cabaret & performance conference

The Cabaret & Performance Conference reexamines, redefines, and revitalizes the cabaret art form for the 21st century using a definition of cabaret as “any kind of live performance in an intimate space that breaks the fourth wall.”

Junior Fellows Applications Coming 2023!

Fellows Applications Coming 2023!

Conference Dates

August 2023

Specific Dates TBA

The Cabaret & Performance Conference brings some of the biggest names in cabaret theater to perform at the O’Neill each summer and provides valuable development and performance training for select up-and-coming performers on the cabaret scene and students through its Fellows and Junior Fellows programs.


Recent Conference artists include: Judy Kuhn, Tonya Pinkins, Norm Lewis, Marilyn Maye, Ken Page, Molly Pope, Melissa Manchester, Karen Mason, Christina Bianco, Joyce Breach, Brad Simmons, Matt Baker, Eric Yves Garcia, Mark Hartman, Brian Nash, Natalie Douglas, The Skivvies, Nick Adams, Shirley Jones, Jim Caruso, Billy Stritch, Mimi Hines, Susie Mosher, Betty Buckley, and Tommy Tune.

Fellows and Junior Fellows receive training from the talented Conference staff as well as Conference guest artists.

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Conductor, pianist, composer, orchestrator, record producer, Grammy and two-time Emmy Award winner, John McDaniel was seen leading the band daily on The Rosie O’Donnell Show for its entire six year run. He wrote the theme song and received five Emmy nominations for Outstanding Music Direction and Composition. On the show, he worked with such artists as Billy Joel, Tony Bennett, Dick Van Dyke, Neil Diamond, Dolly Parton, Liza Minnelli, Rosemary Clooney, Barry Manilow, Chaka Kahn, and Madonna.

Recently, John participated in a live Playbill concert event in Times Square welcoming back Broadway, featuring Brian Stokes Mitchell, Jessica Vosk and Chuck Schumer. McDaniel produced and directed a virtual concert of Sticks & Stones, for which he is also the composer, starring Audra McDonald & Javier Muñoz.  


He first worked with Rosie in 1994 when he conducted the Broadway revival of Grease in which Rosie played Rizzo. McDaniel also created new vocal and dance arrangements for this production. Stars throughout its run included Brooke Shields, Jon Secada, Sheena Easton, Chubby Checker, Debby Boone, Jennifer Holliday, and Al Jarreau.

His recent Broadway credits include Bonnie & Clyde, for which John received a Drama Desk nomination for Best Orchestrations; Catch Me If You Can; and Brooklyn, which he also orchestrated and produced.

Mr. McDaniel was the supervising Music Director of the Broadway revival of Annie Get Your Gun, starring Bernadette Peters (and subsequently Reba McEntire), which won the 1999 Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical and for which he received the Grammy Award as producer for Best Musical Show Album. He also was the supervising Music Director for Boy George’s Taboo on Broadway in 2003, and produced the cast album. He conducted the smash hit Chicago on Broadway, the 1993 reunion of the original Broadway cast of Company in concert at Lincoln Center, the U.S. tour of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Starlight Express, Off-Broadway’s Blame It On the Movies, as well as solo performances for such esteemed artists as Cab Calloway, Shirley MacLaine, George Burns, Betty Buckley, Bette Midler, Frederica von Stade, and Carol Burnett. Mr. McDaniel also arranged the show Patti LuPone on Broadway.


In 2011, McDaniel made his opera debut, conducting The Daughter of the Regiment at the Opera Theatre of St. Louis.


His musical adaptation of Pirates! has played the Goodspeed Opera House, the Paper Mill Playhouse, the Huntington Theatre in Boston, and most recently the St. Louis Muny Opera.


He arranged music for the Tony Awards on CBS in 1997, 1998 and 2000. Other arranging and conducting credits for television specials include A Rosie Christmas for ABC, starring Celine Dion and Marc Anthony, and the Friars Roasts of Jerry Stiller, Rob Reiner, Hugh Hefner and Chevy Chase, all for Comedy Central, as well as A Family is a Family for HBO.


He has been a featured pops conductor for the Milwaukee Symphony, the Baltimore Symphony, the Oklahoma Philharmonic, the Colorado Symphony, the Stamford Symphony and the Utah Symphony orchestras as well as multiple return engagements with the San Francisco Symphony, the Buffalo Philharmonic, the Indianapolis Symphony and his hometown St. Louis Symphony Orchestra.


In 2001, Mr. McDaniel produced and conducted a national television commercial in the wake of 9/11 to promote tourism in New York City starring Matthew Broderick, Nathan Lane, Michele Lee, Joel Grey, Elaine Stritch and a host of other Broadway stars.


Mr. McDaniel produced and conducted "The Maury Yeston Songbook" for PS Classics featuring Tony Award winners Betty Buckley, Sutton Foster and Christine Ebersole among many others. Mr. McDaniel has recorded four solo CDs, John McDaniel at the Piano: Broadway, John McDaniel at the Piano: Christmas, and John McDaniel at the Piano: Compositions, and most recently, John McDaniel Live at Joe’s Pub. He produced the Broadway Cast Recordings of Bonnie & Clyde, Brooklyn, Taboo as well as The Journey Home (Malcolm Gets). Other recording credits include the Broadway cast album for the revival of Grease on the RCA/Victor label, Patti LuPone Live! on RCA/Victor, as well as Davis Gaines’ release, Against the Tide.


He is the recipient of the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award for his music direction of Chicago, as well as multiple Drama Logue awards. Mr. McDaniel received the Board of Director’s Award from the Manhattan Association of Cabaret in 2000. In 2002, Mr. McDaniel was elected to The Television Academy of Arts and Sciences’ Board of Governors.


