Get To Know Me in 10: Liz Nantais, Dean of Student Experience

Get To Know Me in 10: Liz Nantais, Dean of Student Experience

Dean of Student Experience, Liz Nantais plays an essential part in Foundation and Extended Diploma students’ university applications. With the CSVPA staff team, she guides each student through the entire process.

Liz also has responsibility for the pastoral wellbeing of all the Foundation and Extended Diploma students. Her role includes ensuring their success and happiness across their chosen course.

Liz joined CSVPA in 2010 as a singing teacher. She was Head of Music for ten years, supporting students to develop their technical and performance skills. Alongside her role as Dean of Student Experience, Liz is also Pathway Leader for Musical Theatre, and supports students with a passion for the performing arts develop artistically.
 Liz has a strong background in musical education with particular knowledge of performance education and vocal coaching. She holds a Bachelor of Music Degree from the University of Windsor (Canada) and two Masters of Music degrees, one from Arizona State University (Music Direction/Conducting) and the other from New York University (Piano Performance – Collaborative Piano).  She is a very experienced musical director, vocal coach and conductor and has worked on several major musical productions including US National and World Tours of Fosse, European Tour of Hair – the Love and Rock Musical, US National Tour of Sweet Charity, and Hairspray at the Charlottetown Festival of Canada.

Below Liz shares more about her role at CSVPA, her career path and some useful advice for the next generation of performers.

1) You have a very diverse role as Dean of Student Experience and Musical Theatre Pathway Lead, what are your responsibilities in each of these roles?

Being Dean of Student Experience means I deal with any concerns or suggestions from the students. I also monitor student attendance, help with UCAS applications, offer welfare support, and generally exist as a point of contact. It is a brief statement, but represents many different situations which present themselves every day.

Pathway Leader for Musical Theatre involves oversight of that specialism, making sure their program gives them what they need to be able to progress and also working with our Head of Drama Rachel Ellis around how the Musical Theatre students and Acting students collaborate.

 I also teach classes focussed on Musical Theatre History due to my past experience. I want Musical Theatre students to understand where these shows came from, style, and how to utilise their performance tools differently for different pieces.

2)What motivates you in your current role?

The Musical Theatre students come in with a dream and they come here hoping to discover which performance path might be best for them. Courage is needed for that step. Putting yourself on stage in a live performance requires a lot of vulnerability from the performer…and a lot of courage. The element of community becomes really important because performance is generally a social art form. CSVPA students make my Musical Theatre heart happy because they are brave enough to take those first steps down a path that I think will enhance their lives enormously.

3)What do you like most about your job?

The variety each day. My role focusses on making sure the students have the best experience possible. I am available to the students to hear their concerns and suggestions, then to take those thoughts forward. Students should understand the power of their voice and their ability to affect change. I want them to of course be happy in their course of study, but also in any aspect of living in Cambridge. To develop a close-knit community and to respect that the idea of community will probably be different for each group of students. I want them to feel comfortable coming to me or anyone else with anything they need, and to know that we’re always happy to have a conversation.

4)What led you to this career?

I had been travelling with musicals/cruise ship work for a number of years, and then went back to school for a second Masters’ degree.When that finished, I had the option of staying in New York City to work with a very well-known vocal coach, to go back on tour, or to move to the UK and teach. I chose the UK and am very grateful for the decision.

5)What do you do to turn things around when you’re having a bad day?

Acknowledge whatever I’m feeling in that moment. Take a breath but don’t give up. I don’t move on to something else. I give myself the opportunity to feel the frustration, but know I’ll feel better if I work through it.

6)What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Do the work. Whatever that means to you. Don’t accept less that the best you know you’re capable of.

7)What or who inspires you?

Not to sound cheesy, but the roots of inspiration for all of the steps I’ve taken professionally have been in music. I chased a lot of dreams in my early adulthood and am really thankful for the opportunities I’ve had and the people I’ve worked with.

8)What is your biggest achievement?

To have had the opportunity to live in the world that I’d dreamed about as a teenager. Musical Theatre isn’t for everyone, but it was the thing I loved most from the time I was 16 years old. It was an enormous amount of work and absolutely pushed me to my limit. But I got to travel the world working with some truly exceptional people.

9)What’s something you saw recently that made you smile?

A performance featuring several of my favourite Musical Theatre performers. I think I was smiling for the full 2 ½ hours.

10)Finally, what is your favourite Musical and why?

There are so many that I have absolutely loved for different reasons. If I can give a little list, I’m not ashamed to admit that Phantom of the Opera was one of my first Musical Theatre loves when I was 16. I love the variety and fun of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. I’ve seen Mamma Mia live 10 times or so. If a show can get 2,000 people up on their feet singing and dancing, it can only be described as a good thing. Next to Normal for heartbreak and Ragtime for one of the best scores I’ve ever heard.