A high percentage of performing arts schools will promise to showcase students to as wide an audience as possible, but Spirit Young Performers Company – a new partner in The Stage Scholarships scheme – has taken this approach to a whole other level.
As part of Spirit YPC’s elite part-time training programme for performers aged six to 18 (selected via audition process), the school professionally films performance videos for release to its YouTube channel, with a new showcase available online every week.
It’s not every drama school that can promise its students the possibility of appearing in front of a potential international audience of millions while they are still in training.
But Spirit has an unusual claim to fame, says founder and director Sophie Boyce: “I believe we were the first company to professionally film students in action with a multi-camera set-up for our [own] YouTube channel,” she explains.
Every week a different video is published, with at least two million views each month for the channel. One top performing instalment garnered a total of 4.3 million views on its own.
Viewers regularly include industry professionals, casting directors, agents and talent scouts, leading to groups performing on prime-time ITV television, as well as at West End Live and the O2 Arena.
It’s a concept that has quickly proved a winner for the school, which had just eight students in 2013 when it began and today boasts 170. It’s not just about numbers, though – the school has a track record for producing young professionals, explains Boyce.
“A high percentage of our students have worked professionally in the West End and touring theatre, and are still doing so. Not only have we been home to several of the Matildas, but other young performers have consistently been cast in such shows as School of Rock, Billy Elliot, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music, Annie, Bugsy Malone and more.”
As a new partner in The Stage Scholarships scheme, Spirit is offering one full-time scholarship (worth £5,600) and two half scholarships (£1,700 each) towards its one-year programmes in musical theatre and dance.
The offer can include up to 18 hours of classes each week, covering musical theatre, drama, industry masterclasses, jazz, ballet, conditioning, contemporary, tumbling and street/commercial dance. Training takes place in London on both weekdays and weekends.
Of The Stage association, Boyce says: “It’s great to have this relationship with a publication that has such an impressive reputation in the industry.”
Boyce’s background is in film-making – she worked on Skins and Hollyoaks among others, editing, directing and writing – and this is reflected in her novel incorporation of video. But she has a longer and more abiding association with musical theatre, she explains.
“As a child I adored musical theatre, but didn’t receive the right advice about how to pursue a career/training in it. There weren’t as many opportunities as there are now.”
Yet it has made her determined to give her students the best opportunity to realise their ambitions and talent.
That’s reflected in the school’s approach – demanding but with an emphasis on developing promising performers into full-blown professionals. It’s reflected too in what Boyce will be seeking in her auditionees for the scholarship.
“We’re looking for work ethic. It’s a lot of hours and students are expected to work very hard, have a positive attitude, show willingness to learn and have the ambition to be successful,” explains the director.
She adds: “My passion has always been musical theatre and I wanted to work with kids. It’s a chance to show the world what they can do.”
Course: One-year musical theatre and dance (full scholarship); musical theatre or dance (half scholarship)
Educational level: School age
Number of scholarships offered: One full and two half scholarships
Value of scholarship: £1,700 (per half scholarship) and £5,600 (full scholarship)
What costs are covered? Fees
Where is the school? London
Audition date: May 13
How to apply: Book an audition via the form at spiritypc.co.uk/the-stage-scholarship . Applications close on May 6