Under the Radar: Special Programs You May Not Know About!



Below are 18 unique programs in 6 general areas of study scattered across Canada: most are outside Ontario as info about unique programs in this province at colleges and universities is more  easily available for Ontario high school grads.   Some are at conservatories, some colleges, some universities, and one is a private training program. Most are programs open to those just  graduating from high school, although they may also take older, more experienced applicants;  others are for those with some volunteer or community experience after high school, and some are for those with serious training already—especially dance and opera programs— while a handful are just for post grad study, but included here to give students a sense of what grad courses might be available after a BA-- and without leaving Canada and paying a fortune for them!



I.  Performance: Theatre


National Theatre School- Montreal:  www.ent-nts.ca


NTS is a nationally funded conservatory which offers training in parallel programs in English and French to students from across Canada, as well as to about 15 international students a year. About 1900 theatre professionals have graduated from NTS since it was established in 1960. NTS auditions and interviews about 900 students across the country every year, travelling to key cities to do so, then holds call back auditions for a far smaller group, and finally accepts a total of 55 new students each year across all disciplines in both languages: the total number of students at NTS at any given time is about 160.  Many students apply right out of high school,  but there are also applicants who are part way through university, or have graduated, or who are self- taught, so the age and experience range is much wider than is usual in theatre training in colleges and universities.  The focus is on selecting students who have the talent, drive and potential to be professional theatre practitioners, so academic marks are not usually a major factor in selecting students as long as they are articulate and have solid writing skills!

Performance programs are Acting, Playwriting and Direction: usually about 35 English and 45 French speaking students are in the three years of the Acting program, with only 12 accepted for each year in each language; 6 in each language in Playwriting, also a 3 year program; and 2 in each language in Direction, a 2 year program.  NTS teachers and guest directors, playwrights, and dramaturges are well respected working professionals, most of whom are not on staff but on loan from theatre companies across the country and abroad—there are usually about 200 part time and full time teachers and mentors rotating through NTS in any given year.  

In the Acting Program, students take classes in improvisation, acting, vocal training, movement, singing, dance, mask, combat, life drawing, storytelling and writing.  They are not allowed to perform outside the school for the duration of their training, including summers.  The Playwriting Program students work alongside students in the other programs but the major focus of their study is writing through workshops and projects; they also take classes in structure and text analysis, adaptation skills, World and Canadian theatre history, and see their work performed in studio workshops and public readings.  The Directing Program accepts 2 students a year for their 2 year program: these are almost always emerging or experienced theatre artists, not recent high school graduates, and they are mentored by some of Canada’s best directors: this program seeks to develop future leaders in theatre.

There are scholarships and bursaries at NTS, and students from Ontario can also use OSAP for their training.



Studio 58- Langara College, Vancouver:  www.langara.bc.ca/studio-58


Studio 58 is a well kept secret--except within the professional theatre community—and the most demanding conservatory program within a college setting in Canada. It is a 3 year, full time course (8:30 am to 9:00 pm at least, often 6 or 7 days a week) for those who want to be professional actors: 90% of their grads find professional work in theatre or related arts, especially film and TV, within 6 months of graduating—probably the highest statistic for any acting program outside NTS! Many of the teachers are working professionals and sometimes senior students have a chance to work as actors in professional productions; however, this is totally the school’s decision: otherwise students are not allowed to participate in any professional or amateur theatre, film, TV, radio, commercial, print or performance work without permission, only ever given in the last 2 terms; part time work is prohibited as well. 

Students take courses in scene study, improvisation, modern and classical text, voice, speech, choir, singing, music, movement, alignment, period dance, tap, writing, one person shows and theatre fundamentals as well as training for acting in film and TV; in the first three terms they support the productions through crew work, making them more at ease with the entire production process and the jobs of each person within it.  In the last three terms they get a great deal of on-stage experience in rehearsals and public performances, as they produce four fully staged plays each year, each of which runs for 2-3 weeks, as well as two ‘indie’ style productions.

Candidates for admission are more likely to be students who have been out of school for a year at least and working as volunteers or paid performers in theatre in their community—perfect for young actors who have done a gap year before applying to theatre programs—because they like seeing that kids have actually got out there and found opportunities to learn rather than expecting to be spoon fed in classes again.  The auditions are tough—they do improvised group situations, sight readings, individual improv and present one short prepared monologue—and sometimes they ask for a second if they don’t feel the first gives them enough info about the actor. They hold auditions in Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa, Winnipeg and Edmonton. OSAP can be used as it is a college program.




2. Performance & Education: Dance


Post Secondary Program, National Ballet School, Toronto:   www.nbs-enb.ca/professional/postSecondary.aspx


This program focuses on preparing young dancers for entry into professional careers and is structured to provide a supportive transition from completion of training to full-time professional work. Graduates of their own Professional Ballet Program and other students from Canada, the US and Europe who have reached an appropriately advanced level of training may apply. Entrance is based only on talent--there are no academic qualifications, although most if not all students will have graduated from high school, either independently or in as part of an arts or dance training program.

