Known as the golden-haired boy who can sing like an angel turned actor, Ray McFarland has been teaching at St. Andrew’s in Mississippi since 1999. As a kid, McFarland was chosen as the lead for every play and came in first place in every singing competition. However, it wasn’t until he went to Murrah High School that he decided to be an actor. Karen Gilfoy, his mentor and choir director, gave him some words of advice.

    “When I was at Murrah the choir director was a lady named Karen Gilfoy, and she was my mentor,” McFarland said. “She taught me that I had a gift and that if I didn’t use the gift I was throwing away a very important part of my life. She taught me to love to sing and to love theater.”

    McFarland went on to go to many colleges such as Mississippi College School of Law, NYU, Columbia College, and LSU to name a few. Right out of college, McFarland was granted an opportunity of a scholarship to Julliard in New York to be an Opera singer. However, he had to go to a summer tryout before he was given the scholarship, and this experience became the first time he was ever heavily critiqued on something.

    “They critique you and tell you what you need to work on, and they were really brutal,” McFarland said. “They said ‘we love you. You’re a very incredibly talented young man. We want you to stay, but your French is horrible your German is even worse. If you want to stay in this program you’ve got to get to the practice rooms.”

    After McFarland was critiqued, he felt as if he was not ready for a field as competitive as that one. He came home and started teaching at Jackson Prep for five and a half years while doing shows at New Stage Theater. McFarland met a director who offered him an off-broadway show. This led him to move to New York, but unfortunately, the show closed very quickly.

    However, he was in a national tour of Hello Dolly with Carol Channing and was on the road for about two years. McFarland then decided to stay in New York for 15 years where he did TV commercials and musical theater. When his mother died, he decided to move back to Mississippi to be with and to help his dad. Then, McFarland decided to teach theater at St. Andrew’s because he remembered what Gilfoy said to him and did to help him, and he wanted to do the same thing for others.

    “Karen Gilfoy, my mentor, was able to look at me and see that I had talent and to make me want to develop that talent,” McFarland said. “Because of her I always knew I wanted to have that opportunity to do that for someone else, some other kid.”

    And since McFarland has taught at St. Andrew’s he has helped many people to become better actors by having them push past their limits. However, the ways he makes people push past their limits has given him the reputation of being mean and loud, but anyone who has worked with McFarland for long enough knows that is not the case.

    “He is very imdimetating and he can really push people to be their best because he’s so demanding because he knows what he can get out of you,” Senior Actress, Mia Hammond said. “He has just shown me that I can do more than I think I can. He has given me confidence in myself because he is always pushing me to do more than I am already doing. And that has made me realize that I can actually go above and beyond and do more things than I thought were possible.”

    McFarland is now helping others, as Gilfoy helped him, to become better actors by pushing past boundaries, and someday maybe one of his students will do the same for someone else.

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