Real-World Experience is a term that many colleges and universities market to their students and parents–for good reason. Students who gain real-world experience while in college, whether through instruction, internships, volunteering, shadowing, working, or any other way, gain an advantage over others they will compete with for entry-level, first jobs. Of course, once the student is working, the work will speak for itself and will either help advance or hold back the desired career.
In performing arts training, especially for career minded students, there is no substitute for a teacher/mentor with real-world experience. Performing arts work is learned in studios, in active, experiential, kinetic learning situations. It is not an academic subject. One can learn basketball in a classroom, but it is better learnt in a gym. Like basketball, having the opportunity to learn from a pro-player with real-world experience will provide an advantage of truer, in-depth learning. “Been there, done that” matters. We all know why that expression lives. If one hasn’t been there or done that, one doesn’t have firsthand experience.
In basketball, if you get proper training right from the beginning, with an expert eye watching over your development, you will have a real advantage over the other novice player who gets improper training habits and no instruction of how to fix the error. As soon as one picks up the ball to learn, no matter how young, the better the instruction, the better the outcome. Optimal instruction at the youngest levels are vital. This point is often missed when student-teachers are assigned to teach young classes.
In performing the same holds true. Perhaps more so, because a young performer can pick up bad habits that not only holds back their development, but in dancing and singing, can injure their instrument. Performers make their instrument from scratch, from the innate clay they start with- their body. By using their minds to learn they develop their body’s potential. If one lays down a poor foundation, the upper levels of work will falter just like a second story house buckling under a compromised basement. Laying a great foundation for a performer is a key ingredient for successful performing artists. Foundations take many years to lay for young performing artists; they are not built in just a few years. In fact, one is always honing their foundation even at advanced levels. The saying in ballet goes: “plie is the first thing you learn and the last thing you master” (to bend one’s knees in turn-out). In other words, what you learn in your first lessons will be practiced throughout all levels but mastered only at the advanced-professional level. Hence the imperative that it is learnt correctly from the start. Sanford Meisner, legendary American acting teacher says it takes twenty years to become an actor. No joke. And he’s right, as many professional actors have attested to.
Real-world experience offers the best chance for proper instruction in the performing arts, especially in Ballet and Broadway singing, two very specific ways of performing. In acting, if one builds a poor foundation, one doesn’t risk injury, but one surely risks success. This summer a new actor at Ruhala learned in his first class here, that spontaneity and improvisation are important goals of performing a memorized script. He had not been taught that in his college acting course. He thought he should do his scene the same way every time. A young student, say eight years-old, who knows this already, has a head start.
In recent times performing arts training has shifted from the mentoring model to institutionalized settings. In earlier days students learned from the tradition of student-mentor relationships. Both methods of learning have their pros and cons; there is no one right way. At Ruhala, the best traditions and real-world experience are passed on in student-mentor relationships. Mr. Ruhala was taught this way by his mentors in Lansing and New York and so has real-world experience in his teaching methodology. Mr. Ruhala also has real-world experience in a career that landed him on Broadway at twenty years-old and took him around the world with National and International tours. He worked in TV, Film, Cabaret, Ballet, Opera, Videos, as well as off-Broadway and in regional theatres. In the greater-Lansing, mid-Michigan area, Mr. Ruhala leads the way in real-world experience. When he mentors students, he has a tremendous wealth of information, knowledge and experience to draw on. He knows what it takes to succeed, because he did that, and so can pass on information that is inaccessible to the community theatre actor or teacher.
Mentoring a student means overseeing the entire training program and the student’s development throughout the process. A holistic perspective is needed. In an institution such as a university, or even a specialized performing academy, no teacher assumes this role; there is no one person who will look after the student. There is less investment of the teacher into the student. The teachers have less on the line whether the student makes it or not. A mentor’s reputation is built on the success of each student. The institutional setting offers many teachers, many subjects, many approaches to performing by a variety of teaching styles. This can be an advantage but often it is less helpful because it doesn’t allow for in-depth learning but rather superficial learning of lots of subjects from lots of teachers. The plethora of out-of-work performers with college degrees demonstrates this limitation. There is no right or wrong approach to performing. Each individual is best served to find the approach that fits their goals. Some students will thrive in the university setting and others will thrive being a protégé of a mentor. Know your goals and then how best to fulfill them.
At Ruhala, the track record of proven success looms large. Mr. Ruhala has been teaching for over thirty years in the performing arts. He has taught in New York (he founded the Broadway Training Center), across the U.S. and Canada, and in many countries in Europe and Asia. His students have attended the best universities on the East Coast, in the Midwest, and throughout the west. His career minded students have succeeded on Broadway, in Movies, on TV, and as free-lance artists who have carved their own paths. Mr. Ruhala has that rare ability and experience to train a performing artist as a singer, dancer and actor. He was a triple-threat performer himself, he knows what it takes to tackle all three disciplines and perform at the highest levels in show business.
Mr. Ruhala’s career-minded students learn about and make the sacrifices necessary to insure better chances of success in their futures. Like the determined athlete who is in the gym or at the rink morning and night, his students are in his studio six days a week studying the full program the Center offers. They sacrifice social events to be in class, rehearsals, and performances. They sacrifice other activities they enjoy to focus-in on their passion and desire to make a career in show business. They sacrifice doing fun high school musicals to receive the training and performances they get at Ruhala. They know that if they can get through the training at Ruhala they can get to New York as a top contender for their age and character type. The training is hard. The training is demanding. And the training is fun. Mr. Ruhala believes that students are best served if they learn the ropes early-on while in training, make the necessary mistakes while in training, and learn the complexities of the business side of the industry while training to be the best artist they can. If one learns all of this while training, they are much better equipped to go to New York and not fumble their opportunities.
The good news is that even those students who are not career minded get all these advantages while studying and learning performing arts more as a hobby they love.
Want more information, or a consultation with Mr. Ruhala?
Feel free to email us at info@RuhalaCenter.com or call us at 517.337.0464.