The program runs 6-7 hours, Monday through Saturday,  from September through July each year, and attendance at the summer school is mandatory except for those students selected by the faculty to participate in the Student Exchange Program. Students take a variety of daily classes including Classical Ballet and Pointe as well as Contemporary Repertoire and Improvisation.

Each month the PSP students prepare a lecture-demonstration open to the public in the Betty Oliphant Theatre as part of the Open Stage series. These give young dancers experience in a wide variety of areas and they are involved in the planning as well as performing pieces from classical and contemporary repertoire while exploring the parameters of improvisation:  this serves as an opportunity for choreographers and artistic directors from a variety of Canadian and foreign companies to see emerging artists in a performance venue as well.

Students must find their own housing downtown, as learning to live independently is a goal of the program, but some meals are available at the Mona Campbell Square Café in the Celia Franca Centre.  It is not possible for students to have paid employment while in this program due to the heavy class, rehearsal and performance project load. There are no scholarships to this program, which costs c $14,200 for the year plus dance equipment/clothing—but there is financial assistance available through NBS based solely on family financial need.



Teacher Training Program, National Ballet School, Toronto:  www.nbs-enb.ca/professional/teacher/default.aspx


      There are two quite different versions of this program available for students completing secondary school.

First is  the Three Year Diploma, offered only at the NBS in Toronto, which requires a student to be 18, have a high school diploma and intermediate level dance training with either the Cecchetti Society or the Royal Academy of Dance. Students who complete this receive a NBS – TTP diploma plus teaching qualification through Cecchetti OR the RAD—they have the option to take the qualifying exam for the other association following graduation as well.  Students must attend an audition ballet class in Toronto, usually in January: those applying from a distance may submit a DVD audition instead prior to April 1.  There is a mandatory Second Stage Assessment in May each year which includes a daily ballet class, repertoire, character class, creative dance, lectures on music, dance history and several interviews.  Students are accepted into the program about two weeks after this assessment, and there are usually about 30 applicants; generally c. 20 students are selected but there is no official class size.

Students can apply to live in the nearby NBS residence which includes meals or they can find their own accommodation.   First year students typically have classes from 8:30 am to 5-6 pm six days a week: Saturdays are spent assisting in three classes.  Each day is a mix of practical classes such as ballet and pedagogy and academic classes such as music, dance history, and anatomy.  Holding a part time job is impractical if not impossible, as in second year students are expected to gain experience as dance teachers on weekends, and in third year, they also finish early 1-2 days a week to teach.  This is not an inexpensive program  given the dance and dance teaching clothes, exam fees, books and travel expenses:  fees and assessment fees alone are c. $9600 a year.  This program is approved by the Ministry as a Private Career College, however,  so it may be possible to get loans/grants from OSAP or the Canada Student Loan program—NBS itself does not have a bursary program for the TTP as it does for the PSP.

NBS receives numerous job opportunities for grads of this program from across North America and around the world—grads are given guidance on contract negotiations and other details, and most are ‘spoken for’ before they finish their final year.

The second version is a Joint  BFA Degree program with either York University in Toronto or Simon Fraser University in Vancouver.   A student can either begin with 3 years of study in York’s 4 year dance program, taking NBS recommended electives, and then join the NBS 3 year program for 2 years, focusing on one of the two syllabuses—which means entering in alternate years for the chosen specialty, having achieved your intermediate exam —a total of 5 years;  or you can spend 3 years at the NBS program, completing study of both Cecchetti and RAD syllabus work,  and then join York’s 4 year program, taking specific courses which will complete the course requirements for a BFA in 2 years—again, a total of 5 years.

The program with Simon Fraser is similar—3 years at the initial institution and 2 years in the associate program—requiring residence in both Vancouver and in Toronto across the 5 years. For Ontario students this is obviously a far more expensive option given current air travel costs!

Each of these versions has different costs, which are contingent on the specific university’s tuition for the BFA segment as well as  the $9600/year for the NBS segment; both make part time work difficult and both require finding housing at what are basically suburban campuses in cities with high housing costs and little rental housing for the university segment. As both are degree programs, however, they are more likely to be covered by OSAP and within the university portions, if you start there, you would be eligible for the first year entrance scholarships most universities offer to students with marks in the mid-80’s or better.

 The advantage of a BFA is that there are other alternatives as it is a university degree—both in terms of post grad work and as possible high school dance teachers—this would of course also require an additional teacher training year—but York has both a concurrent and consecutive education program and places student dance teachers in many GTA arts schools, which can give them a head start in getting a teaching job.



