Patrick School of the Arts (PSA), a renowned industry performing arts school based in Melbourne, offers a mix of part-time and full-time education to students seeking a career in dance, music and theatre. On Friday July 16, the school is hosting its first ever Open Day, giving prospective students a taste of life at the school. In anticipation of this inaugural event, Dance Informa spoke with PSA’s Founder and Director, Todd Patrick, who shared more about the day – and what makes PSA unique.
So, why an Open Day now, for the first time? “We wanted to let people have the opportunity to come through and make sure that PSA was for them,” Patrick explains. “That they were really educated on the way we work, what we do and what we produce. Then, when they start with PSA, it’s the right fit for them and they are the right fit for us.”
Being cut off from in-person interaction with the public, due to COVID, was another consideration for the school. “We definitely missed being able to do live auditions,” Patrick shares. “It’s our 16th year. I’m really proud of my team and my students, and I want to be able to share that! I want to be able to open the doors and for people to say, ‘This is a phenomenal campus. It’s a great institution.’ I want to give people the opportunity to come in and do a Q&A, not just with me, but with all my directors, and get to know us in person.”
PSA has an extensive course offering, designed to provide options to performers based on age, skill and career goals. There’s everything from tertiary dance, performing arts, acting and musical theatre to full-time high school academic and performance education at The Academy. And, together with Swinburne University of Technology (RTO 3059), PSA offers nationally accredited VET courses embedded in its programs. The Open Day offers a chance for interested performers to come and meet the program directors and discuss which of these courses is best suited to them. The sheer number of training options is due to PSA’s evolution over the last 16 years.
“We started as a dance school with lots of goals and lots of potential,” Patrick describes. “But we have really evolved. We’re very focused on musical theatre now, and film and television are a massive part of the school because of the way the industry has changed. When I first opened the school, there was a lot of corporate and commercial dance work, but the focus for us now, specifically in Australia because of COVID, is filming, television and musical theatre – the strongest, fastest growing industries in our area. So, we were a dance school, and now we’re an all-encompassing performing arts institution.”
This includes the new acting stream, which is an exciting addition to the PSA prospectus. “We noticed a lot of film and television castings coming through the agency,” Patrick explains. “It’s been a real focus and a real money earner for the talent. In response, we needed to produce a course to make it happen. I found the directors that I wanted, we started this year, and it’s been really exciting. It creates a different level of energy in the studio, which I personally enjoy. Our students see that COVID hasn’t stopped people getting jobs and being financially and emotionally successful in the performing arts. We’re actually doing a performance season this July, which is going to incorporate all of the tertiary programs, which all the tertiary directors have worked together to put on. So, that’s exciting, too.”
PSA graduates are well known for securing work, with alumni currently starring in Hamilton, The Wedding Singer, Chess the Musical, Moulin Rouge and even Cats over in South Korea. Patrick believes this is down to the school’s training ethos. “We don’t do what they want to do,” he says. “We do what they need to do, which is not necessarily always fun. Kids love hip hop, kids love lyrical; they don’t necessarily love technical classes. They don’t necessarily love reading a script over and over again, or doing mock auditions. But we tailor our courses for what the industry wants. So, if the industry bends or moves and more musicals require a triple threat, then we train more triple threats. If there’s a lot of dance work around and they want technical showgirls, then our courses change. And when you’re a private institution, you’ve got the flexibility to be able to do that. I think that’s why our students get work, because we do the things that are not ‘fun’. It makes you successful in the audition room.”
Not only is PSA producing artists who work, the school is creating work, too. “We’ve started producing our own events,” shares Patrick. “Next year, we’re creating a third-year musical theatre program, working with three of the biggest musical theatre choreographers on three musicals. One is an original concept written by an Australian and the other two will be famous musicals. And that is all the students focus on. They work and they build relationships with these choreographers and tour regionally. We want to bridge the gap between education and performing, so while they are studying, they are making money, gaining valuable experience and working with leading choreographers.”
PSA is also producing its own cabaret shows to employ its dancers, and is working with local councils to create new performance events. “We’re working with the Chapel Street precinct to recreate Singin’ in the Rain on the street, to encourage people to come and shop on Chapel Street, even when it’s raining,” Patrick shares. “We just went and knocked on their door and said, ‘Let’s build Chapel Street back. Let’s engage with the area.’ And the council’s really supportive.”
For those who are considering PSA as a training provider, it’s these opportunities that will help shape successful careers. “I’m a super tough teacher,” Patrick admits. “I expect 100 percent dedication, 100 hours a day. But when my students get out in the industry, they appreciate it. I always say, ‘I’m not your friend until you graduate. And once you graduate, I’m your biggest fan and supporter.’ It’s not unrealistic for my current students to say, ‘I want to be in a big film,’ or ‘I want to be the lead in a musical,’ ‘I want to go to Broadway or the West End.’ They see my alumni who have done it, and they push harder, work harder and achieve exceptional success.”
To register for the PSA open day on July 16, click here.