Stagecoach Performing Arts has never been a company to settle for mere greatness.
For more than 30 years, the UK-based youth theatre and performing arts franchise has offered top-notch, innovative education designed to help youth develop confidence, improve their social skills, and learn about musical theatre in a safe, welcoming environment. Since their humble beginnings in 1988, Stagecoach has taught over one million students from across the world, including Jamie Bell, Emma Watson, and Bella Ramsey, among others. Today, the company has more than 3,000 schools worldwide, using imagination, self-creation, and artistic expression to supplement and support their education.
But having celebrated their 35th anniversary only yesterday, the brand has its eyes on the horizon, with exciting plans for a new and improved approach to their arts and education programming.
“We are always keen to stay relevant and inclusive, so we wanted to look at our education framework to ensure we are keeping up with industry demand in terms of opportunities for our students and their skills development,” said Chase Demmers, Stagecoach’s educational partnerships and programme development manager at the company’s first-ever Education Advisory Panel, hosted in February at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts in Peckham, London.
The panel, which met to prepare for Stagecoach’s April 9 birthday, brought together members of Stagecoach’s head office with creatives from other parts of the performing arts and education industries. By sparking conversation with industry members from outside the company, Stagecoach hopes to redevelop some of their practices and approaches to ensure that their schools remain equitable spaces to provide creative opportunities for youth of all backgrounds.
My favourite memory is probably the first day I had at Stagecoach, and I was so nervous to go in. I was a shy child — people don’t believe that now because I’m an actress, but I was, I was quite nervous. I walked in and I made friends with one of the students in my class and the first lesson we had was drama and I didn’t want to leave! I never looked back and every single Sunday, I used to look forward to going.Lily de-la-Haye, former Stagecoach student and Stagecoach teacher now understudying Carlotta in Phantom of the Opera in the West End
Joining Demmer was teacher and West End performer Colin Charles; performing arts business consultant Tomorr Kokona; producer, writer, and actor Nina Kristofferson; producers Ben Johnson and Jak O’Kody; and principal of Mountview, Sally Ann Gritton.
“The aim was to find areas for development and if there were things we as a business were not addressing,” continued Demmer. “We felt it was important to hear what people think of our educational framework from the outside looking in. We received fantastic feedback and suggestions for celebrating our inclusivity as a brand.”
While Stagecoach delivers performance-driven education to students, the benefits of the program don’t end with musical theatre. The company and its schools encourage students to be more self-assured, expressive, sociable, and imaginative as they learn how to tackle situations with resilience, creativity, and courage. Countless studies over the years have shown that children with a background in the arts outperform their peers in core school subjects, such as science and English, and the program aims to help youths from across their world use their performance skills to benefit them in every area of their lives.
I turned my sights to Stagecoach after my own positive personal experience when our daughter participated in Stagecoach activities when we lived in Germany for many years. As we originate from Lithuania and still had tight connections to our home country, we decided to spread the positive Stagecoach idea in Lithuania.Kęstutis Staniulionis, Stagecoach Vilnius, Lithuania
With this birthday, Stagecoach has renewed their commitment to serve and educate students equitably. But the work didn’t end on April 9. The company plans to revitalize their educational framework beyond their 35th anniversary, using ongoing feedback from future panels to help them remold and re-envision the reach and impact that Stagecoach has on young artists.
“This was our first panel, but we are looking to come together every six months as we really value the guidance of the panelists to keep us moving in the right direction,” explained Demmer.
“We are 35 years old as a business and have always gone from strength to strength. As a market leader, we recognise how important it is to be current and inclusive, and it’s refreshing to be challenged and hear the point of view of others in the industry.”
To find out more about Stagecoach and discover schools in your area, visit their website here.