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Need a realistic perspective please.. Musical Theatre Degree?

(24 Posts)
soda1234 Sat 29-Sep-12 22:38:17

Dd is 15 (yr 11) , she really wants to do this, so I have been doing some research on her behalf.
She is, without doubt, a very good singer, her acting is ok, and she is looking for more opportunities to perform. Dance is a worry, she has had no formal training, but have found her some tap and contemporary classes to start next week.
My concern is that she will be auditioning with people who have been dancing since they were 4. All the schools say they are looking for "potential", and can spot it?

I think I am asking "how great do you need to be?"

One course I looked at had 1500 applicants for 45 places

Should I try to gently guide her away from this course ( not sure I can), or is it really true that the tutors can work with "potential"
By the way, I often look at the "notapushymum" forum so don't need guiding there

soda1234 Sat 29-Sep-12 23:05:23


MedusaIsHavingABadHairDay Sat 29-Sep-12 23:11:05

Are you talking degree at a normal university, or a a performing arts college?

My DD2's best friend has just gone to Laine, one of the top performing arts colleges in London. He was offered placed at two colleges and offered the Andrew Lloyd Webber scholarship at one (the one he didn't chose!)

He is without doubt, one of the most talented dancers I have ever seen..and UTTERLY dedicated.. 3/4 hours a day dancing on top of his A levels (all A grades!), however he wasn't a natural singer and had to add intensive singing lessons to his dance and acting lessons. He is primarily a dancer but will have to do just about everything at college.

The competition was incredible, from what he said..all day long auditions and call backs, but he got in.

I would suspect that for a PA college your daughter might be at a real disadvantage not having enough dance training, BUT she has 3 years to go before she gets there and if she really really works at it she may be someone who goes in as a singer first and foremost with adequate skills in the other areas. She would need to work her ass off tho!

For standard university I think the pressure is less intense. I did drama and got in without being particularly talented (in hindsight grin) but I did have a good track record in performing with the youth theatre etc.

it all depends really on the sort of higher ed institution she is looking at!

soda1234 Sun 30-Sep-12 08:47:37

GSA is favourite at the moment, any thoughts?

soda1234 Sun 30-Sep-12 08:54:59

Meant to say thank you Medusa!

I think "working her ass off" will be the key! She is going to try for YMT and NYMTas well as our local YMT for next summer, I suspect that will give us a good indication of her potential.

LadybirdtheCollieDog Sun 30-Sep-12 10:54:47

Knowing a fair bit about this sector (both in HE & industry), I think you can never know until you try. Do some research re funded MT degree courses, and then audition! That's the only way you're (or your DD) going to know whether she cuts it.

Look at LIP, Webber-Douglas to start.

But if her enthusiasm is because of the Xfactor or other such crap programmes then she's likely to be disappointed. The MT 'triple threat' performers are extraordinarily talented. And I happen to know the detail of the Masters level courses that some of the finalists of those "Cast my Musical" shows that the BBC ran for Andrew L-W. Those performers were not just random off-the-street people. They'd had years of proper training.

It's a very tough business & I'm trying to tell it to you straight. Passion is not enough (oh god if I had a pound for every time I hear an 18 yo tell me she's "passionate" about performing). It's technique, technique, technique.

How do you know "without doubt" she's a good singer? Does she get involved with a local amdram musicals society? Is she starting on proper training? Although at 15 this should be fairly low key as most properly trained singers (who don't want to ruin their voices) don't start intensive training till young adulthood. Does she play an instrument? Some ballet training will be important -- most of the techniques in jazz/contemporary dance are originally based in ballet. I'd prefer good jazz & contemporary (modern) dance over tap, TBH. But 15 is quite late to start learning dance.

As I said, it's tough.

LadybirdtheCollieDog Sun 30-Sep-12 10:55:20

Sorry LIPA.

Xenia Sun 30-Sep-12 12:20:24

I think it can be best to keep these things as a hobby. Even though my children all had 2 or 3 grade 8 music exams and sing etc pretty well it is so hard to make a living that better to get to a very top university doing some more general degree and then oint the Cambridge footlights or something at the time and then pick acting or whatever after that. There are just so many talented people around. It does not even sound as though she has done music theory exams and then singing up to grade 8 not that you need the classical exams to sing.

