As the start of term draws ever nearer, this week has been brilliant for reflecting upon the journey so far. After two years of running projects, masterclasses and workshops across the UK with guests such as Kerry Ellis, Oliver Tompsett, Julie Atherton and many others, we decided the time was right to launch a full-time, 2 year intensive drama school for the talented individuals who don’t want to live and train in London. Midlands Academy of Musical Theatre was launched in September 2015; I can remember really well the evening where we first went “live” on social media – a group of friends all sat around a table in the centre of Birmingham – wine flowing and following, retweeting, instagram-ming and blogging about the new course and opportunities in store for a small group of aspiring professionals.
This lovely write-up in The Stage was a really sentimental moment for us at MAMT; the industry famous newspaper, established in 1880, was writing about our little course!
I don’t see “little” as patronising or belittling; the very fact that we are such a small, focused school is indeed our number one selling point. The attention that our students receive with a maximum class size of 24 is staggering in comparison to other schools who sometimes have 90 in a year group. This starts from day one as I’m sure any of our auditionees would tell you. Of course our students also benefit from having a personal mentor from a West End show (see more here).
Speaking of auditions; we’ve held numerous audition days since last Autumn. Our day is designed to get the best from prospective students; to give them time to get used to our senior faculty and control their nerves. They take part in normal classes where we observe technique, potential and attitude in acting, singing and dance. We give them time to have a whole group Q&A session with our senior faculty and whichever industry mentors have joined us on the panel that day. Then the afternoon is dedicated to the individual auditions where students can present an acting piece, solo song and a short dance section. We spend a good half an hour with most students, answering their questions and giving them a feel for how we would work with them on their journey to professional performing. Written feedback and a decision on whether we can accept them or not is sent out later that day, or at the very latest, the following morning.
It’s lovely to see our first year taking shape. We have a real mix; both in terms of individual skills and also male/female split. I’m delighted at the casting options that having a fairly equal split of genders has given us. We have a diverse age range too; reflecting exactly how most West End companies feel. Financially, some students have been fortunate enough to be able to support their training themselves with savings; others have had great support from friends, family and bank loans, some have worked tirelessly for months on end to fundraise every penny of their course fees. One thing is clear already: we have a group of individuals who are incredibly supportive of one another. I’ve seen the start of what I hope will be career-long friendships and an incredible amount of problem-solving between the students. We have a company feel and that’s really important to us. As CiCi said at our most recent auditions, “this is a drama school with a difference – we don’t want this to feel like an academic school environment. We want to treat you as professionals at the start of your career, but who are already IN the business. You are a company!” I think that mentality is absolutely key when creating performers who people LIKE working with.
Before the start of term, we have a week of rehearsals in the summer to put together our contribution for Magic of the Musicals. We are joining the UK tour, starring Julie Atherton, Sharon D Clarke and Danielle Hope. The MAMT students will be supporting the leads with backing vocals and a few of our own performance pieces too.
I can’t wait to open our doors in September. Once we’re open, do drop us an email and come on down to have a look.
As a final plug: we still have ONE final audition day left in the summer. If you want to train at a positive, forward-thinking, regional drama school with a faculty of West End professionals then do please get in touch via the website. You only regret the chances you don’t take! Who knows – you too could be joining our #dreamfirstyears and training at drama school from this September.
All the best