Issue: Fall 2018

Dream Factory: AMDA

Nyla Arslanian


For nearly 100 years, they’ve come by the countless thousands to reach for the dream of stardom. They’ve arrived with little more than their hopes and dreams and a pretty face. Once, long ago, that might have been enough, but not today.

Now, thanks to schools such as the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, comprehensive training and education in the performing arts helps prepare young people with the tools necessary to make it in one of the world’s toughest businesses. 

Celebrating more than 50 years as one of America's premier conservatories for the performing arts, the American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA) is recognized for its rich history and tradition of launching successful careers in theatre, film and television. It has provided performing arts education to a diverse community of artists with the opportunity to study and live in New York City or Los Angeles, an extraordinary advantage for emerging performing artists.

All aspects of performance are taught at AMDA, including drama, comedy, dance...
Born with a simple but powerful idea: to create a school run by professional performers, for performers, the institution quickly established itself as an integral part of the New York performing arts community. Thriving under the direction of Philip Burton—the actor and instructor best known for helping launch the career of his adopted son, Richard Burton, in the late 1970s, the torch was passed to actor/producer David Martin and his wife, Jan. To this day, the Martins continue to serve as AMDA's Executive and Artistic Directors.

AMDA flourished under the Martins, who developed new programs and hired some of the world's top-performing artists as faculty. The school's growth in the 1970's prompted a move to the historic Ansonia Building on Manhattan's the Upper West Side and in the 1990s led to a second building near the Lincoln Center, which is now AMDA New York's principal location.

In 2003, the Martins brought AMDA's success to the golden West Coast, founding a Los Angeles campus in the 1929 Art Deco Yucca Vine Tower. With this groundbreaking move, AMDA became the only Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree-granting performing arts institution with campuses in both New York and Los Angeles. AMDA is now a thriving, fully accredited institution, offering Professional Conservatory and Bachelor of Fine Arts Degrees in Acting, Dance Theatre, Music Theatre and Performing Arts. To accommodate the growing number of students, classes are also held in the five-story facility across Yucca and at the Cosmo Performing Arts Center.

Stage Fighting at AMDA
....and even stage fighting.
Each year, more than 700 students engage in AMDA's rigorous curricula under the guidance of a faculty of professional artists and instructors at the leading edge of their respective fields. AMDA is committed to nurturing artists who have the skills and drive to launch effective, creative careers that shape the life of our local, national and global communities.

AMDA provides rigorous, performance-based training and an industry-focused education experience. The school's educational philosophy is based on close collegial interaction between instructors and students — in class, in production and through active mentorship.

With a commitment to providing an unsurpassed performing arts education to a diverse community of creative artists, AMDA serves as both school and stage. Students are given the support and opportunity to define their own personal objectives and to develop and refine their own distinctive artistic voices.

However, success requires more than just talent. From the moment students arrive, they are trained to graduate as a professional ready to work in today's competitive industry. With over 150 opportunities to perform each year, students receive world-class training while living in the beating heart of the world's entertainment capital: Hollywood. There are four student productions each semester: two plays and a dance and music theatre production presented either at the Cosmo’s 180-seat theatre or the 100 seat theatre in the tower.

AMDAEach September and October, AMDA conducts annual National Audition Tours for admission in 38 cities throughout the U.S. Auditions are also held in South America, Australia, Europe and Canada. A rigorous audition includes prepared monologues, and voice and dance performance. Only a third of the applicants are accepted. With aspiring students from all 50 states and over 100 countries, the student body is diverse and lifelong relationships are forged. To support economic diversity, the school offers over $10 million of scholarship awards each year. Individual awards ranged from $1,000 to $18,000. Scholarships are awarded based on talent, merit, academic excellence and financial need.

Centrally located steps from the Walk of Fame and world-famed intersection of Hollywood and Vine, AMDA strives to create an environment for students to develop the skills, confidence, imagination, and power to contribute to their community as artists, entrepreneurs, and visionaries. Freshmen are housed in dorms hidden behind the main building. Converted 1930s era apartments and a former bungalow court house two to four students in each kitchen equipped unit. Three other housing facilities for older students are located nearby. Security and a shuttle service is provided between the academy and residences.

AMDAUnder the watchful eyes of the Martins, students, mostly direct from high school and far from home, receive a level of care with every student treated like a family member as they acclimate to the rigorous schedule and friendly competition from their talented peers. In addition to classes in acting, music and dance, students participate in “combat” training such as sword fighting. If students want extra rehearsal time, classroom space is provided along with a piano accompanist if necessary (over 25 accompanists are available). Each day students are immersed in a rigorous and demanding pursuit of excellence, giving them the knowledge and skill set that will last a lifetime. To help students financially, the academy offers 100 paid student jobs.

A future in the performing arts doesn't have to be a dream. For over 50 years, AMDA has launched some of the most successful careers in theatre, film and television. Watched by the eyes of millions, its graduates occupy the world's stages, film sets and movie screens.