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Andrea White speaks to workingwise.co.uk about her career in the performing arts and how she is running two theatre schools through the Razzamataz franchise.
Performing is in the blood in Andrea White’s family. Her dad was a stage manager and her mum a dancer. Her parents set up a dance and drama school later in life and Andrea taught her first lesson there at the age of 10 when her mum asked her to choreograph a competition dance for one of the students. From that moment she knew she wanted to be a teacher. Flash forward several decades and Andrea is now running two theatre schools through the Razzamataz franchise.
She has come to Razzamataz with a passion for the performing arts and for children and extensive theatrical and teaching experience. Andrea studied theatre arts at college and got her first contract in the Middle East dancing in a cabaret show with five other dancers. For someone who loves adventure, it was an “eye-opening” experience being in such a different culture and being away from home for six months. “I learnt a lot about myself and forged strong friendships,” says Andrea.
On her return to the UK Andrea [pictured right] taught in her parents’ school in Devon before getting an acting gig in Europe. She then had her son, now aged 35, and started her own school in Devon after her parents retired. She ran that school for over 20 years while raising her two children – her daughter, now 27, is also a performer and teacher – and says the school was like an extended family. “For me it has always been about the children and marvelling at their progression and at their confidence growing,” she says.
She started small with two or three classes in the village hall and word spread. She didn’t need to advertise. It was only when some of the children who had started with her at five turned 15 that she realised she had made a school. Her main motivation was just the joy of teaching.
After her marriage broke down, Andrea needed to move away from the area and to earn a living. She couldn’t afford to build a school slowly as she had done before so she looked around for support in the form of a franchise. That’s when she came across Razzamataz. She ended up moving to West Sussex where she runs two schools – one in Bognor Regis with 80 students which is approaching its 10th anniversary and one in Horsham which she took over during the pandemic and which has 45 students. She says the support from Razzamataz was really good and she hadn’t anticipated how important the network of other franchisees would be. She says they are always ready to share their experiences and lend a sympathetic ear if she needs help with anything.
Andrea says Razzamataz has taught her a lot of business skills, for instance, marketing, and she sometimes wonders what she could have done with her previous theatre school if she had had the skills and focus she has now. She no longer teaches regularly, but is really enjoying the administrative side of running a school, creating a family feel and having time for the families of the children at the school. She is proud that she knows the name over every child and parent or grandparent who comes to the schools. She has also built a good team of empathetic staff and says this is vital after the Covid pandemic when theatre classes are about more than learning dancing, singing or acting skills.
During the pandemic, Andrea says she had great support from head office and was able to pivot fairly easily to online lessons. Some of the teaching changed with more of a focus in acting on tv-style, close-up acting and one show was filmed and shown at a local cinema to the delight of the children.
It is after the pandemic, however, that her schools have come into their own in terms of addressing some of the isolation and anxiety children felt during Covid. Even after the first lockdown registrations went up as parents were keen to re-build their children’s confidence. Andrea says that if children can be encouraged to come regularly she can see the benefit within a few weeks as they get more confident about stepping out of their comfort zone and building their resilience.
Andrea herself is also more confident after so many years in the business. “I’ve pretty much seen it all,” she says. She thinks being older brings a certain sense of calm and greater patience with people. “Twenty years ago I might have been more anxious if something came up, particularly if I was dealing with a member of staff or a student’s emotional problems. I would have worried about intruding,” she says. “Now when people are going through a tough time I know that they just need someone to talk to. Age brings peace of mind and allows you to see the bigger picture. In the past I would be upset by a grumpy person. Now I think they are just having a bad day. Age brings confidence.”