Working as an actor, dancer or musician is the ultimate dream for many, meaning that performing arts programmes worldwide are often inundated with applications. Talented applicants have a good chance of winning a place on such courses, but students must select one that equips them for the realities of today’s industry.
The Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (Lipa), UK, was set up in 1996 to do exactly that, according to Darren Murphy, International Manager. “The courses are constantly updated to reflect changing practices and employment opportunities,” he says, adding that growth in digital TV has led to TV featuring more heavily in the programmes. These include a range of three-year BA Hons degree courses and one-year foundation certificates. “The unique feature of Lipa’s programmes is that they promote a lot of collaboration,” he notes. Composers studying music might work alongside a choreographer, for example. “This gives students an advantage when looking for work they have applied themselves in a lot of different roles and understand how various parts of a performance come together.”
Around 25 per cent of Lipa’s students are international, Murphy says, adding that the school receives a lot of interest from Norway due to a paucity of programmes over there and a high level of talent and interest. In the USA, meanwhile, Point Park University’s Conservatory of Performing Arts (Copa) often attracts applications from Canada, South America and Europe. With BA and BFA Hons degree options including Dance Pedagogy, Jazz and Musical Theatre, applications from Japan and Australia are also on the rise, says Rebecca Lee at Copa.
“Programmes are extremely intensive students can expect to train six-to-eight hours per day in their major,” Lee warns. They are taught by nationally-known working professionals, she adds, explaining that the school has several theatre companies where students put on showcases. These “provide outstanding graduating theatre majors with the opportunity to audition before industry agents, managers and personnel”, she enthuses, and scholarships totalling a maximum US$14,000 are also available. Students require an Ielts score of 6.0 or equivalent, she explains, adding that they can brush up on their language skills at the ESL Centre.
In Australia, JMC Academy offers Contemporary Music Performance diplomas and degrees. “A short foundation programme is offered before the start of most intakes, and this is highly recommended for all international students,” says Leng Te. “Individual academic support and personal counselling is offered at no extra cost.” Benefits of the courses include industry-connected lecturers, Acpet accreditation and collaborative opportunities.
Offering an acclaimed acting course, the US Edgemar Center for the Arts runs a 12-month programme covering a range of areas including on-camera auditioning, improv and a marketing class titled ‘Breaking into the Industry’. “Students can be part of film productions, film festivals and/or theatre productions,” explains Alexandra Guarnieri, Managing Director. “These opportunities give students the chance to build their CVs and IMDB credits through practical training,” she says, adding that the expansion of the international programme has caused a steady increase in interest.
Across the border, the Canadian College of Performing Arts recently turned its one-year certificate programme into a two-year course “in order to accommodate for the demands of students”, according to Steven Seltzer. There is also the opportunity to take a three-year enhanced diploma programme, where students put on three performances and are responsible for all aspects, from marketing to stage management. With the two-year programme including areas such as monologues, music theory and stage fighting, the college has trained students from countries including South Korea, Australia, Guatamala, Mexico, the USA and the UK.
Werkkit! in the UK was established to provide performing arts training exclusively for overseas students. The Founder, Madeline Gerosa, is a theatre professional and also has experience working at British Council-accredited ESL schools. The school can offer “the right combination [of tuition] for the right type of artistic student”, she says. With workshops including hip-hop/urban dance and acting, “The school appeals to a niche market,” she says, “however it is well regarded and its popularity is growing within this market. Courses are aimed at committed students who are passionate about their chosen craft and are ready to be thrown into a professional environment.”
Recruiting for performing arts courses
As performing arts courses are particularly niche, institutions around the world tend to seek agents that have specialist knowledge of the sector. As Darren Murphy, International Manager of The Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts (Lipa), highlights, “We are always looking for new opportunities to expand our agent network, but find it difficult to contract agents who have the requisite knowledge of the performing arts.” Lipa does have a small number of representatives in a variety of countries, he adds, noting that the institution fortunately has a strong international reputation and holds audition events in countries including Korea and the USA.
Werkkit!, a UK performing arts school for international students in the UK formed in 2009, is looking to establish an agent network, particularly in Europe and South America, says Madeline Gerosa, school Founder. “We also market programmes via long-standing clients and trade shows dedicated to the performing arts,” she says. Meanwhile, Leng Te, International Communications Manager at JMC Academy in Australia, notes that the academy’s agent network is a vital cog in the recruitment strategy.