The bright lights of stardom are beckoning for a gifted Sunderland College student after he was awarded a scholarship worth £65,000 by a prestigious performing arts academy.
Michael Brown, 18, has been chosen out of hundreds of hopefuls to train at Laine Theatre Arts in Surrey on a three-year dance and musical theatre course.
Founded in 1974, Laine Theatre Arts is recognised as one of the best international training colleges for performing arts, boasting an enviable list of alumni including fashion designer and former singer Victoria Beckham, actress Hayley Tamaddon and West End star Kerry Ellis.
Michael, from East Herrington in Sunderland, secured the scholarship after a day of challenging auditions in front of a panel, led by Betty Laine OBE who founded the performing arts college.
He said: “I received a letter the following week telling me that due to my high standard of work I had been awarded a scholarship. The money covers all of my tuition fees and will also help towards my living costs for the three years.”
The £65,000 Dance and Drama Awards (DaDA) scholarship is only awarded to exceptionally talented performing arts students studying at some of the country’s leading providers of professional vocational training in dance, drama and musical theatre.
He added: “I was so overwhelmed. I really wasn’t expecting this result, especially from my first choice college. I was with my mum when I opened the letter and we were both overjoyed and cried. It means so much to me because without the scholarship I wouldn’t be able to afford to go.”
Michael, who takes up his place in September, studied BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma in Dance and A-Level Drama and Theatre Studies at Sunderland College.
He was one of the first students to study at the college’s Arts Academy which opened last September at Bede Campus and features state-of-the-art facilities such as bespoke dance, drama and music studios and a 220-seat theatre.
The talented performer completed his studies at the college in June and achieved excellent results, attaining the highest grade possible in his vocational course.
He added: “Being a student at Sunderland College has really helped me progress further in the performing arts industry. It has provided me with quality teaching and being able to have easy access to the facilities for extra practice has helped me push myself even further.
“The new Arts Academy is fantastic. It provides you with everything you need in order to train hard and be able to make vast improvements throughout the course. The academy is very smart and professional, and being in an environment like that helps students to work to a higher standard.”
Michael’s dreams of starring on the West End stage began at an early age and when he was eight he began to hone his dancing and performing skills at the Kathleen Knox School of Dance.
He said: “I always loved performing, singing and dancing in the living room and forcing my parents to watch me perform, but it was my auntie who introduced me to musical theatre when we watched ‘Cats the Musical’ on VHS. I fell in love with it and the whole concept of dancing and performing on stage.”
Michael has appeared in a variety of both professional and amateur shows, including ‘Scrooge’ at the Sunderland Empire and Northern Ballet’s production of the ‘Nutcracker’ at the Theatre Royal Newcastle.
He has also been involved as an extra in the TV and film industry, including the crime drama ‘Inspector George Gently’ starring Martin Shaw and the film ‘United’ starring David Tennant, Jack O’Connell and Sam Claflin.
Once Michael graduates from Laine Theatre Arts, he’s hoping to break into the industry and dreams of having his name up in lights in the West End.
He added: “My dream job would be a role in ‘Cats’ whether on the West End, on tour or somewhere else in the world. It would be amazing as it was the musical I loved and idolised when I was growing up.”
Sheree Rymer, Sunderland College’s curriculum leader for performing arts, said: “Michael is a truly gifted performer and we’re delighted that he has been awarded a scholarship at such a prestigious performing arts college.
“Throughout his time at the college, Michael has shown exceptional talent and has been completely dedicated to his studies. We all wish him the best of luck for the future and we’re looking forward to following his career as it grows.”