On the other hand if someone really is determined then it is possible. Basically she will probably end up waiting tables until she marries a man on £20k and gives up work to have babies if she goes into this that is the likely result whereas if she went to Cambridege to read medicine say she might well end up a doctor.

TheCollieDog Sun 30-Sep-12 12:40:32

Actually, if you can get in to one of the top actor-training places (RADA, LAMDA, Central School of Speech & Drama, LIPA) it is a good indication of a likely starting( point for a career in the performing arts.

And a good overall degree result in a Drama/theatre studies degree at a good, research-led university (ie Russell Group) is as good a general training in thinking, writing, and team-work etc as an English literature or a History degree. Drama students are highly employable in fields other than performing: they are excellent self-starters and good at team work, and delivering a complex project on time.

The problem is if you go to the many private fee-paying drama schools, not accredited or funded via HEFCE or the NCDT (well, hefce doesn't fund undergrad teaching any more, but you get my point). You are not eligible for student loans, and can end up shelling out loadsamoney for a fairly useless "qualification" -- better to just go to cattle calls & get into the industry that way, if you're good enough (9 out of 10 aren't).

Or study in Europe at somewhere like the Le Coq school.

Xenia Sun 30-Sep-12 16:45:13

I would certainly agree with that post above and as ever with m ost things - do it, rather than just studying it and the younger people can start donig whatever that thing might be whether it's your milkround, job in the local estate agents or City work experience it is as valuable as the courses you do.

purplepenguin86 Tue 02-Oct-12 01:59:28

Don't look at Webber-Douglas - it got swallowed up by Central years ago! wink

It is incredibly competitive. General advice is if you think you would be happy doing anything else then do that. If it is the only thing in the world she can imagine herself doing then support her all the way.

GSA she shouldn't have too much of a problem with only a few years of dance - there and Mountview are NCDT rather than CDET accredited, which basically means they aren't as dance based as the others. You can also get to a decent standard in 3 years. I would highly recommend she starts ballet though - it's not usually too difficult to find teen beginner classes. It really is the foundation of all dance, and lots of auditions will do at least a ballet barre, even at GSA. Jazz/modern would also be more useful to her than tap and contemporary, as this is what the majority of her auditions will focus on. The others are great, but priority wise I would say they are certainly behind ballet and jazz, as she is unlikely to really need them at audition.

It is hard to say how good you need to be. Different schools look for different things. Some might take her on the strength of her singing, others may refuse her for not being a triple threat. Make sure she is prepared to reapply multiple times if she doesn't get in the first year. If she isn't, then it probably isn't the right career for her (goes back to the wanting it so much you can't do anything else thing).

There are various books you can get her - So You Want to Tread the Boards by Jennifer Reischel is very good, Ruthie Henshall has just released a book about getting into MT, and there are various others. Tell her to listen to/watch as much as she possibly can - not just the current, trendy stuff, but everything. Learn the history of musical theatre, listen to lots of Sondheim, Rogers and Hammerstein, Cole Porter etc etc etc. Know your subject. It genuinely makes a difference.

pinkdelight Mon 22-Oct-12 21:08:11

Often these places (some of those mentioned along with arts ed, alra etc) will get students to do the one-year foundation course prior to doing the degree course. The cynic in me thinks this is partly a money spinner for the college but in a case like your DD's it might be just what she needs to get her to a place where she can compete with those who've been in training for years. Also worth bearing in mind some of the international opportunities. A friend followed a foundation year in the uk with a a degree at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts which also gave her a visa to start her career off in the States for a few years. Worth considering as you'll have fees to pay in this country anyhow.

Oh, and worth saying that she should be really sure about choosing musical theatre rather than a broader mainstream theatre degree. Casting bods can be brutal in dismissing musical theatre grads as jazz hand types not worthy of consideration for straight roles.

mathanxiety Thu 25-Oct-12 04:40:34

A friend of DSis's at school in Dublin many, many years ago got the call of her dreams from Sadler's Wells, with the catch that it was two weeks before the Irish Leaving Cert and SW wanted this girl immediately. She packed her bags, blew off the Leaving Cert, and a few months later broke her ankle so badly she could never dance again.

