Broadway star Jennifer Wills returns to teach at SU

Broadway star Jennifer Hope Wills has taken a faculty role as adjunct professor of the practice in the Music, Theatre and Dance Department in the Charles R. and Martha N. Fulton School.

For Broadway star Jennifer Hope Wills, Salisbury University and the Eastern Shore are home.

Throughout her two decades in New York, where she starred in multiple shows including a nearly four-year run as Christine Daaé in the “The Phantom of the Opera,” it was always on her mind to return to the area.

This semester the 1995 SU graduate did just that, moving to the area and taking on a faculty role as adjunct professor of the practice in the Music, Theatre and Dance Department in the Charles R. and Martha N. Fulton School of Liberal Arts.

“I loved my time at SU, and even though I’ve been in New York for 20 years, I’ve always wanted to come back home because I love the area,” said Wills. “I’ve always had it in the back of my mind that this is where I would be, and I hope to share some of my experiences with the students that are there now.”

Part of the appeal of leaving the Broadway stage, where she also starred in Wonderful Town opposite Brooke Shields and portrayed Belle in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, was being able to spend more time with her son Vincent, 10.

“I wanted to be home with him,” Wills said. “Eight shows per week, being gone all week, it was hard for him. I wanted a job where I can still do what I love and be with my son and raise him.”

In addition to stage experience, Wills also brings with her a classroom background. Previously she served as an adjunct assistant professor of voice at Hofstra University. But SU offers a smaller, more intimate atmosphere.

“I love being in a smaller environment,” she said. “Sometimes you feel like you can make a little more of a difference in that environment. You get to know all of the students and professors. You get to know everyone in theater and dance, and it’s a collaborative effort.”

Though her first time teaching at SU, this is not her first trip back to campus.

“We are very excited to welcome Jennifer back to our campus community. Several years ago she performed – beautifully – as a guest artist with our Salisbury Symphony Orchestra, to a full house,” said Dr. Maarten Pereboom, dean of the Fulton School. “During her visit she met with our students, offering advice and support from an alumna who had achieved great success as a performer. As a faculty member, she is an impressive addition to a vocal performance program that’s already attracted many talented students and enabled them to mature and grow as artists, in some cases with regional and national distinction.”

Early in her return to SU, Wills has noticed a number of differences, but many areas still bring back memories of her days as a student.

“There is a lot that’s changed at the University, but Fulton and Holloway halls, where I’ve spent most of my time, are exactly the same,” she said. “On one of my first days back, I was near the choir room, which is where we had our master class. I was feeling the same nerves today that I felt when I had to sing in master class.”

Jennifer Hope Wills in her historic performance run in Broadway’s “Phantom Of The Opera.”

Wills is teaching 10 private applied voice students this semester. She enjoys the diverse population of students in her classes.

“I’m hoping to impart on them that the love of theater and music. While you don’t need to have a career in that, you can keep that love alive and keep doing it in different ways,” she said. “That’s why I love a liberal arts school. You need to have a world of experiences. A lot of my students are not music majors, and I think it’s great that they learn as much as they can about everything.”

For Wills, coming home means time with family in the place that she loves and an opportunity to give back to an institution that helped shape who she is.

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