Aspirant Program, Royal Winnipeg Ballet School, Winnipeg:   www.rwb.org/school/pd/programs


This is a full time, intensive, post secondary training program designed for advanced level classical ballet dancers who are making the transition from student to professional dancer. It provides students with many advantages, including close contact with the RWB company, as students attend company class and have the opportunity to be cast in its full length ballet productions.  Besides this, they take specially designed courses in ballet and pointe technique, modern and classical variations, Spanish dance, and learn both new repertoire and that drawn from each year’s upcoming RWB season.  They also participate in a wide variety of local productions and performances with organizations like the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and work with both new and established choreographers and guest teachers, as well as gaining experience performing in media productions.            This program is seen by professionals as an excellent  preparation for young dancers, especially those who are not as interested in a degree program and those not resident on either coast!

The RWB School sends a team of artistic/administrative staff to 15 cities across Canada and the US from October to January each year to audition students for this program and conduct master classes;  this is part one of gaining acceptance into the program—part two is participating in the Professional Division Summer Session.  You can register on line to attend one of the intro audition sessions.

Unfortunately the RWB does not make other information—numbers of students accepted, cost of the program including auditions, info on accommodation—available on their website—you have to contact the RWB school office for info ()  or call them at 204-957-3467.



Teacher Training Program, Royal Winnipeg Ballet School, Winnipeg: www. rwb.org/school/pd/teachertraining


This post-secondary full time diploma program is designed to enrich knowledge and provide students with the skills required for a career in dance education and the ability to teach dance with confidence using the Cecchetti Method. They are taught by the Professional Division’s dedicated faculty as well as sharing a training environment with the RWB company and gaining teaching experience in different dance disciplines by observing, assisting, and teaching the 1500 students enrolled in the RWB School Recreational Division and Satellite Programs.  They are also involved in choreography and staging for original works in the School’s annual First Steps Choreographic Competition.

This is a 3 year course but those with a professional dance background may be eligible to graduate in two years; students receive a diploma following completion. There is also an option to take the TTP course work towards dance as a teachable minor within a B.Ed at the University of Winnipeg Faculty of Education.  As with the Aspirant Program, further info is only available directly from the RWB School at the numbers given in the previous entry.



Professional Program, School of Contemporary Dance, Winnipeg: www.schoolofcontemporarydancers.ca/pro/course.html


This is a 4 year professional training program for dancers seeking a career in contemporary dance performance. The final year is a special bridging year from the professional student to the professional emerging artist level, where dancers are given opportunities to connect with the professional community and to undertake professional projects. All dancers who successfully complete the Program achieve the status and designation of Graduate of the Professional Program of the School of Contemporary Dancers, which is recognized as a leading national centre for professional contemporary dance training in Canada. Located within a completely renovated heritage building in the heart of Winnipeg’s dynamic and historic Exchange District, the School is housed in national-caliber facilities.

This program focuses on developing dancers who are technically strong, as well as artistically dynamic and open, so that they have the facility for the diverse artistry required by different companies and choreographers.  To achieve this, it is designed to provide an individual approach to dance training. There is a focus on mentorship and opportunities for all students to work on featured roles in Repertory and Performance. As a result, enrollment is limited to approximately 36 students for the program as a whole. Extensive performance experience is also central to the program’s philosophy, so it produces two performance series in December and May, public school tours in Winnipeg, and Performances for Young Audiences tours in Manitoba, as well as performance showings of students’ choreography in special performance projects and festivals.

The core courses in this program are contemporary dance techniques, ballet for contemporary dancers, repertory and performance; additional courses offered include composition, pedagogy, contact improvisation, partnering, voice, body mechanics, conditioning, dance legacy, individual coaching, lighting design, production and grant applications, and bridging into the profession. The annual Spring Dance Intensive is designed to provide an intensive dance performance/production for School of Contemporary Dancers, for other professional contemporary dance students and for professional contemporary dancers. The Intensive offers courses with guest teachers of renowned repute and has attracted professional dancers and dance students from across Canada and beyond.

The Professional Program has also undertaken an affiliation with the University of Winnipeg, where students may elect to receive up to 14 credits for their work in the Program. Upon completion of 6 additional non-dance academic credits, students are eligible for a BA (Honours) Degree with specialization in Dance. These additional credits may be undertaken concurrently during the years within the Professional Program. Therefore, the Professional Program and the University of Winnipeg degree may both be completed within the four-year period.  Students are eligible for accommodation in the University of Winnipeg residences, although many students share apartments  with other members of the Program. Specific costs for either the diploma program or the BA program can be found on the website, along with application information.

Admission to the Program is by audition, either in person or by video and conducted in February/March; applicants should have completed an intermediate level of training in classical ballet, and/or contemporary dance, and show professional potential for a career in contemporary dance.  An accepted applicant must hold a high school diploma, or qualify as a mature student, or as an accelerated student with the University of Winnipeg. Upon entry, students are placed according to their level in technique and performance. Most students are placed in First Year. However, sufficiently advanced students may enter the Program at the Second Year level.  Students who enter this program from Ontario should qualify for OSAP, and the school has a scholarship program as well.



