In 1987 a fresh-faced, talented young musician was offered a post at Mountview, teaching singing on a one-to-one basis to students studying on the performance course, which was at that time primarily acting.
Although only 22 years of age, Paul Sabey had already amassed an incredible amount of experience. Coming from a musical family, he started to play the piano at the age of four and reached an advanced level in playing and reading music within a short period of time (he was pianist for the school assemblies from the age of six).
By the time he reached his early teens he'd also mastered the Trombone, Bassoon and Church Organ and was much in demand as a young musician. From the age of sixteen he was offered engagements as a conductor, organist, pianist, vocal arranger, choirmaster and vocalist. By the following year he had started to musically direct and compose productions and his musical First Time was published by Samuel French Ltd. He was educated at Hitchin Boys' Grammar School, North Herts College and the Middlesex University where he gained a BA (Hons) in Performing Arts.
So how did Paul identify the need for a course that specialised in Musical Theatre? “During my first couple of years at Mountview I became very aware of the changing trends within the business and the need for a higher ‘triple threat' performer (the ability to act, sing and dance). With this in mind, I presented a proposal for a new programme of study to the then Principal, Peter Coxhead, who wholeheartedly endorsed the idea of a highly specialised course in Musical Theatre training and offered me the opportunity to lead and develop the course – the first of its kind in the UK”, explained Paul.
I am particularly proud that, 19 years on, Mountview continues to be the leading light in Musical Theatre training.
He continued, “Our first students enrolled in 1990. As a completely new concept within drama training, the course was met by some professionals with derision, but sheer determination on my part and with the support of Peter Coxhead and my staff, Musical Theatre training became recognised and respected within the industry and, within a short period of time, other training establishments and the business were embracing this innovative idea. I am particularly proud that, 19 years on, Mountview continues to be the leading light in Musical Theatre training.”
What has driven Paul through such a long career? “Passion, passion and more passion”, says Paul with a smile. My commitment to the department and to the students has been 100%. I have been fortunate in maintaining a high calibre of staff, and we have continued to raise the profile of the course. I am so hugely proud of our graduates and their on-going success.”
What has been your motivation over the years? “There are some individuals who have inspired me and probably the most important one is Peter Coxhead. He put his trust in me and believed in what I was doing – I am always aware of a deep debt of gratitude to Peter, who is sadly no longer with us. Jill Meggido was Head of Dance in my early years at Mountview and she too really supported my ideas and helped make them happen – she was a remarkable and inspirational lady. I must also pay tribute to all the staff at Mountview, who are totally dedicated to the Academy and the students, and in particular I would like to acknowledge the musical theatre team for their commitment and dedication – it has been a privilege to work with them.
So why leave Mountview now? “I know this is a cliché but I think the time is right”, he replied. “My partner is currently working in Australia and since resigning I have been inundated with numerous offers of work so I will be moving out to Australia to face new and exciting challenges. The Musical Theatre course at Mountview has never been stronger and I know I am leaving it in very safe hands – also a new course director will bring a fresh approach so there will be new and exciting developments.”
And what memories will you take with you? “Too many to mention” he laughs. “But without doubt the main memories are the thousands of students I have trained, all of whom are very dear to me.”
Paul concluded, “Obviously I am very sad to leave because Mountview has been such a big part of my life for so many years but I am also excited about the future and I am looking forward to new adventures.”
Mountview's Principal Sue Robertson said “We will all miss Paul a great deal but he leaves us with a wonderful legacy: a course which is recognised throughout the world and one which will continue to flourish.”
This article is published in Issue 5 of The Drama Student Magazine – subscribe now