Beth Million, an NYU Tisch School of the Arts alum, is an extraordinary talent. Primarily, she is an R&B musician. She began performing in New York City venues with her band while she was still an NYU student. She is also a businesswoman and an actress who, as of this year, has been signed by CESD Talent Agency here in NYC.
I had the privilege of getting to know Beth while we were both at NYU. I was recently able to sit down with her on a socially distanced coffee date over Zoom. We discussed her music, her time at NYU, advice for those thinking about college, and what’s next for her (spoiler alert: a lot).
Hi Beth! I know it’s a cliche opener, but I want to start from the very beginning: is music always something you saw yourself doing? How did that journey begin?
It’s something I’ve always thought about and dreamed about. But I never thought I’d be the one to actually do it! It’s weird because I feel like everyone else in my family knew. I was such a show pony entertainer as a kid! But it always came to me in the form of acting—never in the form of writing my own music.
I went to a musical theatre academy as a kid and ended up sticking with it all throughout high school. I knew musical theatre was going to be the route I took. But my family’s Ethiopian, and I’m a first-generation student, so my parents didn’t play around when it came to academics! They were like “you can sing and dance and stuff, but we’d better see those honor rolls.”
What ended up leading you to NYU? Were your parents OK with you studying something artistic in college?
I was at a school where no one—not even one of my friends—were considering the arts. They thought I was psycho. So I said “watch me” and wanted to do it more! I did the NYU Tisch Summer Program to see if I wanted to pursue this path seriously, and I loved it.
I sat down with my mom and said,“If I can get into one of the best musical theatre schools in the world, then you have to let me go.” She said OK! So I applied to NYU for musical theatre in the Tisch School of the Arts, and the rest is history.
Did you start writing and working on your own music at NYU?
I did! I would go through a typical emotional experience that happens to college kids and would journal about it. The journaling turned into poetry, then into music, and then me approaching friends to help me out with it. Then I did a semester abroad, and wanted to reinvent myself all over again with music when I came back!
The amazing thing about NYU is the connections you make. From my freshman year onwards I made friends studying all sorts of different cool things, I talked to a guy in the NYU Clive Davis Institute for Recorded Music and got started.
What’s your songwriting process like?
Kat, I’m a Pisces. I’m a simp through and through. I got played many times before learning my lesson! I’ll write down what I wish I’d said, what I’d say if there wouldn’t be consequences, etc. Then I’m able to understand my own message and incorporate it into my life.
Writing music is my form of closure. I journal in the same notebook, so I’ll just write 11 pages about an experience. I’ll take lines from these entries later on and write a song about it. Then I’m no longer dependent on the other person to have closure, because I closed it.
What effect do you feel like your college experience has had on your music?
You spend your childhood saying “I want to be a popstar” then as you age you feel like you can’t say that anymore. But you can say it at NYU!
Before coming to New York and NYU, life circumstances made me feel like I couldn’t do this “for real.” Coming here and having access to everything, you can really create the person you want to be and then become that person. At NYU, you have all the resources available to you to do exactly what you want to do, so there are no more excuses.
Also, I love to sing while I’m walking and I forget people can hear me, but the cool thing about New York is that no one cares!
A free concert on the streets of NYC, I love that. I remember your single release party at the Bowery Electric a couple of years ago. How did you meet your incredible band?
We ended up all meeting by chance, and it just stuck. I met my pianist, Antonio, first in freshman year, then met my drummer who was a student in the NYU film and TV program, then Antonio introduced me to someone else, etc., etc. It’s the most New York story of how our friend group was made!
They’re all like my brothers and they’re so talented. It’s literally just us goofing around like we do normally, but in front of an audience which is always more fun! I get to have my own big band as an R&B singer. It’s crazy.
We all hear about Lady Gaga writing her song "Disco Stick" in NYUs Bobst Library. Did you write any of your songs at NYU?
A relatable NYU experience for sure. Last year you shot the music video for "Dirty Little Secret." How did that vision come about? I’m obsessed with the color-block aesthetic.
That was with friends in the Tisch film and television program! My main friend group at NYU were Tisch film kids, so I would watch them do all these crazy things with their projects. One of my friends Pat was doing a short-form video class. I’d just told him about getting my music going, so he was like, “let’s do a music video!” So I got to have a music video made, work with some of the most talented people in film, and hang out and have fun with my friends all on the same day.
