Berklee Today

Alumni Profile

Ava Schlink '01: Playing Rent

  Ava (Schlink) '01
  Ava (Schlink) '01

It's funny how things sometimes go in a circle and you end up where you started-albeit with a twist the second time around. Such is the story of Ava Schlink '01, who has dreamed of being in musical theatrical productions since childhood. Being cast as Maureen in the national touring company production of the Broadway show Rent has brought Ava (whose professional name is simply Ava) back to her original aspiration. Time that elapsed in between and the hard work she did in those years to become a well-rounded artist make this a perfect gig for Ava right now.

"Since I was a kid, I've always wanted to dance and be on the stage," Ava says. "I was in lots of musicals when I was in high school, so when it came time for college, I went to Marymount Manhattan College in the acting program. But it didn't work out as I wanted. I began feeling that my voice wasn't right for musical theater, so I started getting more into pop music."

Ava decided to transfer to Berklee. Her father, Assistant Professor Bob Schlink, was the perfect resource. "I told him I wanted to go to Berklee and be a real musician and a songwriter," Ava says. "He gave me a crash course in music theory before I started. "When I got there, I loved everything about it. I loved the energy and everyone was passionate about music. So many students were better than me. It gave me a lot to aspire to."

Ava majored in professional music and put a band together to play the new material she was writing. "We developed a pretty strong following in Providence, [Rhode Island], and got good press coverage." Ava says. "By the time I graduated, it became very hard to keep the band going, so I turned my attention to production in the studio." She began working with producer Rob Gritti, and completed two EPs of her material. She also hired a music lawyer to help develop inroads with record labels. Ava's new self-titled five-song CD of dance music showcases the sound she really wants to pursue (visit Her plan was to stay in New York and try to get signed.

Then the musical-theater theme appeared again in her life. She had tried unsuccessfully to land a part in Rent a few times. "I've auditioned for this show for seven years," she says. "I was at Marymount when I did the first audition. But I knew in my heart that I wasn't ready. Every time I auditioned, though, I'd get called back, but I'd never get a part. I finally called up the director to ask what was going wrong. She told me that she didn't feel my voice was strong enough to handle eight shows a week."

After voice studies with Assistant Professor Marlon Saunders at Berklee and after graduation, and playing lots of pro gigs, Ava's voice developed. When she moved to New York to pursue a break in the music industry earlier this year, she passed her new head shot along to the theater company. A few months later, she was invited to the next round of auditions for Rent. This time it went differently and Ava was offered a major role as Maureen. The tour began last August in Portland, Oregon.

While the role challenges Ava's stamina, she has risen to the role's demands. "On my other gigs, if I had something difficult to sing, I could just stand there," Ava says. "In Rent, I'm moving around a lot and climbing on tables while singing hard parts. It is demanding to keep up your energy for the whole show. You have to eat well, drink a lot of water, and really take care of yourself every day."

Singing in a high-profile show every night and having the days off is perfect for Ava's present and future. "A&R people always ask if you have new material and where they can come to see you perform," says Ava. "I have laptop with Pro Tools software so that I can write material at my hotel during the days and then send it to Rob who can work on the production." As for where Ava can be seen, there is a huge choice of dates and cities.

For now, Ava is completing one circle touring this year with Rent. She's also planning for her future. "This is very exciting," she says. "If I had given up auditioning for the show or if I'd gotten discouraged after waiting so long, maybe I never would have gotten this break. Maybe it had to take seven years."