Professional Training Program, The School of the Toronto Dance Theatre, Toronto: www.schooloftdt.org/ptp_curriculum


Applicants must have a high school diploma or equivalent, or have mature student status, a minimum of one year of serious dance training, and be at least 17 to apply to this 3 year, full time program through the audition process (see website for  audition application form.)  Info about the costs and other practical elements of the program is available by contacting the TDT School.

This program focuses on strong technical training in a number of related and mutually supportive dance disciplines to develop a high level of skill and versatility to realize each dancer’s physical potential. Thus students study dance technique encouraging strength, stamina, flexibility, clarity, versatility, articulation, musicality, use of space and weight, dynamics, and phrasing.   There are special workshops and master classes in selected disciplines given by visiting artists and guest speakers, body work including conditioning, movement clinics, and small group coaching sessions.  Students are also taught anatomy, strategies for injury prevention, and principles of muscle and exercise physiology.

Dance classes focus on the creative process, improvisation, contact improvisation, and source work; contextual and professional studies flocus on dance history, art theory and history, pedagogy, career paths, and dance adventures, in which visiting artists are invited to speak with student about their background, work, philosophy and careers. The interpretation and performance focus is on repertory, bouffon, theatre, music, and elements of production, including working on productions in various capacities.

There is also a York/School of TDT Consecutive Honours BFA program which is similar to that of the NBS/York program.  Students complete the 3 year TDT program with a minimum B standing and can then apply to the York Honours BFA program via interview and evaluation, entering the BFA program in its 3rd year  with a block transfer of 60 credits of the 120 required for the degree; the focus of much of their York degree work is dance history, theory, and other non-studio and general liberal arts degree requirements.



3. Performance: Opera Studies

Diploma in Operatic Performance: University of Toronto Faculty of Music- Toronto:  www.music.utoronto.ca/programs/Opera.html

The Diploma in Operatic Performance is an advanced diploma, requiring two years of full-time study. An additional year of study can be arranged for suitable candidates. The diploma is designed to prepare students through vocal and operatic experience for professional operatic careers.  The course offers training to singers in the modern concepts of the lyric stage and is designed to prepare them for professional operatic careers.  Practical and academic training are combined with the opportunity to prepare and perform a wide variety of operatic material.  Students are also able to accept amateur or professional engagements during the school year by permission of the staff.  Close links are maintained with the Canadian Opera Company; students may attend dress rehearsals, and events such as master classes and symposiums are presented jointly.

Admission is by audition, held in the MacMillan Theatre at the U of T in March or April, during which three contrasting arias in at least two languages (including English) are presented to a panel of staff members. Classes are held between l0am and 6pm five days a week.  They consist of individual and ensemble coaching in operatic repertoire, individual instruction in voice, coaching in Italian, French, German and English diction, stage movement, acting, diction, Alexander technique, dance and make-up.

The diploma program is also open to a small number of student repetiteurs (accompanists) and student stage directors.  For more information about any of these, contact or phone 416-978-3741 directly.


Major Performance Voice: Schulich School of Music, McGill University: Montreal:   www.mcgill.ca/study/2013-2014/faculties/music/undergraduate

The Artist Diploma –Major Performance Voice—is a 65 credit post graduate program within the Schulich School of Music, which is the largest university-based school for professional musical training and research in Canada. Renowned for its orchestral, wind, percussion, contemporary music, choral, opera, jazz, chamber and early music ensembles, it presents more than 700 concerts and events each year. Facilities include five recording studios, two concert halls, recital halls, computer and digital composition labs, and a state-of-the-art music library, not to mention world-class research and production facilities. Leading professional musicians, research societies and music industry experts provide extensive practical experience and to prepare students for the demands of professional life. Current student enrolment is approximately 550 at the undergraduate level and approximately 250 at the graduate level. Teaching staff includes 60 full-time and over 140 part-time members.  There are numerous BMus degrees offered as well—composition, music education, music history, music theory, performance, early music performance, and jazz performance.

However, the MPV program is special—its goal is to enhance the training of future opera singers, and it requires that those taking it have already had—or will take along with the 65 credits—diction courses in Italian, French, German and English, and to maintain a minimum grade of A- in practical instruction, exams, ensembles and voice coaching. Courses already taken toward a BMus or LMus cannot be applied except for required courses in theory, musicianship, music history or performance practice.   Most of the courses are in practical instruction in performance,  recital, concerto, coaching, vocal styles and conventions and in complementary performance via large ensemble training every term, along with required theory, musicianship, music history, literature or performance.

Admissions require a BMus degree in performance, or the LMus from McGill or equivalent, and a performance audition.  This is a highly selective program aimed at those who intend to become professional opera singers, and is included here to provide information to those who might want to aim in this direction after secondary school and an undergraduate degree, as this is only one of two programs designed for opera singers in Canada!