There was something about monochromatic outfits that felt powerful, then we found this amazing monochromatic location, so it all came together. Now, monochrome is my brand!
So you were studying musical theatre, writing music, shooting videos—what other aspects were you involved in?
Too much, but I loved it! I did Tisch New Theatre (TNT), I was an admissions ambassador, and I did the Reality Show which was honestly one of the best pieces of art I’ve been a part of. It’s this huge NYU hour-long musical sketch comedy show that deals with topics from safety in the city, mental health—you name it. We performed at crazy places like Radio City Music Hall and the Barclays Center. You spend the whole summer writing and rehearsing for it. It forces you to write songs like nobody’s business! Every day you have to come in and have a song. It was a crash course in songwriting.
Academically, I also did a cross-school minor in the Stern School of Business in the Business of Entertainment, Media and Technology (BEMT).
I got to take classes like Business Structure of the Music Industry and Managing the Artist; it was awesome. One Professor, Rich Hendler, sat me down after watching me perform and said, “I will help you do this if, when you’re successful, you’ll take our entire class to a concert.” I still talk to my professors now. Whenever a music career situation or contract questions happens, I have them as resources.
It really makes a difference to know that at NYU people are believing in you and rooting for you like that. Especially now during this weird time for musicians and artists.
I can imagine. How has this time been for you as an artist? Have you found it motivating, or the opposite?
I’ve been writing a little bit more, but mostly I’ve been planning music videos and trying to get songs recorded and mixed. Basically, all the tedious work that goes into production. This past year has really been about getting content out there. As a Black female creative, it’s about not shutting down your ego when you’re so used to doing that. It’s so important to nurture your ego and use it as a framing tool, rather than letting it stifle you.
What is one piece of advice you would have to aspiring artists on their college selection journey's at the moment, when there isn’t much “art" going on?
For creative folks, people are always gonna try and tell you to be “realistic” about your dreams. Do not do that! Keep them unrealistic, because what makes them unrealistic fuels your ambition, and you need that ambition to do what you want to do. Reaching for something impossible and working really hard at it creates opportunities. It’s what keeps me going.
If you’re a high school student trying to make art right now, recalibrate! Just focus on one day at a time. Focus actively on what you have to do tomorrow. If you just work as hard as you can on making that one day successful, the story/song/whatever will write itself.
I know you're working on some new music yourself, and blowing up on TikTok. What can we expect up next from Beth Million?
Alongside just vibing on my TikTok, we have a lot of things that we’re working on and getting wrapped up. I have so many songs I’ve been working on, so now I just get to decide how to curate and release them, which is awesome.
We’re in talks about doing an EP and we have two music videos in post-production right now. I won’t say which two yet! But one of them is “Layers,” which I’m excited about. I got to work with my NYU film friend-group again.
I also got signed by an acting agency in NYC after graduation in 2020, so I’m doing the whole auditioning thing and a bunch of projects. Acting was my first love, so it’s been really nice to get back to that.
So you’re a professional actress as well?! How did you get your acting agent?
I got my agent through NYU Stonestreet Studios. It’s this advanced training studio for NYU Tisch Drama students. You get to do a lot of film acting and training there. I attended the industry nights where you get to perform in front of professionals, then I got signed.
I just feel like I’m living my dream life. I’m in New York, I love my apartment, I have the best band ever, I’m growing on TikTok, and I get to audition for all these acting projects!
I’m also really trying to push myself to create my own dramatic content. NYU has provided me with so many resources and people in that field. It feels dumb not to utilize them! I have dreams about writing my own screenplays or a TV show.
If Childish Gambino can do both, so can I. We’re both NYU alumni now. There’s this wall in the NYU Admissions Center with the names of successful alumni all over it, and I want to be on the wall someday!
So there you have it. If you visit the NYU Bonomi Admissions Center in a few years, you’ll see Beth’s name up there.
Thank you so much to Beth Million for chatting with me. Check out her website, TikTok and Instagram, and give her music a listen on Spotify. You can also take a look at Beth’s acting website to see what’s coming up next for her.
Beth attended a musical program, but there are numerous other NYU Summer Programs for creative high school students. Dance, dramatic writing, filmmaking, game design, photography—you name it. You can read more via the Tisch Summer Program site.
NYU summer programs are not just for artistic students. If you were like me—a college-applicant torn between the humanities or STEM—the Precollege program can be a great way to try different things out. It gives you a clear picture of what you want to study before the college application process begins. All while earning college credit!