My name is Aaron Hastings, I’m a Musical Theatre Student at Newcastle College and I was on the Music strand of Ladders in Cohort 3.
So, when did your interest in Music begin to flourish?
From what I’ve been told, when I was in nursery, they had this tape full of kid songs that they played with basic routines set to them. Apparently, there was this one where a Scottish woman instructed you to “nod your heed,” which I did rather over-zealously… the next time my teachers saw my parents, they told them that I was destined to be on the stage…
That was the beginning and from that moment on, I aimed to do whatever I could – from joining the school choir and singing in local churches, to performing in my very first musical (Bugsy Malone) at the age of around 7.
A few years later, I joined a local Youth Theatre group, and discovered the show that would change my life: Les Misérables. It was my first big production, running for 5 shows at the Customs House in South Shields – the first time it had ever been performed in the North East and it was truly the catalyst for everything that has come since.
Though I have experimented with different mediums, routes, and industries since, including YouTube, filmmaking, pursuing a solo artist career and more, I have always held a love for musical theatre in my heart.
How did you find out about Ladders? Did it come at an appropriate time?
It came at the absolute perfect time and was something I believe to have been a synchronistic event divined by the universe, to set me back on the right track.
For almost a decade now, I have severely struggled with my mental (and to an extent, physical) health. Between 2013 – 2018, I actually took a hiatus from any form of acting or theatre performance…I was unable to rejoin my local youth group, due to now being over the age limit and the only other group that I knew of would be highly impractical for me to travel to.
The day that I discovered Ladders was actually the first day of a new (incredibly short-lived) job. I had just been hired as a door to door salesman, using my background in musical theatre as a means to demonstrate that I had the necessary skills, and personality for the role.
On my lunch break, I was walking through the area of Sunderland between the train station and the Bridges with a couple of my new colleagues. They both continued on straight forwards, to go towards Subway but for some reason, I’d decided that I was in the mood for a good old Tesco’s Meal Deal and opted to take a left turn into the Bridges instead.
Inside, I was immediately greeted by Simone and the YFNE team who were promoting the upcoming Ladders course. It was literally like the Universe was saying “you really don’t want to do this, so here…. Go gain yourself some creative industry experience, expand your network with valuable contacts so you can pursue your dreams!”.
What was the Ladders experience like for you?
Ladders came at a pivotal moment in my life when I was starting to come out of an incredibly dark patch and was slowly rehabilitating myself into society. Having been a total recluse for over a year, I had to literally teach myself how to be a human again, improve my confidence, and maintain actual conversations with other people.
Having spent the past few years studying business, entrepreneurship, etc. I already had a pretty solid grasp on the ideas of networking, gaining mentors, building connections, and learning from people further ahead in the industry so I instantly recognised Ladders as a golden opportunity.
I was able to absorb a lot of information and develop a lot of ideas purely from being surrounded by other people that had similar goals, or complementary skillsets. For this reason alone, the course is worthwhile as it can be a great incubator for new thoughts, concepts, and abilities.
What was it like working with Sam, alongside other special guests who you met along the way?
Working with Sam was a fantastic experience as he was able to offer an insider’s perspective on the music industry itself. Alongside the standard teachings on rights/royalties, songwriting concepts, critical listening, etc. we as students were able to glean a lot of relevant insight purely by listening to him tell stories of his experiences. In addition to this, getting involved in the studio whilst he and James were recording sessions for my fellow students allowed me to pick up some tips and tricks on the production side of things.
Furthermore, we were also able to network with people within different areas of the industry and even people outside of them: students from the other creative areas, local music studios, streaming services, Generator and more, including a trip to Newcastle Startup Week to further emphasise the business element of the course.
Now tell us about your current occupation/study. How has the Ladders experienced influenced your career choices?
Currently, I am finishing up my first year on the Musical Theatre foundation degree course, at Newcastle College.
