The Australian Institute of Music (AIM) has announced that from 2017, they will be offering their Bachelor of Music (Music Theatre) in Melbourne as well as Sydney.
The course will be run over 2 years for 3 trimesters a year making it the only 2 year accelerated Music Theatre bachelor option in Victoria.
AIM’s Music Theatre course has been running in Sydney since 2005 under the direction of Jennifer Murphy and Tyran Parke has been just appointed as the Melbourne Coordinator of Music Theatre.
Parke is considered one of the most exciting Directors/Actors/Teachers in the country. As an actor, he has played roles professionally in musicals, contemporary plays, television and Shakespeare and his directorial portfolio is equally as impressive, making him a perfect choice for the coordinator position. Other teachers in the accelerated Music Theatre degree include Natalie Gamsu (voice) and Tanya Mitford (dance).
We caught up with Tyran Parke to find out more about the course and the advantages of studying with him at AIM, Melbourne.
This is the only 2-year theatre degree offered in Melbourne. What is the benefit of fast tracking 3 years into 2?
There are many advantages to fast tracking your degree. Firstly of course, you get to get ‘out there’ earning money quicker. The hours are long at AIM and there are no long university holidays, as it is all done in Trimesters so the system is different, it is intense but over quicker. I find a lot of training is done on the job, even after you’ve graduated from drama school. I was certainly still learning after I graduated WAAPA. In fact when I was at WAAPA so many graduates used to walk straight out of third year and into ‘Mamma Mia’, we referred to that show as the fourth year of WAAPA – where you put it all into practice. That just comes earlier for AIM students. And also, it’s a different degree – it’s not set up to do the same things as WAAPA or VCA. In addition, a lot of our students want their teaching degree which takes a further year so all up that’s three years, then you are not only qualified in music theatre but have a good solid base to earn money from while you chase auditions.
You’ve been teaching at NIDA, WAAPA and VCA for over 10 years, What excites you most about being the head of a Music Theatre course at AIM
This course is in a very unique position; it has all the excitement and freshness of a new course with brand new facilities and also has the security of a course that has actually been running out of Sydney for over a decade. I feel very secure personally, as I have taught every class in this course (except dance- I leave that well enough alone!) so I understand how to take the structure of an academically challenging course and ensure people are learning practical theatre making skills. I love teaching so much. I truly do. I don’t think there’s anyone I’ve ever taught that questions that and now that extends to co-ordinating the course (which is still headed up out of Sydney with Jennifer Murphy at the helm). Mostly I’m excited about the team. It’s the team that make a great program and if you look at the teaching staff (and it is growing by the day) it’s remarkable training that is being offered. It doesn’t matter where you have trained in an audition room, it matters that you are trained well, and our teachers are truly among the best in the business- in fact they are all still working within the industry.
What do you look for in auditions for a course such as this?
Well, of course people need to sing very well. This is not a “Bachelor of Fine Arts”; it is a “Bachelor of Music” so the focus is different. Though there is a good dance program, I don’t think of our graduates as being the kind you will see in “Cats” (that said Monique Salle was wonderful in “A Chorus line” so it does happen) but we focus on telling stories through the voice. (There is even a necessary music skills level, which must be completed before starting the course) Then, as long as auditionees have high skills in the other areas and are open and adaptable, then we are generally happy to accept them. Of course we are always looking for that special magic and sometimes it presents itself at audition and sometimes it presents itself over time. I’m also looking for someone I WANT to spend two years with, who will enrich the life of the group and the institution and will benefit from training in a tight ensemble.
Can you give us an insight on how the AIM course will differ from other courses offered around Australia?
The AIM course is different. I know that by nature performing arts courses have a silent promise that we might make you Hugh Jackman and that’s great but potentially dangerous. Any and all graduates could potentially follow that career but mostly it will look differently – even for those that achieve “success”. I think institutions need to consider the mental health issues combatted in our industry and see where we can assist or at least not contribute to.
AIM offers skills in creating theatre. Each trimester there is a self-devised unit where students learn about putting theatre together. It is robust and practical. Brooke Almond who was ASM on Little Shop of Horrors or Kayla (ASM on Sideshow) are, I’m sure, glad that component existed as their “in between job” is still in the theatre. We’ve had writers and directors and producers come out of AIM – in fact whenever I direct anything, my assistant is a ex student, Yalaria Rodgers, who is not only a successful actor with her own company but a brilliant director who I noticed when training her.
Also at graduation it is less of a ‘showcase’ and more of a recital, which consists of a 25-minute show each, created by the students and assessed by industry proffessionals. I know that in Sydney they often have the likes of Nancye Hayes, Philip Quast, Jason Langley, Michael Tyak, Darren Yap, Max Lambert etc. and Melbourne is shaping up to be similar.
From that they often are developed into full shows, which is what happened with people like Toby Francis and that lead him on the road to Kinky Boots.
What will your day to day role be within the course?
Because I’m so passionate about good theatre training – I can’t stand all the mumbo jumbo – and because I’m a director (another word for ‘control freak’) I will be very, very involved.
I’m teaching the acting classes and directing students in others. I’ll be very involved with the staff but I will leave them to do the excellent work they are known for. Then there’s all the not so exciting stuff, which is about administration and timetabling etc, but my inner nerd kind of loves a good spreadsheet so even that is exciting at the moment. I’m in a lovely position where I have a play, two musicals, a concert and an opera to direct next year and AIM are so supportive of people working in the industry, they support that so there’s a lot to set up around that too.
How many productions will the students be involved in during 2017 and are they open to the public?
Like most institutions, the first year is kept fairly in-house to give the students opportunity to challenge themselves and fail where possible without judging eyes. It is very much about the foundation, about getting the techniques settled so you can build on that in the second year, which is more performance based with a big musical produced. However there are often opportunities to perform and at the end of each trimester there are short directed or at least curated performances that we do open up.
AIM has a very supportive feel about it from the other courses within the campus as well. The students in the contemporary course are going through similar developments and they are often encouraged to be in the audience and support (if indeed they aren’t on stage – there’s are a lot of opportunities to work with live muso’s at AIM!) as they are training alongside the Music Theatre students. The students do a big musical in their second year.
This year I directed Into the Woods at the Sydney campus and it was very successful.
Anything else you would like to tell us?
I think teaching the performing arts is to assist people to be better humans. Success can look like many things in this world but that’s the biggest success of all. To be open, empathetic, to communicate well… I’m looking forward to investigating that through the disciplines of musical theatre. I’ll bringing in my contacts from overseas so that AIM continues to grow and the students continue to gain more access to the best theatre practitioners. In case you can’t tell, I’m pretty excited!
Applications are audition based. More information and audition registration is available at aim.edu.au or by calling 03 8610 4225.
Auditions are open throughout December with the final audition date Saturday 17th December