Today The Stage celebrates its long – running association with the Sylvia Young Theatre School by announcing one full and two half Stage/SYTS scholarships. The three winners will begin their training in the autumn.
“It’s always good to be associated with The Stage,” says Sylvia Young, who is of course the principal and was awarded an OBE for services to the arts in 2005. “It’s always nice to know that it’s prepared to support your scholarship.”
Worth £12,000 per year, the full scholarship covers comprehensive training fees for each year the recipient is at the school, so it has a potential worth of more than £60,000. The value of the two half scholarships brings the total SYTS scholarship value to more than £120,000, depending on the winners’ ages.
“First of all, we are looking for potential,” explains Young. “We do the prelims, selecting about 18 youngsters for the finals. Then we have an independent panel and they look at the finalists, looking for more than just potential. The children don’t have to be fully trained already. Some of the previous winners have not had any training at all, but they have got that natural talent that as a school we can support.
“We try to help as many children as possible who don’t get the actual full scholarship. There are so many good ones but it’s so sad we can’t help them all. The standard is so high.”
Last year’s winner of the full The Stage/SYTS scholarship was Cole Emsley, aged 11 and from Burscough, Lancashire, who is settling in to the routine very well. He sang a solo in the school carol concert, and Young is sure he will do well professionally. Remember the name.
SYTS came into being in 1972. In 1980/81 it became a full-time school in premises located in Drury Lane. The school is now just off Seymour Place, W1.
The current building was originally a church and retains some beautiful stained glass windows. “When we came we demolished the whole of the inside of the building. It was like an aircraft hanger when that was done,” recalls Young. “And we built brand new floors up to the roof. In all, we have 40,000 square feet now.”
SYTS is a full-time school, offering an academic and vocational curriculum up to the age of 16. It also offers Saturday and evening classes for children who attend regular schools.
Some outstanding performers have had their education at SYTS. They include Denise van Outen, Jon Lee and Matt di Angelo. Jenna Russell, the musical theatre star, was one of the first full-time students at SYTS, and she looks back on her time there with great affection: “It was a magical time. It was so very relaxed and such fun.”
Russell, who remains one of the nicest people I have ever interviewed, went to SYTS as an alternative to going to a much bigger school. Initially there was no thought of a stage career. It just happened – and goodness, it certainly happened.
Students at Sylvia Young have to work hard, make no mistake about that. There are three days of academic work each week and two days of vocational training.
“One thing that isn’t allowed is time off,” says Young. “If they do take time off for non-professional reasons [ie, other than auditions] they’re not allowed to go for auditions for half a term. It’s so important that they attend regularly. They have to leave here with a good standard of education.” It should be emphasised that students rarely take time off.
There you have it. Life is tough, and our business is much tougher. If you want to perform and are prepared to work, work and work again, talk to your parents or your guardians and start filling in the online form (click here for information and application from – don’t leave it until the weekend).