Acclaimed Broadway producer Jeffrey Seller, a University of Michigan 1986 graduate, spoke to a packed auditorium at Palmer Commons Friday afternoon about his student experience at the University and his success in producing hit-Broadway shows like “Rent,” “Avenue Q” and “Hamilton.”
Seller graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science and worked various jobs while at the University, including directing plays at the Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre and writing for The Michigan Daily. Seller explained the difficulty he faced during his senior year, when he was unsure how to navigate his goals for the future.
After graduation, Seller moved to New York City to pursue a career in public relations within the entertainment industry. There, he met the people who became an integral part of his early career.
“Who we team up with helps determine our future,” Seller said. “The question will be, ‘What can you make with yourself and the people that you meet from Michigan, and the years right after?’”
Later in the discussion, Seller opened the floor to questions from the audience, during which LSA students were encouraged to ask for advice regarding internships and the job search. Most questions pertained to Seller’s journey from the University to Broadway and the importance of utilizing all of the resources available on campus.
“What Michigan offered were those variety of experiences that prepared me to get to New York,” Seller said. “Because that’s the opportunity you have here as students … in this little microcosm of the big world, you can create a life for yourself.”
Throughout the discussion, Seller emphasized the need for students to have faith in themselves and take risks during their college careers. Seller alluded to his experiences producing shows like “Rent”, “Avenue Q” and “Hamilton”, of which he and his colleagues didn’t know were hits until long after all their hard work.
“We don’t know how it’s going to turn out, we don’t who it’s going to affect, we just are doing the work,” Seller said. “We find out that it was a (success) later.”
After the talk ended, fans gathered in the auditorium dressed in Hamilton merchandise and posed for photos with Seller. Many students expressed the deep impact Seller’s musicals had on their adolescence and college experience.
Siqi Wang, an LSA senior, saw a 2017 production of “Hamilton” in New York and said the musical had a large impact on her.
“It gave me a huge impression … that’s why I really wanted to listen to the experience from the producer,” Wang said.
The Hub, which hosted the event, aims to inspire LSA students and demonstrate that their aspirations can become reality through alumni engagement events such as the Seller talk. Paula Wishart, assistant dean for student development and career initiatives at the Hub told The Daily connecting students with diverse alumni from a vast array of industries will hopefully foster relationships and encourage networking while still in school.
“An important goal of the Hub (is to connect) students and LSA alums, and this was an example of giving them a personal audience with one of the best,” Wishart wrote in an email interview. “Jeffrey identified the capacities he developed in his LSA education as essential to the success of his career on Broadway. That’s a really empowering and important message for students.”