Are you just a number?

Just before Christmas, we started the auditions for our first intake of students; they’ll be training with us from September 2016. We decided from the beginning that we wanted to spend a full day auditioning students – this isn’t for a small job or a few gigs, this investment in us by our students, and our investment in them, is a relationship that will last for their career. We have to get it right and the schools who think they can do that in a snapshot 5 minute audition followed by a quick chat about their goals and ambitions, are wrong.

It doesn’t take much searching to find stories of dissatisfaction amongst auditionees at some other schools. The schools who are still auditioning people well after they’ve filled all their places, for example… Or the schools who say ‘you’re not quite ready for the ‘proper’ course yet but you could massively benefit from our ‘other’ full time course which we call the ‘foundation’; we’ve conveniently bolted it on the side of the school but without much thought and completely different (that means cheaper!) teachers’. I’m incredibly wary of foundation courses because I’ve seen too many people on them who have never progressed on to the school’s longer course or entered the business…it doesn’t feel like an investment in the individual’s development to me; it feels like another income stream. I’ve personally been told stories of ‘foundies’ hidden away on the top floor of a historic institution somewhere for few contact hours a week – completely separated from the main course’s students and tutors, and very much seen as second-class citizens …well not at MAMT, absolutely not. Of course, in my never-ending quest to inspire positivity as a way of life, I do always counter that with the thought that I’m sure some places are running wonderful foundations; a very close friend is on a brilliant course that she loves.

I should also add that MAMT has plans to offer a PART-TIME course to students who genuinely aren’t ready for our full time course right now but could be by working hard on their technique in particular disciplines for a solid 12 months. I feel our faculty are well-placed to offer this support and guidance, as is the way with our ongoing mentoring commitments. Any student who takes EITHER course with us will be at the centre of our Academy, working with the same facilities and tutors – and I feel, rather importantly, interacting with those students on the full time course. After all my main gripes with foundations are when those on them never actually progress; I want an atmosphere of support and encouragement which I rather fear is lacking in some other academies. 

So, why do some places take these questionable steps to train more people than anyone else? Simple: they have shareholders who care about profit – we don’t. Our faculty are paid a salary which is fair and in line with other schools and all surplus income generated, the ‘profit’ as it were, is reinvested in the Academy, its students and developing our opportunities.

Back to the auditions, there wasn’t a sticky label ‘auditionee number’ in sight! In fact, I don’t even care that I’m awful with names, we will not be handing name labels out – I think the £45 you’ve paid to spend the whole day with us gives you the right to expect to be addressed by a teacher who learns your name; I had it down to 30 minutes last week. Of course it helps to only have a maximum of 24 students on each audition day!

Our first day was a feast of taster sessions with regular and guest tutors, Q&As with our mentors, a chat with senior staff over lunch and then 15 minutes for each person to perform for us and have a decent conversation about what we had seen so far that day and how we see them progressing in the industry. At MAMT, you won’t find expressionless dragons sat behind a desk scribbling notes over watching you whilst raising eyebrows…we are a new Academy who wants to get it right. So ask us questions, take our direction, work with the panel on your pieces in the audition room without being penalised; its your time, so use it. We will do a little bit of note scribbling because every candidate, successful or not, will be given written feedback from our panel within 48 hours of auditioning. We don’t run a foundation course; we need to concentrate on providing the highest quality training that we can to our max 24 students on our 1 and only course. However, our mentors and faculty are an experienced bunch and we are more than happy to give you guidance and advice throughout the year in order to help you work on the feedback we have given you.

This time we have made some offers, had some ‘unsuccessfuls’ and also one totally unique response. The unique response is to someone who is utterly brimming with potential but needs some support with their confidence – we felt we didn’t see the best of them yet so we’re going to work with them and ask them to come back for an audition later in the year. We are a small, committed and independent Academy which means we can make the rules work for our students; something I’m very keen on. New Academy or not, we won’t take someone unless we believe that we can get them industry ready in 2 years – and I personally love that ‘YES!’ moment that I know this particular candidate will experience with our help at some point in the next few months.

So, if you are sat there thinking ‘I could make this my career with MAMT’s help’ then don’t wait until its too late – get in touch through the website to request an application form and get on our February or April auditions before the rush of January takes control. Soon we’ll be publishing what auditionees thought of our audition experience…and we’re VERY pleased with the feedback so far. Training is a two way street and we absolutely love the positivity that was in the building last weekend.

Full details are available online at http://www.MAMT.org.uk

We look forward to welcoming you to Midlands Academy of Musical Theatre.

James Williams
Principal
Midlands Academy of Musical Theatre

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Are you just a number?

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