Tisch Tisch, How Come Yale’s Not On Your RADA?

Published on 9 December 2014

What it takes to get into some of the best arts schools

TEXT BY Tan Shou Chen & Emilyn tan

If  “all the world’s a stage”, where should all the men and women who want to be stand-out players go to hone their craft? Those serious about their calling set their sights on a brand-name school, just as an ambitious lawyer might court Harvard credentials and a budding businessman might bank on a degree from MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) as an asset. In this article, we spotlight some well-reputed institutions famed for their arts-based curriculum and find out more about their entry requirements.


Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA)

Why: Longevity. More than 80 per cent of RADA graduates are still active in the profession 20 years after graduation.

To get in: There is a four-stage audition process, the first of which involves the performance of a monologue from any Shakespeare or other Elizabethan/Jacobean play, as well as an extract from a post-1950 playwright. It is said that only 26 people are admitted every year.

Financial pain: International students should expect fees to be no less than S$105,000 for a three-year Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in Acting course.

Bragging rights: You went to the same school as Anthony Hopkins, Kenneth Branagh and Jonathan Pryce.


Tisch School of the Arts

Why: Sabrina Sng, currently a student there, says: “The philosophy ‘take it easy to get hard work done’ is a much-needed change of environment in terms of being free to make mistakes, to fail in the process of creation and development of myself as an individual and a performer.”

To get in: For Performance Studies, there’s the New York University (NYU) part of the application, and then there’s the Tisch Artistic Review.

Financial pain: Tuition alone will set you back about S$65,000 per year. That’s a whopping S$260,000 for four years.

Bragging rights: Think how TheatreWorks’ Ong Keng Sen has so unreservedly broken new ground for local theatre and you could be inspired to follow his lead. He graduated from Tisch with a Masters in 1995. Ong is the first person to receive both of Singapore’s most-acclaimed cultural awards, the Young Artist Award (1992) and the Cultural Medallion (2003).


Yale School of Drama

Why: You have a Bachelor’s already and are sure you want to go to graduate school to train in some aspect of theatre.

To get in: You need to make the grade: This is an Ivy-League university.

Financial pain: The Master of Fine Arts (MFA) programme requires three years in residence, which means the cost is close to S$180,000 in total.

Bragging rights: Sigourney Weaver and Meryl Streep clearly made Yale proud. On home ground, Alec Tok (director/actor-turned-politician) has an MFA from Yale.


California Institute of the Arts

Why: Legacy. CalArts was established by the great Disney brothers, Walt and Roy, in 1961. Animation was its genus from day one.

To get in: If at first you don’t succeed, don’t be shy about improving on your portfolio and re-applying; only a third of applicants are accepted. That having been said, 16.6 per cent of its student population is from outside the US.

Financial pain: Typically, the Bachelor of Fine Arts takes four years to complete. At the current rate, the total cost works out to about S$215,000.

Bragging rights: Animation Career Review ranked CalArts No. 1 in its 2014 list of Top 100 Animation School Programmes in the US. If that isn’t reason enough, take note that gross earnings from alumni-directed films since 1985 is in excess of US$30 billion. Home-grown cinematographer Brian Gothong Tan studied here.


Berklee College of Music

Why: Student-to-faculty ratio is 8:1. Also, the global blend is unsurpassed: 28 per cent of its undergraduate population are from abroad — more than any other college in the US.

To get in: Ace the live audition that includes sight-reading and improv skills tests.

Financial pain: You’re looking at an investment of about S$196,000.

Bragging rights: To date, 100 Berklee alumni — including industry stalwarts Quincy Jones, Diana Krall and Branford Marsalis — have collectively snagged 239 Grammy Awards. Our own grads include the late Iskandar Ismail and Young Artist Award recipient Ruth Ling.


Royal Ballet School

Why: Through an eight-year programme, it educates and trains dancers for The Royal Ballet in Britain and other leading companies. Its fascinating history dates back to 1926.

To get in: You must be so exceptional that you’ve probably won international awards.

Financial pain: This is one of the world’s greatest centres of classical ballet training and boarding is compulsory. Juniors (11 to 16 years) should set aside about S$65,400 a year; cost for seniors (16 to 19 years) is S$57,000 a year.

Bragging rights: This was training ground for Dame Margot Fonteyn, one of the greatest classical ballet dancers ever.


The Juilliard School

Why: Because you want to seize the opportunity to perfect your art under the most-acclaimed of teachers. (If you’re a trumpeter, you might well be studying under Grammy-winner Wynton Marsalis.)

To get in: You should have been studying with the very best, very intensely for a long, long time! Acceptance rate here is only 7 per cent. Meaning if you get in, you’re really good.

Financial pain: Each undergraduate degree usually takes four years to complete and your school fees could cross the S$250,000 mark.

Bragging rights: The Juilliard name alone could be all the blast-off you need for a life-long trajectory. The renowned Albert Tiu, Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music Associate Professor of Piano, is a Juilliard grad, as is ‘toy piano’ virtuoso Margaret Leng Tan. Last year, School of the Arts’ (SOTA) Michelle Lim was the first dance student from Singapore admitted. The Juilliard ‘Hall of Famers’ also includes Yo-Yo Ma (cellist), actors Val Kilmer and Kevin Spacey. Alan Greenspan, one-time US Federal Reserve chairman, also studied the clarinet at Juilliard!

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