4.  Production:


National Theatre School- Montreal:  www.ent-nts.ca


See the Performance section for general information about NTS.  There are two programs focused on Production at NTS:  The Set and Costume Design Program, which is 3 years long and is  bilingual  in that both French and English speaking students are grouped together.  There are usually about 20 students in the program across all 3 years and it is exceptionally difficult to get into—it is very rare for a student to be accepted right out of high school as most are coming from college or university programs or have been self taught and involved in theatre design for some years already.  They study free hand drawing, perspective, painting, and computer assisted drafting; explore the dynamics of movement, space, body and light, and work with colour, matter, materials and texture. They also take courses in history of theatre, architecture, and  costume and learn to work through a process of text analysis, research in visual metaphor, exploration, renderings in 2 and 3 dimensions, and technical drawing—these are often individualized depending on what a student brings to the program. They work with professional designers, cutters, carpenters, lighting designers and actors and, in their final year, are responsible for the set and costume designs for all the NTS public performances; grads are snapped up by theatre, dance, opera, film, TV, circus and museums.

The Production Program is also 3 years long and has about 25 students across all years at the same time. They learn the foundations of production management, technical direction, stage management, stage electrics/lighting design, sound, and company management, and have access to the most up to date technology and equipment—there are a variety of performance spaces to practice in, as well as lighting and computer labs and a digital sound studio—very few small theatres in Canada are as well equipped.  Everyone studies in each area so they understand the processes, vocabulary, tools and techniques required to work as part of a production team.  They also study theatre history, music, art history, projections, set and costume design and data processing—as so many design tasks are now computer generated. Project work includes analyzing texts and presenting concepts for plays which require them to design and create all elements of a production, and assist with all school productions, assuming different roles across the three years.  This program is also extremely difficult to get into as part of the application process involves analyzing a text and doing a complete set of production documents; again, this is not typically a program for direct entry from high school, but it is important to know it exists as many students do apply after college or in the middle of university—as do many working theatre professionals or experienced community theatre people who wish to broaden their skill set and acquire the theory to go along with their hands-on work.



Studio 58- Langara College, Vancouver:  www.langara.bc.ca/studio-58

See the Performance section for general info about Studio 58.    The Production program is a two year, full time, 12 hour a day, 6-7 days a week course for those who want a professional career in tech theatre and other performance areas, like film, TV, and circus.  In their first term they attend acting, movement and voice classes along with Performance students to give them a sense of the overall theatrical process.  In the other 3 terms, they study stage management, production management, set design, computer assisted design, lighting, costumes, props, sound and multimedia, writing, and one person shows—all with working professionals.  They do a great deal of hands-on learning via the production of four shows a year, and work with key designers so that by the time they graduate they already are fairly visible in Vancouver’s theatre and film world.  Their job placement rate is the same as for actors, as are the restrictions on involvement in productions without permission.

The admission process is complex: applicants have an interview at which they present a portfolio of their theatre and related work to date, including photos, drawings and sometimes, if it is a complex lighting plot, a dvd showing lighting changes in a key scene.  They must also present a finished project which was assigned when they applied.  Then they also have to audition, so that the school can see how well applicants work under pressure in a group—so the focus is not acting skills but group skills—willingness to participate, to listen, to take direction; but sight readings, improv and a short prepared monologue are also required.  This is not for the faint of heart or those lacking in confidence and experience—hence the vast majority are not coming right out of high school although they almost without exception were involved in productions there—they tend to be coming from community theatre or with some fringe/festival work already, and most years many are already into their 20’s.  As for the acting program, there are auditions in major cities across Canada each spring.  Checking Studio 58 out at least a year before you think about applying to either program would be wise as it gives you a very solid sense of what they are looking for—and finding Studio 58 grads in professional theatres in Ontario is fairly easy if you want to talk to someone about it!


Costume Studies: Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences, Dalhousie, Halifax: www.dal.ca/academics/undergraduate_programs/costumestudies


This is a four year BA Honours in Theatre program in which students study textile history, fabrications and embellishment, designer’s language, tailoring, aesthetics of historical and modern dress, and costume history from antiquity to the present, as well as cultural identity and social influences such as class and gender. This is the only costuming program in North America which has an in-depth academic and practical blend,  and students come from across Canada and the US for it.  It is located in a modern building in downtown Halifax but some academic courses are also taught on the Dalhousie campus and some practical courses are taught conservatory style at NSCAD; the university is currently planning a new School of Performing Arts which will be a cultural hub in Halifax. Related degree programs are in Acting, Technical Scenography, Theatre Studies and Theatre & Music, along with a minor in Film Studies.

Academic courses include theatre/costume/art/social history from many periods, as well as liberal arts electives, all of which require a B+ average to remain in the program and an Honours Qualifying Project to graduate; these enable students to continue into post grad programs. The practical focus  is on acquiring proficiency in hands-on skills for measurement, pattern design, cutting, fitting, fabric dying, sculpting and ornamenting, as well as the excellent sewing skills needed to create both modern and historical dress inside and out.  Students costume four DalTheatre productions each year as well as creating and presenting a major historical costume research program to the public at the end of each academic year.

