I’d like to thank the Board who have played a significant role in the longevity of TDP and continue to give unswerving support to Anne and me, and the students who we graduate each year. I am enormously grateful for the honour and the privilege of being the AD of TDP. Although it is more than an honour and a privilege. It is a duty – the duty to share what we know of the world with others particularly those younger than ourselves. How else do we evolve and improve the nature of the human spirit?

Joining me on this dutiful journey is a team of creative colleagues whose commitment to TDP is also unswerving and to whom I am eternally grateful. Philippe Anquetil, Jacob Neale, Veronica George Beatie, Sharon Millerchip, Bec Caruana,   Imogen Clark, Jackson Besley, Demi Louise, Marion Rouvas, and Sally Hare. And as this is her very last Graduation my deepest thanks go to TDP’s Communications and Workshop Coordinator Alix Hill whose support and kindness makes life at TDP both efficient and fun.

In the background this evening you have been listening to recordings made by last year’s graduates. Locked away in 2020 by Covid 19, this remarkable group turned their wardrobes into recording studios, bedrooms into Zoom studios, and backyards into film sets. Zoomed workshops and digital conversations became the norm for us all last year. Thankfully, our creative initiative along with the rest of the world, pointed us toward using new technology, equipment and different perspectives that have now become a feature of our workshops since being released from the Zoom lockdown period. I need to publicly, in front of a ‘live audience’ acknowledge and thank the grads of 2020 who had an extraordinary experience. However, an experience no less creative or wonderful or triumphant than any other graduating group. Just unique and never to be forgotten. I thank them for their patience, their resilience, optimism and the kindness they showed to each other and to themselves at an unprecedented time when their wellbeing, and the wellbeing of many around them, was being tested. We will always remain incredibly close as result of this shared experience.

The development of talent is hard to describe. It is difficult to construct a system for making talent better. Which in fact is not what we do. TDP attracts exceptionally talented students from Government high schools. They come to us already gifted. However, when they do come to us, they have no idea of their potential. They rarely know how to harness the power of their own imagination and they are sometimes held back by repressive and creatively destructive self-limiting and the limitations they perceive to be set by others.

At TDP we develop talent by unlocking these limitations, opening a door into their imaginations and guiding them toward creative risk taking and the thrilling lessons to be learnt from failure. We demand that they believe in themselves. We overtly show our belief in them and make them accountable to that belief; and we provide a turnover of professional consultants and alumni who share their expertise and become long term conduits to industry networks.

Sustaining a career in the performing arts is difficult. The job is a vocation, a calling. A large proportion of a working artists time is taken up with trying to sustain that calling. Other jobs activities and peripherals all make possible the vocation that calls and pulls at the heart of an artist all their lives. This in no way delegitimises the career. It is the career.

Research by a masterful theatre director, musician and academic, Richard Fowler, who is in the room this evening, seeks to explain how careers can be sustained over time and what elements make this possible. He observed that these elements were sometimes missing from training institutions and performance programs. Research shows, from data drawn from working performers around the world, that there are three significant and essential elements that help sustain a career in the performing arts.  Interestingly, it is not talent, and it is not training.

It is – self-belief; having others believe in you; and a network of industry people around you.

Perhaps this is why TDP has remained a major force in preparing young artists for careers in this most difficult career path, the performing arts. More than 65% of graduates over the last 30 years have sustained careers in music and the performing arts. Over the last fifteen year it is closer to 80%. This is an extraordinary statistic and in no uncertain terms supports the reasoning behind the NSW Government’s unswerving support of TDP and the fearless young artists who take their first steps tonight and follow their hearts toward fulfilling a vocation and a dream.

Peter Cousens AM

4th June 2021