NYU Steinhardt News

Alumna Ruthie Ann Miles Meets With Current Students

Alumna Ruthie Ann Miles, winner of a 2015 Tony Award for her role in The King and I at Lincoln Center, spoke with Vocal Performance students at their weekly program meeting.

MK Lawson, a peer of Miles’s from her NYU days who is currently on the Vocal Performance faculty, moderated the lively discussion. The students asked a wide range of questions and Miles answered candidly, speaking about topics ranging from auditions, personal health, faith, and maintaining balance in the life of a performer.

The class began with a standing ovation for the young actress. The program meeting took place at the Frederick Loewe Theatre; the set of Grand Hotel, the program's upcoming musical, was on the stage behind Lawson and Miles.

Miles described how she began high school studying music education, but it wasn’t until she entered a Shakespeare acting competition that she began to think about acting for her college major, a career her family didn’t encourage at first.

She went on for a master’s degree in Music Performance and Composition at NYU where, in addition to refining her craft, she went through a process of self-reflection, worked on personal issues, and became involved with a church. She continues to use prayer before and during the show to “keep in check.”

Miles keeps a busy schedule with eight performances per week, in addition to being married and the mother of a young daughter.

In order to be prepared to perform each week, Miles treats her whole body as her instrument. She stays physically fit and continues to practice with vocal exercises she learned at NYU.

Miles suggested that the students be selective with auditions because auditioning is time consuming, and it might better channel one's energy investing in roles that highlight one's skill set. When asked whether her Asian background had made a difference in her career, she replied that she felt that she had been typecast at times, but that “change is coming, don’t give up.”

The recent Tony Award winner says that the experience has been wonderful and surreal. She advised the class to avoid social media and reviews, since they are only the opinions of critics. Likewise, while winning the Tony was an honor for Miles, she sees it as no more than the opinion of the voters.

In the end, she said, it’s important to keep in mind advice she learned in her NYU class on business skills, “to know what you’re good at and to do it.”