Adam’s Story

26 years old, Saltash in Cornwall

Where did you grow up?

Saltash, Cornwall.

What did you study in higher education?

Musical Theatre at the University of Wolverhampton.

After finishing my A Levels, I wasn’t 100% sure what I was going to do next, so decided I would take a year out and work at a local golf and hotel resort. During that year I decided to follow my passion for theatre and I auditioned to study Musical Theatre at a number of universities. I accepted my place at the University of Wolverhampton and loved my three years on the undergraduate degree. It wasn’t just about performing. The degree allowed you to explore the multi-disciplined industry; arts marketing, company management, devising, political and academic research as well as classes in singing, dancing and theatre performance. I was lucky enough to take part in a workshop in New York, a concert tour around Italy and join American Grammy award-winning singer Josh Groban on the UK leg of his World Tour as a member of his choir.

After graduating with a First Class Honours degree, I started my postgraduate journey (study after a normal three-year degree) and achieved a Post Graduate Certificate in Musical Theatre, specialising in Arts Marketing and Producing. Whilst undertaking my postgraduate study, I also started my career in higher education, working for Wolverhampton Students’ Union – channelling my creative and management skills, I became their Head of Communications and Events, leading a number of student experience projects and events, including Freshers and ReFreshers.

Why did you decide on this subject?

I have always loved theatre and had been involved with amateur companies from a young age; both as a performing member and on with committee and production team roles. When I found out you could study the subject at university, which also allowed you to explore the other roles within the sector, I was hooked! My time at university helped me to develop my skills as a performer, but also as a communicator, collaborator and creative problem solver.

Why did you decide on this university?

I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go. I just knew that I wanted to move away from Cornwall. I had heard good things about Chichester and had this as my first choice. When I visited the campus though, it wasn’t quite what I expected and as I knew it was important to picture myself living there as well as studying, I decided that it wasn’t for me. When I went to my audition at the Walsall Campus of the University of Wolverhampton, I knew almost straight away that this is where I wanted to go. I can’t explain why exactly, but when you know, you know! The campus had a new state-of-the-art facility and the halls of residence felt warm and homely. The campus staff who I met on the day were also a big part of why I felt so comfortable there. So my biggest piece of advice from this, is that no matter how much research you do,  social media hunts, YouTube campus experience sessions, until you actually go and visit the campus yourself, you don’t know for sure.

What did you want to be as a child?

I changed nearly as much as the weather. I started wanting to be a teacher. Then in the police. Then a lawyer… then I realised I wanted to be whatever the main character in my current favourite TV programme was!

Has your career or education taken any unexpected turns? 

I wasn’t totally happy with my A Level choices and the subjects I took. I do think looking back they were well rounded and sensible for someone who didn’t have a set path ahead. But because of that, I didn’t enjoy my subjects as much as the other aspects of A Level life. I loved the school shows, helping out at events and loved my time as Head Student, working with community groups and organisations. I wasn’t planning a gap year, but I am glad that I did. It gave me time to think and plan away from the pressure of my A Levels and I earned some money. I also realised that I didn’t want to work a Monday – Friday, 9am-5pm. For some people that provides structure and stability but for me, it was my worst nightmare so that really helped me think wider about what I wanted to do.

What did you study at sixth form / college? 

Business, English Language, Government & Politics and Media.

I wanted subjects that I had done well in during my GCSEs and as I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do after my A Level studies, I chose subjects that would give me a variety of different skills in various areas.

Did anyone help you to decide?

My dad was a big influence and support for finding the right courses and navigating UCAS. I also had support from friends at my local theatre group who knew other people who had gone on to study musical theatre.

What was the best thing about studying with your university? What was the best thing about your course?

As much of a cop-out as this will sound, I genuinely loved it all. Every module was challenging but interesting. The vibe and atmosphere at university is nothing like school. I wanted to go into lectures. I wanted to arrange meetings. I wanted to attend the extra sessions and workshops that were offered. I wanted to book studios and do additional ‘work’, because, it wasn’t work. It was what I chose to do and I loved it. I also had time for a part-time job at the Students’ Union which helped pay for my social life… and I had a very active social life, I definitely lived the student dream!

Did you find anything difficult about applying for and/or starting a degree? 

For me, it was all about the audition. Many courses and Drama Schools ask for a selection of audition materials, which includes different bar cuts (lengths). I had to source the materials and ensure I got the cut points correct which was a little challenging as I didn’t study music at school and was now on my gap year.

What eventually happened, and now one of the first things I say to anyone who is struggling, was I went back to my school and they could not do enough to help me get sorted. It seemed really silly after the weeks of stress that I could have emailed and popped in for one afternoon and been all sorted. I also got time with a music teacher to go through my audition songs and ended up being asked to come and talk to other students about what I was doing. All of these things helped me with my confidence. I really felt that for the first time, I could shout loud and proud about my passions and interests and just because I didn’t study them at GCSE or A Level, doesn’t mean it’s too late to start.

Were there any key turning points in your journey into a degree?

There were two that stick out for me and they both follow the same story. My dad and my form tutor. I had decided I needed to take a gap year and think I had starting looking at musical theatre courses but I wasn’t sure how this was going to go down with my family and other people who were supporting me at school. I put a plan together, printed out some courses and UCAS pages, found dates of open days and went to both parties with my sales pitch. I was going to convince them that this was right for me and this was the decision I had made. It meant moving away. It meant needing to apply for Student Finance. It meant lots of travelling. But, once my sales pitch was over and I was ready for the reaction, both were the same “Ok, sounds good”.

Any tips for anyone choosing to study your course?

Go and live it. Open days or experience days are the best. Feel the campus and place you will be spending a lot of your time (and money). Don’t just go off testimonials and marketing. Experience for yourself and ask questions. Not questions you think need to be asked. The questions that really matter to you. I promise you, that question is also important to someone else on your accommodation tour.

What advice would you give to someone from your area?

Trains are simple, especially now with all of the travel apps. It’s just as quick to search a train, find the time it leaves at the platform it’s going from, in the same time it takes to find that appropriate emoji on WhatsApp.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?

I would love to be working towards an MBA (Master of Business Administration) or another postgraduate qualification in marketing.