I would advise what TheCollieDog advised -- go and do Drama in a serious university. That way you are versatile when the dust settles, and employable.

soda1234 Thu 25-Oct-12 10:49:34

Thanks all for the feedback, I will share this thread with dd.
May well be back with more questions later.

picturesinthefirelight Thu 25-Oct-12 11:12:30

Am on my phone I. The way to a day out at the moment but dh is and has been a voice tutor at some of the Places mentioned. Will mark my place and return when I can post on detail. Look at acting courses that include done dance rather than dance courses. Mountview Doreen bird lipa Arden GSA are all good places for actor singers.

picturesinthefirelight Thu 25-Oct-12 11:13:55

Find a ballet or modern chads. Tap useful but ballet or modern will give foundation of technique. Contemporary nice but won't necessarily help her to get in for mt

mycatunderstandsme Thu 25-Oct-12 13:36:17

My DD is in year 12 and sounds similar to the OPs DD in that she is stronger in singing and acting, weaker in dance although has been doing ballet, tap, modern since she was 7. She has looked in detail at the BA acting courses at the accredited drama schools and will apply to those which include more singing-she has decided against most of the MT courses but may consider MT at central as it is more acting based.

What mathanxiety says is true about drama being more versatile. The trouble is that if you want to act you need to do the final showcase in front of agents to stand a chance in the industry. This means attending one of the accredited drama schools and doing BA acting/MT rather than drama.

I have pointed out the pitfalls to my DD but she says she still wants to try to act. We have come to an agreement that if she doesn't get into an NCDT school she will do a degree in something else-most likely history as she says she is not keen on drama itself as a degree-would prefer to study history. It is so competitive to get in I believe something like 5000 applicants for 32 places at RADA....

mathanxiety Thu 25-Oct-12 14:46:04

She should look into universities that have excellent drama clubs and participate that way -- I don't know if Dublin is an option for her but UCD's Dramsoc has always been a nursery for very serious talent.

pinkdelight Thu 25-Oct-12 17:02:28

Plenty of successful actors get agents without doing the showcases. And plenty of actors do the showcases and don't get agents. Like math says, there are lots of ways to showcase your talent - Footlights-style drama societies, putting on your own show, taking it to Edinburgh. And you can always follow up a 'normal' degree with a post-grad. The post-grad at lamda is especially well regarded.

TheCollieDog Fri 26-Oct-12 07:17:11

Yes, a PG one year course is another way in. I've had UGs go on to do that. The main thing is, do as much as you can ... if at university, do your course work + anything & everything in student drama societies (people I was at university with doing all sorts of degrees now run the light entertainment business, and got their start via our student drama society). It helps to go to an élite university.

But proper training in dance and singing is important. A good ballet studio, and proper singing training (not belting out R&B) as well as competence on an instrument.

soda1234 Tue 16-Apr-13 23:55:10

Little update from me, the OP, hope you can all still offer any advice possible.

Dd is now almost 16, GCSEs next month. She has been offered a place on a YMT UK production this summer, which is great, she has started ballet classes (it's an adult group) and starts our local Stagecoach "Further Stages" class for 16+ next week.
She also has an audition for Our local city YMT company next week, we have seen one of their productions recently and it really was top quality (several members going on to drama/dance/mt schools next year).
Short of trying to find more dance classes, I don't think there is much more we can fit in (I'm already going to be driving around the county for 3 nights a week, and that's before rehearsals proper start) and she has a brother!
She is still super keen, she is staying at school for 6th form and will be doing Drama, English, Art and RS. She won a Drama scholarship for 6th form by the way.
She is still having singing lessons, got to grade 5 (dist) i think 2 years ago,but hasn't gone any further due to her reluctance to do the theory, will this matter?
Thanks to all who replied to my question before, and to all who are reading this.

Moominmammacat Thu 18-Apr-13 14:47:04

You can do Trinity Grade 8 singing without Grade 5 theory.

Weegiemum Thu 18-Apr-13 15:02:06

I know very little about this but I did theory (my teacher insisted) after grade 5 clarinet in order to progress. It's really important, and I went on to do grade 8 clarinet and theory.

If she's "reluctant" to do theory, I think unis might take that as a bad sign? Not sure, but it doesn't look good.

Musicaltheatremum Wed 24-Apr-13 21:25:45

Soda1234 I have messaged you as my daughter has just done the 2 year foundation in musical theatre at PPA in Guildford and has just got into Arts Ed (and mountview and PPA diploma but rejected them) she was a later starter at dance and did nothing really outside school and had no major roles at school so it can be done.

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