Kansas City local Jazlyn Epps is a professional actress, teacher, singer, and songwriter – a well-rounded performer and an Avila University alumna. She got involved in the arts at a young age and felt it was her true calling. After practicing her craft for several years, she refined her skills further with a BFA in Musical Theatre from Avila University, graduating in 2019.
What’s your story?
I am originally from Springfield, Missouri. I started singing at age six and acting at age nine. I had only done things with the arts as a side hobby and something for fun, but my main focus was playing basketball for a career. I injured my hip beyond repair and had to kiss my dreams of playing in the league behind. From that point, I knew that was a sign from God that music and singing were my true calling, which led me to where I am today, a professional actress and recording artist. I graduated from Avila in 2019 with my BFA in Musical Theatre.
What brought you to Avila?
I got accepted to 10 other universities on a music and theatre scholarship, but as soon as I met Amity (Bryson, DMA chair of the School of Performing Arts), I knew it was where I was supposed to be. Small classrooms and creating personal relationships with my professors mattered to me. The music and theatre departments were close-knit and inclusive rather than separated and in competition. The location was perfect, AND I would have the opportunity to go to Italy. Sign me up.
What was your experience as an Avila student?
Avila gave me lifelong friendships, and I traveled not just in the continental US but out of the country three times within my four and a half years attending. I was able to perfect my craft and prepare for life outside of college. I enjoyed how everyone supported each other – in athletics or choir concerts – it was a collaborative experience. I was able to experience things that people my age and background don’t get an opportunity to have.
What were you involved in on campus?
I was heavily involved. I was BSU’s Vice President, a Freshman Mentor, TRIO Workstudy, published in Sound & Fury, an Avila Ambassador, University Singers, Cyrene, Upward Bound RA, and a Student Support Services Mentor! I also was a part of the 2016 Avila Roma Coral, the Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddess at the KC Music Hall and Des Moines (2017), and the Paris Choral Festival in 2019.
What are you doing now?
I am now a professional actress in the Kansas City metro area, with credits at Padgett Productions, MTH, Coterie, KCAT, Kansas City Public Theatre, TYA, Fishtank, KCRep, and the Black Box, a teaching artist with the Coterie, and a recording artist and songwriter, specializing in R&B and pop music. I perform all over KC and am a part of Patrick Lentz Entertainment.
How did your degree and experience from Avila help prepare you for your career?
Avila helped me with audition etiquette and how to network and sing all genres of music. The theatre department taught me all aspects of being in a production, from being on stage to behind the scenes. I learned to be a technician, which helped me run the soundboard and do makeup for shows. I was so heavily involved and consistently busy at Avila that I now keep a similarly busy schedule and don’t burn out.
What would you say to others who are considering Avila?
Take as many opportunities as you can. Get involved, start new clubs, be friends with every social group, and make the years count. College is what you make it. I tried everything I possibly could. Making those leaps won me awards and gave me amazing mentors and life lessons that I will keep forever. Avila provides a foundation for starting your career off right. Many schools don’t offer easy study abroad options. The staff and professors care about your well-being and are there to help you be the best you can be.
What’s the music scene like in Kansas City from a musician’s viewpoint?
There are many different venues and places with open mics, live music, and opportunities to have your music heard. You just have to be willing to be vulnerable and make those connections. I have seen the music scene grow almost as big as the theatre scene.
Do you have a favorite local music spot?
I have two favorite local music spots – KC Jukehouse on the 18th and Vine for Soul Sessions on Mondays. They have an open mic portion and feature a Kansas City artist.
My other favorite is The Black Box theatre up north. They have the best karaoke night every Monday.
What’s next for you? Is anything exciting on the horizon?
I have a new EP I’ve been working on in the studio, “The Introduction,” that will be dropping in early December, as well as a new single coming out this month! I have a few auditions lined up for the next two months and am hoping to get cast in those for the year 2023.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Thank you to Matthew Schwader-Harbor (assistant professor) and Amity Bryson for giving me all the things I needed to be as successful in my career as I am now. They taught me things I will keep forever, and I’m thankful I still have such a close relationship with them. Also, thank you for reaching out to me to interview me for this article. Avila University changed my life, and I am thankful to be an alumnus and to be able to share my story and hopefully inspire others to do the same.