Costume Studies graduates are much in demand: they work in living history sites like Upper Canada Village, as textile consultants and dress/display historians in museums, as designers in major theatre companies and in design and construction for film. They also work as designers, cutters and drapers in fashion and couture houses, and as historical researchers in journalism, art galleries, museums, and tv and film companies. The Costume Studies program is small –usually 20-30 students each year--and very cohesive, so its alums have an active and far reaching network across the continent.

The BA requires Ontario grads to have 4U English and 4-5 additional U or M level university prep courses, with a senior theatre or drama course recommended, and an average over 70%: as it is an Honours degree, most students entering will have averages much higher than this.  They do not require a portfolio, letter of intent or interview, nor do applicants have to have existing sewing skills, although obviously some previous costume work or sewing would be helpful!

The 2 year diploma program (DCS in Costume Studies)is an intensified 2 year version of the program: it was designed for experienced costumers who want to gain the qualification and the theoretical and historical background to go with extensive hands-on costume work and requires 2 years of related university work as well as real world experience: this program usually has 2-3 entrants a year.



Design for the Theatre:  Fine Arts, Concordia, Montreal:



This is a 4 year BFA Theatre  program specialization—in other words a minimum of 66 credits in a 120 credit degree program.  It has been designed to provide an integrated approach to the complex process of conceiving, communicating and realizing the visual framework for theatre work. The emphasis is on design as a highly creative discipline with a number of specialties—lighting, costumes, set design—where the greatest contribution to theatre can be made when a designer has a firm grasp of the potential of each constituent part as well as an understanding of the many other aspects of theatrical production.  Students take courses in lighting design, costume design, set design, scenic painting and stage properties which focus on the nature of the design process, the co-operative nature of theatre work, and on developing clear insights and skills in both imaginative and technical aspects of the various streams of theatre design through group projects and individual portfolio development; students in their final year work on advanced individual projects which are useful portfolios for theatre opportunities or post grad work. 

This is an excellent program for students who may wish to go into an education program after their BA, as it actually provides the skills someone teaching theatre and directing productions in high schools needs—and it is pretty much the only undergrad theatre program which does require students to be competent technically in the whole range of design areas. Related programs include Theatre, Theatre Performance, Theatre and Development, Playwriting, Contemporary Dance, Music – as well as Art Education, Art History, Cinema, Studio Arts and Design and Computational Arts.  Together, these provide one of the best and most comprehensive arts/theatre focused programs in Canada.

The usual 6 courses at U/M level including English—obviously those with theatre or drama courses and high school and/or community performance/production experience have an additional edge—at a 65% minimum are required—however, all Concordia Theatre programs have many applicants and as they are also limited in size  to a total of 64 in the overall Theatre Program-- c. 16 in each of Design, Performance, Theatre, and Theatre for Development-- it is very unlikely that anyone with marks this low would actually get in unless they were phenomenally talented!  The admissions process includes a letter of intent with a small photo which must be sent electronically in order to book an interview,  and a portfolio which must be brought to the interview—this would include drawings, paintings, sculpture, photographs, videos, clothing you have designed or made, or other relevant creative work. You have to apply to Concordia first and then book an interview—the deadline for booking an interview is usually March 1 and they are held through March.


5.  One of a Kind Programs:

Interdisciplinary Performance/Theatre: University of British Columbia, Okanagan campus: www.ubc/program.do?from=campus&programID=157


This is a unique BFA program in the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies on UBC’s Okanagan campus—perhaps one of the most beautiful places in Canada to live or study!  It offers an interdisciplinary and intercultural approach to artistic creativity, through exploration of performance practice, visual arts, and creative writing. Coursework explores techniques of performance creation and expression, and the history and theory of world performance traditions, together with a wide range of options in artistic media and creative writing.  Career possibilities include areas such as applied arts, scholarly research, education and health, digital arts, curating and cultural outreach.  BFA programs require 126 credits, and usually take more than four years to complete, especially in performing arts areas.

Courses included in this program are Improvisation: the Body in Performance; Devised Public Performance; Live Art/New Media.  This is a relatively new program—contact UBC directly for more info on admissions, as they require a letter of intent and audition as well as direct application, not through OUAC--although their basic entry requirements are the same as for Ontario grads—English 4U and 5 other 4U or M courses.


Crafts & Design:  New Brunswick College of Craft & Design:  Fredericton NB: www.nbccd.ca

This is the only institution in Canada whose major focus is on the crafts, and it offers a wide range of possibilities, including a 1 year certificate in Foundation Visual Arts, 2 year diplomas in a range of crafts areas, a joint 4 year BAA with the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton, and a 1 year, 3 semester Graduate Studies program to develop and implement a professional career plan as a visual artist.  

