The Austin Chronicle

Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts: School of rock

By Robert Faires, March 30, 2007, Arts

Jack Black had to instruct kids in the fundamentals of rock-etry on the sly, but there are some schools that offer real degree programs in popular music, educating students in everything from how to play and sing rock & roll or R&B to mastering the technology behind it to music management. One of the most prestigious anywhere is the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, which has about as royal a rock pedigree as one can get: It was co-founded by one-fourth of the Beatles, Sir Paul McCartney. He and Mark Featherstone-Witty, who saw the 1980 film Fame and was inspired to develop a similar training academy in England, opened the performing-arts college to provide broad-based training for young artists aspiring to professional careers in theatre, dance, and popular music. The pair launched the venture in 1996 in the same old building where McCartney had gone to school, and in its first decade, LIPA grew from 190 students to 650 students from 40 countries, about 40 of whom come from the States. (Austin's Django Walker is an alumnus.) Degree programs include audio engineering, technical theatre, theatre design, arts management, acting, dance, and popular music – the largest program, covering production and performance in styles from rock to rhythm & blues.

Ordinarily, you'd have to go to England to audition for a spot in the LIPA program, but this week the school is coming to you. For the second time in two years, LIPA will be auditioning Yanks in Austin. Alas, Sir Paul isn't coming, nor is Mark Featherstone-Witty, who made the trip in 2005, but that doesn't make these auditions any less important for aspiring students. The local auditions are for the three-year degree programs in theatre, music, and entertainment management; theatre and performance design; theatre and performance technology; music; performing-arts music; and sound technology and for the one-year diploma programs in song and in popular music and sound technology. The auditions will be held Saturday, March 31, 1-4pm, at 501 Post/501 Audio, 501 N. I-35. For audition requirements, e-mail LIPA's International Team at For information about LIPA, visit

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