Students at Stratford-upon-Avon College were given a taste of their future careers when they participated in a Creative Arts work experience week under the direction of industry professionals.
The professionals – all College alumni who have carved out successful careers for themselves in their chosen fields – took time out of their busy schedules to return to their alma mater to lead the week’s various projects.
Each guest mentor set students a challenging project replicating real-life professional experience. Various course subjects within the Creative Arts umbrella were covered in the work experience: Dance, led by professional dancer Grace Murdock who asked the students to look at “physical storytelling” by choreographing movement to music and spoken poetry; Musical Theatre, with musical theatre performer Charlotte Kennedy leading workshops in “auditioning, improvisation and acting through song”; and Music Production which was led by film and video games industry sound designer Jack Sandall who set the challenge of creating 101 sound effects for a video game.
Also covered were Music Performance, under the guidance of musician Tom Atherton who encouraged the students to create their own music, and was delighted with their various interpretations – “They’ve showed a lot of initiative in coming up with their own material and forming their own groups. One group is doing an indie band but we’ve also got a vocal trio and a grunge band” – and Acting with actor Dewi Johnson, whose project involved the staging of 18th century ‘comedy of manners’ plays. These rely heavily on sophisticated, witty dialogue and were carefully chosen by Dewi with the students’ future learning in mind: “The project was designed to make sure the students can deal with archaic language before they move on to their Shakespeare module at College next term.”
The week culminated on the Friday with each group of students performing the work they had created in front of their peers; the Musical Theatre students, for example, thrilled their audience with a 20-minute performance comprising extracts from Les Miserables.
The professionals were all impressed with the students’ readiness to immerse themselves in their respective projects and with their swift grasp of the industry-level activities asked of them. Praising her Musical Theatre students, Charlotte commented: “They’ve been very willing to learn and enthusiastic. They’ve been like sponges and have taken on everything I’ve asked them to.”
The students certainly got a taste of the intense nature of the professional world. Commenting on his work with the Music Production students, Jack explained: “I’m encouraging them to learn to work under pressure. There are very short deadlines in the industry and I want the students to be able to meet them.”
And apart from the experience of working on their challenging projects and being given excellent tips and advice, the students were greatly encouraged by having returning College alumni as their guest mentors. They were shown that becoming a professional within the performing arts and music industries is well within their reach and that they, too, could succeed in their dream career.
Grace’s comment sums it up well: “I was in their shoes not so long ago, so hopefully they will feel there’s nothing stopping them.”