The Arts Academy in Ballarat is looking towards a new and vibrant future, despite rumours of cuts (which occurred in TAFE only) the Academy would like to remind Australia and its potential theatre students that "We’re Still Here!”
David Wynen, now leading the Music Theatre course, is a well known industry figure and renowned educator. Wynen sits at the cutting edge of musical theatre and with industry experts like Tom Hodgson and George Torbay by his side he intends to keep the Academy at the front of the line with other training centres in the country.
Wynen, who performed in Billy Elliot at The Capitol Theatre in Sydney, wants to help the Arts Academy become an even greater player in the field of performing arts. “I fell in love with the culture of the place and the warmth and talent of the students. That enthusiasm for the Arts Academy has never waned for me. The University of Ballarat has also always encouraged me to maintain my international career, so that I could bring back the latest and greatest influences from abroad.”
When asked what makes the Arts Academy stand out, Wynen explains, “Truly I think it is the staff and our region. We are only just over an hour away from the theatre capital of Australia, but we have the best atmosphere for learning. It is a community of like-minded people who share one goal, to make great art! This is all supported by the great staff and students who live and work together intensively without distraction.”
“Our history of creating some of the best working artists in the industry, coupled with our vision for the future, makes us the best place to be.”
Ballarat University will have their Open Day on the 26th of August. Graduate of the Academy, Josh Piterman, recommends that if you are interested in studying theatre, you should go and visit the Arts Academy at UB and see what they have to offer, a great school where students can work in a great community atmosphere with top industry professionals.
Piterman, who has performed in An Officer and a Gentleman, West Side Story and alongside Geoffrey Rush in The Drowsy Chaperone writes to Wynen, “You were always willing to go the extra mile for students when I was studying, but to do it post studies says a lot about your character, your familiarity with the industry and your desire to do your best for the University and its relationships with graduates. Whether it’s as a mentor, as a friend or a colleague, your passion for musical theatre is paramount and your knowledge of the craft is truly incredible. Thanks for inspiring me to work harder and harder.”
Ballarat has a strong reputation to uphold and is determined to keep providing highly skilled graduates to the performing arts industry. Graduates have appeared in many key roles in shows such as Jersey Boys, Cats, Legally Blonde, Mamma Mia, The Boy From Oz, Wicked, Guys and Dolls, West Side Story, Mary Poppins, We Will Rock You, Annie, The Producers, Chess, Hairspray and more.
Third Year Graduating students have performed at Melbourne’s Princess Theatre and Theatreworks, and in 2007 took their production of The City Wit to London. In 2009, graduate Kim Smith won the MAC New York Cabaret award. Another graduate, Cristina D’Agostino, won a Green Room Award for the Best Featured Ensemble Member in Guys and Dolls.
George Torbay, the Arts Academy’s singing lecturer, is a highly in-demand conductor, singing teacher and educator. “I love being in an environment where no idea is too crazy and where individuality is celebrated and the Arts Academy embodies that.”
“I have been fortunate to have had a wonderfully varied career which has included conducting and arranging music for large-scale events like the Olympic Ceremonies, working in television as a music director, working in theatre and serving as a vocal coach and singing specialist. The Arts Academy gives me the chance to use all these skills.”
Tom Hodgson, the new dance lecturer, has worked with some of Europe’s leading companies, most notably Scapino Ballet, Rotterdam and DV8 Physical Theatre. “I first taught a mock audition at the Arts Academy about 3 years ago. At that time I was Associate Choreographer for Billy Elliot the Musical, and I had a short break between contracts on international productions. David Wynen, the course co- coordinator for Musical Theatre at Ballarat, was a cast member of the original Australian production of Billy Elliot. He asked me to come to the Academy and take the mock audition. I was immediately struck by the enthusiasm of the students and the positive atmosphere.”
Hodgson, who is now a full time member of staff, says “The vocabulary of today’s musical theatre choreography is becoming more and more varied, with students needing skills in all disciplines of dance and movement.”
With a great team of professional staff and industry leaders, the Arts Academy will be in the top ranks of performing arts schools before we know it.
For more information regarding the course or the upcoming Open Day please go to http://www.ballarat.edu.au/schools/education-and-arts/arts-academy