During my tenure on the Ladders course, I experimented with both music and the Film/Tv element – both areas that I have trained or considered a career in in the past. Simultaneously, I managed to find a local theatre group within walking distance of my house and somehow stumbled my way back into the world of Musical Theatre. It was arguably this that brought me back from the brink and I realized that it had been one of my core passions all along.
Throughout the Ladders course, I was toying with the idea of moving to LA in pursuit of acting roles in films – documenting the entire journey via YouTube and social media with a view to also becoming an influencer.
In the end, I decided that I was grateful for the opportunity to remain grounded and to begin finally laying down some roots, after a pretty turbulent 5+ years. I opted to study at Newcastle College as it would allow me to stay within the general area that I was born/grew up in and to finally start to establish myself.
Having realised that this degree course is not what I expected upon application, I have since considered relocating to a drama school instead. I actually had auditions booked for a school down in London and one in LA but in the end, I made the decision to stay put and finish out my 2-year course before making any other moves.
Since January, I have finally begun to truly feel settled, forging quality bonds and relationships with my classmates. I am in a position where, at least for the time being, I have managed to build a life of my own. I moved out into student accommodation and living independently in a city that means a lot to me, surrounded by friends and people I care about, dedicating my time towards a career that I love and passionate about. For now, at least, I have no reason to move.
If I consider this to be my transitionary year in which I seek to improve my social skills, develop relationships, move out on my own and start to feel settled – then moving forward, I shall be able to utilise this newfound sense of grounding to begin to make some real forward progress and build some momentum.
As Steve Jobs said: “You can’t connect the dots moving forward… you can only do it looking back,” and I believe this to be incredibly true in my current position. Now that I am training, and establishing myself within the Musical Theatre industry with a view to move onto higher level training in September 2020, I can also begin to look back and reintroduce other threads and ideas from the past.
I will begin to revive and rebrand my YouTube / Social Media pages in order to document my journey, build a personal brand and become an influencer. I am considering utilising my existing videography, social media and entrepreneurial skills as means of developing new streams of income and expanding my network. Additionally, I am debating things like Network Marketing, Forex Trading and Real Estate which are all avenues that I have looked into in the past.
In theory, these things combined will allow me to travel the world playing music, networking with people, trading on the go, etc. and enjoying a fun and exciting lifestyle with my friends whilst simultaneously filming the entire thing and sharing it on social media – in order to continue building and developing my brand, which will bring in even more income, allowing the whole thing to continue… or at least that’s the goal, anyway. This should also mean that even if/when I am between acting and/or Musical Theatre jobs, I will still be earning income, and building my ‘empire.’
The industry you have chosen – are you excited about what’s to come? Particularly in Newcastle? What are your current hopes and aspirations moving forward?
Sadly, Musical Theatre is an industry that is pretty centralised around London, and New York – if you wish to achieve a high level of acclaim/success, those are the places to be. The future for the industry as a whole, however, is incredibly exciting!
Although with that being said, one of my classmates and close friends dreams of establishing Newcastle as a hub for high-level professional theatre and essentially creating the West End of the North. Whilst this is certainly ambitious, I am incredibly interested in his plans and ideas and would love to help out in any way I can… If nothing else, a mission like that would make for some fantastic stories and content to post on social media!
Would you recommend Ladders to others and if so, why?
I would 100% recommend the Ladders course to anyone. It’s a foot in the door of professional industry, a pathway towards forging your own career and for some, it’s the realisation that you don’t have to follow a traditional life path.
Even if you’re not entirely sure what you want to do, trying things and finding out what you don’t want to do will always bring you a step closer. I originally signed up for the Music course, was advised to consider also enrolling in the Film/TV course for the subsequent cohort, and eventually ended up studying Musical Theatre…
You never know where you’re going to end up but the more you put yourself in the right places, in front of the right people and make a conscious effort to push yourself forward – the more likely the universe is to put things in front of you that will steer you towards where you’re ultimately meant to be.
Twitter / Instagram: @AaronTHastings