Tuesday, 26 November 2002

Queensland Story, NOv 26, 2002

Music Theatre from the Cane Fields
What: Agents' Day. Bachelor of Music, Central Queensland Conservatorium of Music.
Where: Chapel off Chapel
When: Tuesday December 3, 2002
Time: 3-5pm
Writer: Kate Herbert

If you like singin' and dancin' and tropical sun, there is a Bachelor of Music Theatre course for you at the Central Queensland Conservatorium of Music, (CQCM) in Mackay .

At the inception of the course at CQCM in 1996, students studied in sheds erected a cane field. Talk about suffer for your art.

Seven students from the course will strut their stuff for Melbourne theatrical agents on December 3 at Chapel off Chapel  in Prahran.

Melbourne is a hub of music theatre and many of the trainers for the CQCM course come from the southern states.

Australian music theatre celebrities, Toni Lamond  and Nancye Hayes,  are industry mentors for students.

"This year," says Hayes, "I did workshops in movement and practical performance. They'd perform a song for me and we'd talk about it then move it. It's a collaborative thing."

Hayes also presented her solo show, Nancye with an E and directed the major production, Kiss Me Kate.  

"The skills of the students are varied," says Hayes.  Most come into the course with one skill area in dancing, singing or acting.

 Students audition as performers for the three year course but they may choose to specialise in production work.

Cheryl Mitchell  entered the course in her forties after teaching dance.  She is now the Production and Manager and Lighting Designer for the Agents' Day. Her job began a year ago with fund-raising for the tour.  Busy woman.

Melbourne music theatre identity, Will Conyers,  creator of the National Theatre Music Theatre course, is the ultimate commuter. He directed the show in a series of flying weekend visits to Mackay.

In 2000, he was a full-time singing and acting teacher at CQCM. Now he teaches intensive blocks several times a year.

"They are multi-skilled," he says. All the students study technical and production areas, developing skills in lighting, sound and design. This makes them employable in many areas of theatre.

"The course graduates are "very young fresh talent," says Conyers admiringly.

The music theatre industry needs young people in its ranks not only for the ingenue roles but to develop talent early. Six of the eight graduates are 19 to 21 years.

The building they work in is still in a cane field but it no longer a shed. It is now a state of the art building housing a magnificent theatre with great acoustics.

Conyers quips, " Its acoustics are too complimentary for actors."

 Lucky students.

By Kate Herbert

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