Malaysia’s first conservatory degree now includes Music and Dance

The Actors Studio and Taylor's University expands their program via a collaboration with Young Choral Academy and ASK Dance Company to provide Music and Dance specialisations.


Upon pursuing higher education, people who gravitate towards performing arts often has three choices to make: whether to enroll in a conservatory, liberal arts college or hybrid between those two. A conservatory focuses on one thing, be it music, theatre, music and the likes; while a liberal arts college provides a more well-rounded approach, such as having a minor on top of one’s major course. Some examples of liberal arts colleges are the College of the Creative Arts in Universiti Teknologi Mara, Akademi Seni Budaya dan Warisan Kebangsaan (ASWARA) and Malaysian Institute of Arts.

Unlike liberal arts colleges, the conservatory style learning is quite rare in Malaysia to the point of non-existence. Seeing the lack of it, Datuk Faridah Merican and Joe Hasham joined hands with Taylor’s University to spearhead the Taylor’s University and The Actor’s Studio (TUTAS) Conservatory Degree in Performing Arts. This follows the advice of Malaysian former Prime Minister, Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi who suggested that the duo needed to connect their theatre works to higher education in order to sustain their legacy.

First of its kind

TUTAS’s Conservatory Degree, the first of its kind in Malaysia focuses more on practical works where the students are free to choose between two tracks; on stage with the Performance Track or behind the scenes with the Technical Theatre Track. Students get the chance to get pick the brains of industry experts such as Chris Higgs, Ian Chow and Mark Beau de Silva.

Previous cohorts from the program have managed to produce incredible shows such as Mariam, a rendition of Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet as well as KALEIDOSCOPE. Last January, TUTAS’s announced that it is expanding its specializations by venturing into Music and Dance. It collaborated with the Young Choral Academy (YCA) and ASK Dance Company (ADC) in order to elevate the Bachelor of Performing Arts (Honours) program.

Collaborating with Young Choral Academy and ASK Dance Company

Leading the Music specialization is Susanna Saw, who runs the Young Choral Academy. A well-known teacher in the music world, Saw has taught and led choirs at local universities and is involved in many local and international music groups. Aside from being the judge for a list of international choir festivals, she has also been invited to speak at various music events.

Overseeing as well as teaching the Dance specialization is Professor Dr. Joseph Gonzales, the Founder and Artistic Director of the ASK Dance Company. A highly respected dance teacher and artist, Professor Dr. Gonzales has performed and choreographed in various styles for dance, theater, and musical theater, earning recognition both locally and internationally.

In the Dance specialization, students will learn ballet, contemporary dance, traditional Malay dance, hip hop, jazz and silat (Malay Martial Arts). The Music specialization, on the other hand covers vocal studies, musical theater, scene studies, movement and stagecraft, repertory and song, musicianship and ear training. Students get hands-on training from Saw amongst other experts in the field.

“As Malaysia’s only conservatory-style performing arts program, TUTAS has already attracted students from all over the world including Japan, Korea, Indonesia and China as well as exchange students from the Netherlands, Germany and Spain. The introduction of Dance and Music specializations makes it even more attractive as these students can access not only a full-fledged performing arts center that acts as their campus but each partner’s wealth of expertise, know-how and industry connections. It will truly be a place where they can choose who they want to be,” added Joe.

The new Dance and Music specialisations will be available for aspiring students in April this year. For inquiries and more information on the Bachelor of Performing Arts program, please visit this link. For those who are interested, Taylor’s University is also hosting an open day this Sunday, 16 March 2024. Registration info can be found by clicking here.

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