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Braden River High alum to produce musical for Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Gabriel McDerment will debut his musical, "Acceptance Pending," in the international performing arts festival.

Gabriel McDerment has been working on his musical, "Acceptance Pending," since his freshman year at New York University where he is now a junior.
Gabriel McDerment has been working on his musical, "Acceptance Pending," since his freshman year at New York University where he is now a junior.
Courtesy photo
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Senior year at Braden River High School was filled with stress and anxiety for Gabriel McDerment in 2021. 

He applied to 14 universities, mostly Ivy League schools, and would have applied for more if his parents, Brooke and Cliff McDerment, didn’t limit the number he could submit. 

With graduation fast approaching in May 2021, and admissions being limited at several universities due to the COVID-19 pandemic, McDerment felt more pressure than ever to be accepted. He also kept comparing himself to other students.

To process his feeling of the college admission process, McDerment went to the artistic medium he knows best: musicals.

“I always felt that musical theater had a power to explore the human condition deeper than an individual song,” said McDerment, who is now a junior at New York University. “As a composer, I felt I could do more with a section of songs built on characters that I felt I had a relationship with. There’s never been a moment of my composing where musical theater was not my favorite medium.”

After spending two years at New York University composing nine songs and developing characters for his musical, “Acceptance Pending,” McDerment felt comfortable with sharing the musical with others. 

On Aug. 27-28, “Acceptance Pending” will make its debut at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland as part of the festival’s student program.

“I really didn’t write it for anybody else to see, but I feel like there was a point when I realized there are a lot of people in that same situation as well,” McDerment said. 

Gabriel McDerment will debut his musical, "Acceptance Pending," at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
Photo by Liz Ramos

“Acceptance Pending” follows Andrea, a high schooler dreaming of attending an Ivy League school, as she works through the pressures of applying for college, waiting for results, and the emotions that come with rejection. 

The musical addresses the mental health and emotional wellbeing of college-bound students. 

He used his personal experiences to develop his characters. 

“I saw (college admissions) as a season to push through, and I really pushed hard,” McDerment said. “I think I entered college more exhausted than I should have because it was just such a strong push to the next thing. I didn’t have time to stop and think about whether it was too much or not because I didn’t have a choice in it.”

McDerment said other plays try to fix a mental health issue, but his musical encourages people to understand that uncertainty and feeling different is OK.

“There are moments where you have no idea what the next step is, you feel like you’ve messed up or you’re in the midst of anxiety or depression,” he said. “In all of that, it’s OK to sit down and accept who you are. You’re not abnormal. You don’t need fixing. It’s one thing to tell somebody it’s going to be OK. It’s the next thing to validate where someone is in that moment.”

He said each of his characters mirrors elements of himself through the application process.

Although McDerment is still in the process of fine tuning his musical, he has started working with the cast and others to put his musical on the stage. 

He said the Edinburgh Fringe Festival student program has provided resources to help alleviate the anxiety and challenges that has come with producing a musical. 

Besides serving as director, McDerment will also be performing in the musical as the only instrumentalist playing piano and guitar. 

McDerment said finally seeing his musical on the stage leaves him feeling vulnerable. He knows there will be people in the audience critiquing the musical, which is causing him to be nervous. 

Although seeing the musical performed will provide some closure for McDerment, he said it might not be the end of his reckoning with his reflection on the admission process, especially as he begins applying for graduate school. 

“I’ll be able to walk away having understood more about myself,” he said. “I look at some of the songs I wrote two years ago today, and I know the music composer I was two years ago was very different to me as a composer now.”

Reflecting on his college admissions experience has given him the opportunity to look at what he can do differently and the tools he can use to relieve any anxiety he might experience while applying for graduate school.

“The biggest piece is realizing the anxiety that’s there and addressing it for what it is and not trying to write it off as unfounded,” McDerment said. “It’s understanding that the emotions you’re feeling are part of the process and sometimes as sad as it is, it doesn’t make you less human.”



Liz Ramos

Liz Ramos covers education and community for East County. Before moving to Florida, Liz was an education reporter for the Lynchburg News & Advance in Virginia for two years after graduating from the Missouri School of Journalism.

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