Spring Awakening, the Elder Conservatorium of Music’s inaugural musical

Musical director and repertoire coach, Paul Sinkinson, took time out from his busy schedule to chat about his experience working as part of the staff for the Bachelor of Music Theatre course at the University of Adelaide. Their first production opens on 21 November at the Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre.

Paul Sinkinson, musical director

As musical director for this premiere production how are you feeling leading up to opening night?

As the inaugural production for the Bachelor of Music Theatre course at the Elder Conservatorium, I feel privileged and humbled to be entrusted with music directing Spring Awakening. I can confidently say that the show is in the very best of hands with George at the helm. The attention to detail from the production team and the students shows how much of a success everyone involved wants the show to be.

Briefly describe your training and how you arrived at this point in your career?

Musical theatre has been a relatively new passion of mine, having come from a music composition background and then a film and television undergraduate degree. Experience working in the theatre at both a community and professional level cemented that musical theatre is where I feel at home, and having the chance to meet and work with so many passionate people told me I was in the right field. Having completed my Master of Teaching, being part of the staff at the Elder Conservatorium is rewarding as I am working with the next generation of performing artists and it allows me to continue to hone my skills as a theatre musician.

This is the first year that the Bachelor of Music Theatre degree has run in Adelaide. What has your experience been so far?

Being part of a new degree has been incredibly exciting. The course has settled really comfortably into the Conservatorium environment and feels at home. Practise rooms and teaching spaces are being shared with classical, jazz, and pop students and I think we have become accepted into the “music community”. Gone are days when passersby do double takes as a BMT student practises their tap routine on the lawn or belts out a Golden Age show tune next door to a trumpeter dutifully playing their scales.

Spring Awakening is an edgy, youthful choice for an inaugural show. What can audiences expect from the first year students of this production?

The show contains many controversial themes that were taboo over a hundred years ago when the original play that the production is based on was written; yet its content is still just as relevant and somewhat controversial today. Today’s ‘age of information’ brings up issues about how much information we give to our children and what can happen when that is restricted. This first year cohort are fresh and raw and their performances will mirror the realness and vitality that Spring Awakening embodies.

In Issue 1 of our magazine, we interviewed George Torbay, Head of Music Theatre. What’s it like to work with him in your capacity as musical director?

George is a true professional in his field and has been an amazing colleague and mentor. His attention to detail and drive is next to none and it has been an absolute pleasure being able to work alongside him throughout the year. As a director, George’s vision for Spring Awakening has been crystal clear from day one and having him communicate this every step of the way has helped me sculpt what I have wanted musically.

What advice would you give to anyone who aspires to work as a musical director or work as a musician in music theatre?

Be yourself 100 per cent of the time. Put all your cards on the table and don’t pretend to be someone you’re not. People want to work with others who are genuine, friendly, and willing to put in the hard work. Always be prepared to keep learning and developing your skills.

Thank you so much for your insight Paul and Chookas!

Spring Awakening will run from 21 – 24 November at the Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre. Visit Bass for more information.

This article was first published in The Serenade Files Magazine Issue 4 (October – December 2019). Visit the Magazine page to read more features like this.

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