The Foundation Visual Arts program requires graduation from high school or a GED and is designed to offer a wide ranging overview of the practice, theory and history of the visual arts via a project based curriculum.  Courses include drawing, 2D and 3D design, historical trends and contemporary theory, skill development, communications, creative process & visual problem solving, and studio specialties in ceramics, fashion design, graphic design, integrated media, jewellery/metal arts, photography and textiles.  The outcome of this program is an individual portfolio which allows students to apply for entry into one of the diploma courses.

The Diploma Courses  all require the completion of FVA except for Aboriginal Visual Arts; mature students with a background in visual arts can also enter these directly.  Diploma courses are offered in Fine Craft: Ceramics; Fine Craft: Jewellery/Metal Arts; Fine Craft: Fibre Arts; Fashion: Fashion Design; Fashion: Textile Design; Photography; Graphic Design; and Integrated Media. Most of the instructors are well known artists and the courses are taught in very well equipped studio spaces in the downtown cultural area.

The Bachelor of Applied Arts Degree is a unique program which combines two years of visual arts courses at NBCCD, which includes the FVA program plus one year of a diploma in the studio major of your choice (see above), and two years at UNB.   This combo offers excellent opportunities for talented artists with an interest in crafts whose high schools may not have provided courses in these areas to try the FVA and find out if they have the talent to do a diploma course—or, if they have strong academic high school marks, the BAA degree—a great background for someone who wants to work professionally in, or teach in, related craft and design areas!

Students can begin at either institution, or attend the college and university in alternate years; those coming right from high school apply to UNB, deadline March 31—or they can apply during or after completing 2 years at NBCCD; interested students needing OSAP should check to see if both institutions qualify.  For more info, contact UNB’s BAA co-ordinator, Deborah Johnston, at 506-453-4655 or


Theatre and Development: Fine Arts, Concordia University: Montreal:  www.theatre.concordia.ca/programs/undergraduate/theatre-and-development

This is a 60 credit specialization within the BFA program in Theatre,  which focuses on the history, theory, and practice of drama and theatre from the perspective of art’s capacity to inform and effect social change. Specific applications such as developmental drama, drama in education, and drama therapy are examined for their educational, therapeutic, an rehabilitative efficacy. On a broader social level, the program is concerned with points of intersection between traditional theatre and popular forms such as collaborative and collective approaches to play building; theatrical events specifically created by for and about particular communities of populations; and political or educational theatre which is either overtly interventional or educational in intent.

 Students take core classes in first year with those in other theatre specialization areas and have access to practical classes in acting, design, playwriting, production and administration in the last two years. Within the specialization,  key courses include the artist in community; the audience and the performance event; theatre with diverse populations; storytelling; oral histories and identities; popular theatre: theory and practice; theatre with young people, special projects in theatre and development.  The department supports fieldwork in areas of personal specialization such as working in schools, working with special needs populations, developing large scale community arts projects, and apprenticeships with community theatre based companies in Canada and abroad.

This is a fascinating, innovative and very successful program,  vitally concerned with developing group skills and leadership, and preparing students to assume entrepreneurial roles within the Canadian theatre milieu: its graduates are leaders in educational theatre companies across the country as well as in working with diverse, disadvantaged urban populations, or institutionalized populations in a wide variety of settings both here and abroad.  Many young theatre professionals creating  fringe productions,  on-site productions, and interesting touring shows come out of this program: considering the difficulties inherent in finding traditional theatre work – whether as playwrights, directors, designers, technicians or actors—I suspect that those who can move outside of traditional theatre spaces and audiences are the best hope for the future of theatre in a media-centric world.  Virtually every former student I have had who has attended any of Concordia’s theatre programs is working in theatre, and those who come out of this specific program are often creative powerhouses.  If I were starting over, it would be here J

Admission requires the usual 6 courses at U/M level including English—obviously those with theatre or drama courses and high school and/or community performance/production experience have an additional edge—at a 65% minimum are required—however, all Concordia Theatre programs have many applicants and as they are also limited in size  to a total of 64 in the overall Theatre Program-- c. 16 in each of Design, Performance, Theatre, and Theatre for Development-- it is very unlikely that anyone with marks this low would actually get in!  Entry is only available in the fall term, and after applying on line, a letter of intent is required which is submitted electronically in order to book an audition and interview, which are required; these need to be booked by March 1 and are held in late March in Montreal. 


6.  Creative Arts Therapies:

Almost all expressive arts therapies training programs offered in Canada are at the graduate level; the only BA Major in Ontario is in Music Therapy at Sir Wilfrid Laurier. Check the PSAC data bases for undergrad programs in individual arts areas available across the country—most of these will probably be in music, as this has traditionally been a more widely accepted concept – so you may find individual courses in undergrad programs in other arts areas but probably not minors, let alone majors, in them.  There are good reasons for this—one needs solid training in an undergraduate arts area before adding intensive graduate training in therapeutic methods. 

To find out more about these kinds of programs, as well as ones in other countries which have been established for longer periods of time, go to the International Expressive Arts Therapy website at www.ieata.org.


