Rose Bruford College: Nurturing artistic passion through experiential learning
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Rose Bruford College: Nurturing artistic passion through experiential learning

Born and raised in Salem, Oregon, Ellie Bertholf always had a passion for the arts. From theatre to music, she explored different avenues until she discovered her true calling – costume production. During a gap year in Paris, she had a sampling of the vibrant theatre scene in London and was smitten — so much so that when it was time to go to college, she chose Rose Bruford College’s Costume Production BA (Hons) programme. “I loved the idea of the school as a whole as well as the course,” she says.

Located just 25 minutes from central London, Rose Bruford College aims to inspire, excite and train aspiring creative artists and practitioners to become independent thinkers and fulfilled successful working professionals. Programmes range from undergraduate to postgraduate, foundation to short courses.

Whichever you choose, you’ll learn by doing. Design and production programmes include lots of practical experience via placements in venues on and off campus. One such programme is the Costume Production BA (Hons). It blends costume-making techniques with backstage etiquette. You’ll gain hands-on experience constructing and managing costumes for theatre, film, TV, and performance while developing practical maintenance, alterations, and dressing skills.

While the London Season musical was Bertholf’s most challenging project, it shaped her into the professional she is today. Source: Rose Bruford College

The specialist skills module was one aspect of the programme that stood out for Bertholf. Given her strong foundation in wigs and makeup, this resonated with her, providing a platform to expand her skill set. “I also noted the focus on show work rather than strictly making and designing, and as I planned to go into dressing and wardrobe supervision, this was important to me,” she says.

Bertholf thrived in various modules throughout her time at Bruford, with a particular fondness for show-related courses. Reflecting on her final year roles, where she served as a costume assistant on “Her Naked Skin” play and costume supervisor on “Seussical the Musical,” Bertholf says, “Both of these shows meant a lot to me, and I felt I got to learn so much and cement the areas of costume I wanted to work in.”

The college’s dedication to industry preparation extends beyond the classroom. Second-year students undertake external three-to-six-week placements ranging from Studio Stitcher in Florida to roles on West End productions. For Bertholf, the placement was incredibly exciting and taught her plenty.. Despite a shortened placement time due to an extra Bruford show role, she worked as a dresser on “The King and I” UK tour and as head of wardrobe on “Cirque Enchantment.” That’s not all. Bertholf also worked as a local dresser on a touring production, allowing her to ask questions of the touring team and learn what it’s like to travel weekly with a show. These diverse opportunities gave her invaluable insights into the working world of wardrobe, from touring productions to head of department responsibilities.

The college’s emphasis on industry preparation proved crucial for Bertholf’s professional development. “Each module was always accompanied by discussions about how the project would tie into industry work,” she says.

Lou Venn. Source: Rose Bruford College

The impact of Bruford isn’t limited to the realm of costume production. Lou Venn, drawn to the college for its rich tapestry of shows and proximity to London’s artistic scene, found her niche in the Audio Production BA (Hons) programme. Led by experienced staff and a wide range of practising professionals from the industry, it covers music production, live sound, and sound design across various mediums.

“The programme stood out because of the variety that the course allows you to experience before you choose your specialism, and you are continuously pushed to try things, just to see if you like it,” Venn says.

Venn actively participated in the London Season productions, serving as a sound no. 2 — responsible for looking after the sound equipment on the stage during a show — for London Road. She managed 24 hairline DPA radio mics and oversaw a full band. Venn was immersed in the production process, gaining valuable hands-on experience from the get-in to the get-out.

In February, Audio Production students worked with the Creative Lighting Control and Stage and Events Management students on the annual “Rock in the Rose” project. It allows the students to work with hire companies to get their hands on kits they wouldn’t normally have access to. They also collaborated with actor musician students, helping them produce music for their Recorded Media module.

While challenging, Venn saw its value. “You learn hands-on what working in the industry could be like; clear goals must be met daily. It’s not always easy, but the common goal of having a successful event is in the back of everyone’s minds,” she says.

These are powerful experiences. Venn not only enriched her portfolio but mastered the ins and outs of nurturing relationships. “It’s definitely helped with the collaboration aspect of the industry and learning to work with people regardless if you’re mates or not,” she shares, “You also play around with new desks, making you a more versatile engineer.”

Visiting tutors and industry professionals have further influenced Venn’s learning and provided invaluable networking opportunities. “Many of them also own their own companies, so doing well on shows can help your career succeeds,” Venn says. With a membership to the Association of Sound Designers, Venn has access to training opportunities, making her more employable and ready for the dynamic audio production industry.

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