A native of St. Louis, Missouri, Mr. McDaniel first studied piano with his mother Jane, and earned his BFA degree in Drama from Carnegie Mellon University.

Table Setting

cabaret fellows

A dynamic opportunity for performers to refine their skills and stage presence with the guidance of an accomplished team of world-class professionals


The Cabaret & Performance Conference Fellows Program is a dynamic opportunity for performers to refine their skills and stage presence under the direction of an accomplished team of professionals. During an intense two-week period, this conference provides artistic guidance and expert instruction to a handful of participants chosen by application and invitation.


With six hours of classes daily, Fellows receive one-on-one coaching from leading music directors, work with world-class guest artists, and prepare for a public performance, as well as participate in night time open mic sessions. Fellows gain admission to nightly professional shows by world-class performers. Areas of study include song selection, ear training, mic technique, harmony, and group dynamics. Alumni of the program have gone on to perform at major venues from coast to coast, utilizing the lasting relationships they cultivated at the O’Neill.

Applications for the 2023 Conference will open in 2023! 

Our application is hosted through the Airtable platform. Only complete applications will be considered.

The base cost of tuition for this program is $3,500.


Included in all tuition fees: daily morning and afternoon sessions and mentorship with faculty, master classes with guest artists, tickets to nightly shows on the main stage, and room & board on the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center campus.

Travel to and from Waterford, CT, is the responsibility of participants.

The Cabaret Fellows Program thrives with a rigorous and varied schedule. Below is an example of a potential daily schedule. All class sessions include work with our master teachers, a team of music directors as well as esteemed guest artists.


9:30 am -12:30 pm: Morning Class Session

12:30-1:30 pm: Lunch

1:30 - 2:00 pm: All Conference Meeting

2:00 - 5:30 pm: Afternoon Class Session

5:30 - 6:30 pm: Dinner

8:00 pm: Mainstage Performance

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Natalie Douglas

Master Artist Teacher

BroadwayWorld Best Cabaret Vocalist Award Winner and recipient of the Donald F. Smith & Margaret Whiting Awards from the Mabel Mercer Foundation.


Barb Jungr

Guest Faculty

Award-winning British songstress renowned for her vocal style, interpretation of song and radical approach to arrangements. 

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Ken Page

Guest Faculty

Drama Desk Award-winning Broadway actor and cabaret singer

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Matthew Scott

Guest Faculty

Drama Desk Award-winning Broadway actor and cabaret singer

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Steven Cuevas

Music Director

Broadway music director, musician, actor, and singer.

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Lennie Watts

Master Artist Teacher

10-time MAC Award-winner, vocalist, director, producer, & booking manager with over 20 years in the NYC cabaret scene.


Betty Buckley

Guest Faculty

Tony Award-winning actress, whose career has encompassed TV, film, stage and concert work around the globe.

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Marilyn Maye

Guest Faculty

Multi-award winning American jazz singer, cabaret singer, and musical theater actress. 


Tracy Stark

Music Director

10-time MAC Award winner, Bistro Award winner, winner of the Dottie Burman Songwriter of the Year Award. Singer/Songwriter, Musical Director, Conductor and Arranger.

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Mark Hartman

Music Director

New York-based pianist, coach, conductor, arranger and composer. Recipient of three MAC Awards and the Backstage Bistro Award for Music Direction.

For questions about the Cabaret Fellows program, please email

Performance Classes
Open Mic
Public Performance
Pinning Ceremony

junior fellows

Offers select 15- to 18-year-old students an opportunity for professional vocal instruction, movement, and hands-on artistic guidance in the art of performance


The premier pop music performance program for Connecticut's 15- to18-year-olds, the Junior Fellows program offers a select group of students the opportunity for in-person professional vocal instruction, movement, and hands-on artistic guidance in the art of performance. Students gain valuable interaction with world-renowned guest artists and professional faculty and acquire skills needed to make performance an important part of their creative lives.


The program includes two weeks of master classes and performance opportunities alongside the O’Neill’s professional guest artists at the Cabaret & Performance Conference.


Alumni have gone on to: Royal Conservatory of Scotland, UC College-Conservatory of Music, NYU, UCLA, Northeastern University, University of Miami Theatre, Sony Music Entertainment, and NBC's The Voice.

2023 Theme Coming Soon!

Recent themes include: Ladies of the '80s, We Are the Champions: The Music of Queen!, Big Shot! Junior Fellows SIng Billy Joel

Applications for the 2023 Conference will open in 2023! 

Our application is hosted through the Airtable platform. Only complete applications will be considered.

Tuition is $1,000 and includes all meals. The O'Neill requires a 50% non-refundable deposit at the time of acceptance to the program.

Brad Simmons, who is recognized from the films The Last Five Years and the cult-favorite Camp, has shared the stage with Broadway luminaries Tonya Pinkins, Alice Ripley, Beth Leavel, and Donna McKechnie  and recording artists  Sandi Patty and The B-52s' Kate Pierson. Simmons music directed Lysistrata Jones, Hood, To Wong Foo, Mr. & Mrs. Fitch with John Lithgow, Me and The Girls with Alan Cumming, and the film Hello Again with Audra McDonald and Martha Plimpton. Simmons composed the musicals A Kiss from Alexander, A Woman Onstage, and A Dickens of a Carol with librettist Stephan DeGhelder. Find Brad’s recordings, including Dreamworld, Mundane Existence, and The Simon & Garfunkel Collection on all music platforms. He currently music directs The Lineup with Susie Mosher at Birdland Jazz Club in New York City.

For questions about the Cabaret Fellows program, please email

Performance Classes
Public Performance
Spend Your Summer Here
Open Mic