Last week I opined that there are too many drama schools producing too many students who have no hope of ever getting work in an already saturated industry. And having raised my head above the parapet, I was quite surprised how many people actually “came out” and said they agree with me.
Nonetheless, just occasionally, a new vocational school starts which really does seem to break the mould by attracting good numbers, enrolling real talent and producing graduates who get plenty of work. Such a school is the Musical Theatre Academy, founded in 2009 by Annemarie Lewis Thomas and which won the 2012 School of the Year in the Stage 100 Awards.
The latest mark of MTA’s success is that, as of this week, it has been granted charitable status.
That means that the school’s good work in providing honest, effective, not-for profit training for students has been formally recognised. From here on it will be easier for MTA to attract grants, bursaries and scholarships to help students who can’t pay the fees. And Lewis Thomas will be able to pay herself a modest salary. For nearly four years she has taken nothing from MTA. Typically, she now says: “But I shall consult carefully and transparently with the students about how much the salary should be.”
Also typically, her new board of trustees includes Samantha Hull, a student in the original intake, continuously in work since she completed her course last year and currently touring in Angelina Ballerina. “I want to make absolutely sure we stay close to our roots and don’t move away from the ethical principles which drive us,” says Lewis Thomas, certain that the involvement of an early ambassador (MTA-speak for a graduate) will guarantee that.
So it can be done. MTA’s first cohort of 12 ambassadors has done a wide variety of plentiful work in their first year. The new group which graduates this month already have a number of very pleasing contracts in the process of being finalised too. If industry readiness and employability are the acid test for a school then MTA - through hard work and dedication - seems to have passed with flying colours.
I congratulate everyone involved on the new charitable status.