End of an era for decorated teacher

As Sydney’s National Institute of Dramatic Art prepares to enter a new era of musical theatre training, one of its most respected educators is preparing to walk out of the Kensington headquarters for the final time.

As Sydney’s National Institute of Dramatic Art prepares to enter a new era of musical theatre training, one of its most respected educators is preparing to walk out of the Kensington headquarters for the final time.

Avigail Herman, who has been the face of the Singer, Actor, Dancer course for a decade, ends her 21-year association with NIDA when the current students graduate this week.

Now known as the Diploma of Musical Theatre, the Singer, Actor, Dancer concept was created by Herman and Keith Bain in 1999.

“I have been associated with NIDA for many years and in those early years it became clear that one of the courses that was missing in the school was a music theatre course and greater than that there was nowhere on the eastern seaboard to study music theatre, the only full time course at the time was at WAAPA and whilst they have been doing a fine job for many years the need for a course on the eastern seaboard was evident and the appropriate place for that to happen it seemed to me was NIDA, the only national school in the country,” Herman said.

“Initially the course was known as Singer Actor Dancer and it grew in hours and stature over the years and despite many obstacles it received accreditation two years ago and is now a Diploma in Music Theatre.”

NIDA has suspended the course, leaving the way musical theatre will be taught at the school up in the air. It has also led to Herman’s shock departure.

“Many things have changed at NIDA in the recent past and it is now time for me to move on to new projects and challenges,” Herman said.

“The current situation with the ‘suspension’ of the course has arisen as NIDA moves to develop a new way of incorporating music theatre training into the school and thus is reassessing its position.”

In June, it was reported that in-fighting at Board level at NIDA was perhaps damaging the school’s reputation.

Herman prefers to talk about the achievements of the past, rather than the concern herself with what may be happening at NIDA today.

“I would like to say that I’m very proud of this course and what it’s achieved. Barely a musical is cast in this country without grad representation and the boundaries do not stop at a national level as there are grads now working in Asia on the West End in London and in the United States,” Herman said. 

“But it goes beyond that, what I’m especially proud of is the fact that there is a family of graduates from this course who understand the business and the world in a particular way, who are generous and professional and for those who have moved out of the performing arena they still impart those same values to the work they now do in other areas of the profession and beyond.”

Herman admits when her final students graduate on Saturday night, there is likely to be a tear.

“I’m sure it will be emotional on many levels but as I have had some time to digest let go a little already I’m sure that it will be a time of celebration not of sorrow,” she said. 

“I feel very privileged and fortunate to have trained some very special people and I have a family of grads out there who not only are now my peers but my friends as well.”
Despite having trained some of the biggest stars in musical theatre history, Herman says there’s no particular standout graduates.

“There are too many students who have gone on to do fantastic things to single any one out, but I have a plethora of stories and anecdotes that I have in store to embarrass, enjoy and share with them and others over the years to come and needless to say they have theirs as well,” she said.

Despite moving on from NIDA, Herman will not be silent in the musical theatre world.
“Fortunately I have many strings to my bow and have never stopped working in the industry as a performer and a voice artist in the studio,” she said.

“I’m hoping to continue teaching via masterclasses and workshops, to coach, musically direct / direct, perform, continue in the studio and work on any variety of projects that come my way. Most immediately I will be singing at the World Aids Concert on Monday, November 22. 

“I’m looking for new challenges and the beginning of a new era so if any of your readers could use me with any one or number of my hats on I’m available!”

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