Creative Arts Therapies: Fine Arts, Concordia University: Montreal:  www.creativeartstherapies.concordia.ca/programs

Concordia University's MA in Creative Arts Therapies offers graduate level programs in Art Therapy, Drama Therapy, and Music Therapy, as well as a graduate certificate in Music Therapy. These programs are international in scope, combining theoretical approaches developed in Great Britain, France and the United States. Students have published and presented papers and workshops at international conferences, and the program attracts students from across North America and Europe, including teachers of the arts, special education specialists, therapists, social workers and counselors. Students have the opportunity for cross-pollination of ideas and experiences with those from the various creative arts therapies.

The internship/practicum component of each of the programs provides students with the opportunity to apply the knowledge and skills that they are acquiring in their coursework.  It is the vehicle for integrating theory with clinical experience – a critical element in the development of the professional competence of an art therapist, drama therapist or music therapist, which includes both clinical experience and supervision.  Clinical experience is acquired in a variety of agencies in the greater Montreal area, providing the student with practical application of art therapy, drama therapy or music therapy.  Supervision is provided at both the agency and at the University.

In Art Therapy and Drama Therapy, each student is placed in one major placement per year.  In the Graduate Certificate in Music Therapy, each student is place in one major placement per term, with a total of three different client populations over the course of the 12-month program. A student may be placed in one major and one minor placement concurrently  where appropriate. In the Music Therapy MA, students have the opportunity for advanced specialization in the clinical area of their choice in either one or two terms.

 The Art Therapy Option is the only full master's level professional training program in Canada within a creative arts therapies environment. It is recognized as an accredited art therapy training program by the Canadian Art Therapy Association (CATA) and the American Art Therapy Association (AATA). It aims to provide students with a thorough understanding of the history, methods and theoretical foundations of art therapy. Investigation of the interrelationship between the visual arts and the therapeutic process is approached through experiential and didactic learning methods. Students acquire skills in the practice of psycho-dynamically oriented art therapy through their practicum and the study of theories of art therapy, as developed by leading practitioners. Students learn a variety of research methodologies as a foundation for completing the required research component of the program.

The Drama Therapy Option is an intensive two-year preparation for professional competence in the implementation of the dramatic arts in therapy. It is designed to educate and train drama therapists who will function as competent primary or adjunct professionals in their field with a strong sense of ethical and social responsibility. The Drama Therapy Option was designed to meet the program requirements for the National Association for Drama Therapy.  Practicum sites for drama therapy students include hospital and health care institutions, community centres, geriatric facilities, and schools. Ideas for research that emerge from this hands-on experience become the basis for case studies, research papers, and special projects.

The Music Therapy Option is designed to train therapists to facilitate the process of personal growth and change through the provision of expressive and receptive musical experiences. The music therapist guides clients towards developmental, rehabilitative, psychotherapeutic, and wellness goals by fostering personal expression, and creating musical experiences. The 21-credit Graduate Certificate prepares students who already have strong backgrounds in music and the behavioral sciences to move forward into new careers in music therapy. Both of these lead to accreditation through the Canadian Association for Music Therapy (CAMT).

For info re undergrad background requirements, admissions or course listings go to the website above.


Expressive Arts Therapy Training Program: ISIS Canada: Toronto :  www.isis-canada.org

This is a graduate level integrative arts therapy program offered privately through the International School of Interdisciplinary Studies to immerse students planning to work in psychotherapy in an intensive, arts-based educational process as part of their professional development as arts therapists; it provides experiential, practical and theoretical training both in classes and in a variety of practicum placements. Classes are held one evening a week and for several weekend intensives for two years; in the third year the training is a mix of evening and weekend classes in visual arts, dance/movement, theatre, poetry, voice, drama, clown and music.  Over the 3 years, there are also 600 hours of practicum work to complete, as well as 90 hours of personal therapy and 300 hours of studio work in the arts. Tuition is $5500 a year and is tax deductible. Admission requires a suitable educational background—generally a solid BA in psychology, a BFA in Fine Arts, or a BSW in social work, although non-degree students with thorough practical training in these areas will be considered. Students are not expected to be professional artists, but should demonstrate a commitment to work in some artistic medium; they are also expected to have volunteer or professional experience in a therapeutic, helping or teaching role. One year of personal therapy prior to the time of admission is normally required, and each student’s personal readiness for the program will be evaluated through the admission process. There is also an Intro to Expressive Arts Therapy course which is 16 weeks long and helps potential students for this program to assess their own readiness and interest in this program.  The College of Psychotherapists in Ontario is in the process of formalizing criteria for registration, and this program will be adapted to be in line with those criteria when they are completed.  This is a different, more creative and individualized route for people with strong arts skills and the desire to be involved in therapeutic work in a creative way and outside of the usual hospital/school/agency settings than traditional grad work in psychology/counselling/social work—or in going the med school to psychiatry route.