater also gave me a way to make sense of my world at a time when few things did, and it helped me relate to my family and combat isolation,” Yatso said. “My favorite working definition of theater — ourselves trying to explain ourselves to ourselves — motivates my work each day to make music theater more accessible and participatory for everyone with a story to tell or a perspective to explore, widening its inclusion, influence and impact.”

Yatso has worn many hats in music theater, including actor, singer, dancer, director, music director, choreographer and dramaturg.

A long-term artist-in-residence for the Phoenix Theatre Company, Yatso was immersed in a multitude of projects and artistic practices to meet the ever-changing demands of the company’s seasonal offerings.

Yatso said his experience allows him to contribute versatility and adaptability in the ways he approaches teaching, directing and performing, providing support to students no matter what their unique definition of personal success may be.

“The flexibility I learned in my career has prepared me to be an effective music theater professor for (the) Music Theatre and Opera (program) and its diverse student artists,” Yatso said. “I have tended to embrace a vaudevillian attitude of, ‘And now for something completely different,’ and because of that, I aim to help students solve any and every music theater puzzle we may find.”

Yatso is a member of the Actors’ Equity Association. He has won six ariZoni Awards for acting in major roles in both plays and musicals and received 16 nominations. He has been an educator and coach for musical theater training programs at Childsplay and the Bay View Music Festival, and he was a founding director of the Phoenix Theatre Company Musical Theatre Intensive. 

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