It has been far too long since I posted on here and that’s terrible of me… mainly because the first year group at Midlands Academy of Musical Theatre have kept me so busy. A few days ago one of our brilliant West End mentors, currently travelling the land in one of the most well known musicals in the UK right now, reminded me of actually how far this Academy has come in less than a year. This post isn’t to applaud our vanity or anything like that, but it is sometimes easy to forget that we are still absolutely tiny by comparison to the well known schools and, in our view, this is a strength and we’re proud of it.
So, with so much to write and not a clue where to start, I came to log in to my old email account to reset the password to this blog… ERROR after ERROR. Going through the recovery steps to log in irritated me beyond belief because they were so rigid in their requirements. ‘This is my account’ I thought to myself, ‘why can’t they understand MY situation?’ It started to make me think about comparisons to institutions that deal with a mass of people (who inadvertently get treated like cattle); is this why there’s no margin of personality in larger drama schools’ audition days? Do they have to protect their administration staff from extra workload by only identifying auditionees as a number (I’ve never understood that, use their name!)? With tens of thousands of hopeful applicants, have they lost a meaningful way of getting to know each of them as individuals? It appears that Google and bigger drama schools have something in common: they deal with so many ‘users’ that there is no way of having personal contact. Bulk emailing, automated support processes and an inability to speak directly to someone who can help answer your questions are just some of the similarities I see. So if you’ve been rejected, don’t take it personally. Try to be objective in what went well and what you can work on for future auditions but honestly, for lots of people it would be much easier if all schools were honest and said when ‘it’s not you, it’s me’. This is just one of the reasons that every single person who walks through our doors is immediately welcomed as an individual, not a user. 👤
Perhaps this, on a subconscious level, is why I’m so keen for Midlands Academy of Musical Theatre to be so open to prospective students and their families. In the last month alone I’ve held a number of what we’ve affectionately come to call ‘family meetings’, where prospective MAMT students bring their family along to see the venue and facilities, hear a little from myself and CiCi Howells, and ask any question any of them can think of! They’ve been hugely rewarding for the families and for us because I get to know exactly what questions keep popping up (no we don’t plan to offer a degree; a degree in musicals isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on and we are far more equipped to train the performers of the future on our own vocational syllabus with constant industry interaction) and families get to hear everything first hand and ask any questions they may have.
It gives me great pride to say that in just 6 months, we have had visiting tutors from almost every West End show in to teach the students about how the industry works TODAY. Our training is current. I’m delighted that every one of our first years has appeared professionally in the UK tour of MAGIC OF THE MUSICALS alongside world-famous performers such as Danielle Hope and Julie Atherton. I’m so proud that they’ve all had headshot photoshoots, recorded voice reels and obtained stage combat qualifications…all through being a student at MAMT. Their performance ability has exceeded their own expectations, performing in ALADDIN in December (directed by Aimee Gray from the ROYAL SHAKESPEARE COMPANY) and most recently in I LOVE YOU YOU’RE PERFECT NOW CHANGE (which I was delighted to direct and receive multiple 5 star reviews for.. Okay maybe this blog has some vanity!). Mentors have been in to coach actual numbers and choreography from their respective shows: SOPHIA RAGAVELAS from Les Mis (and recently alternate to Kerry Ellis at the London Palladium in CATS), DAYLE HODGE (Frankie Valli in JERSEY BOYS), SAM LUPTON (Little Shop of Horrors and WICKED) as well as our friends LUCY VAN GASSE and MICHELLE PENTECOST who have both played Glinda and Elphaba respectively at the Apollo Victoria in London. There are too many people to mention because every week we have staff in from giant West End and Broadway productions. On top of all this, each student is given one of these incredible performers as a mentor throughout training and beyond.
Before a well earned summer break, we have plans to workshop a brand new musical with a composer and West End creative team, plus our end of term play which will be going to London in June/July and a specialist workshop on creating an act for cruise ship and cabaret work. This is all of course in addition to regular classes (40 hours per week) and weekly West End Wednesdays where the very best continue to coach and train our budding performers of tomorrow.
If you’d like to know more, do get in touch and read some of our other blogs:
Have a very happy Wednesday.
James Williams, Principal