Many of Suzanne Brandstater’s past students now work across Australia and internationally in the exciting entertainment industry, including on major events, cruise ships, tours, television and for award-winning production companies.
‘With the units of competency completed through the Entertainment Industry Curriculum Framework the students I’ve taught are well prepared, experienced and work ready,’ says Suzanne. ‘They have strong self-esteem and their career is off to a great start.’
Since 1984, Suzanne has assisted with the implementation and development of this framework which encompasses specialisation studies in the entertainment industry from health and safety practices to operating lighting and audio systems. She has been the main facilitator for teacher training since the course’s inception.
In recognition of her stellar efforts for this work, Suzanne won the 2017 National Achievement Award at the annual Australian Training Awards, awarded to an individual who has provided outstanding leadership and contributions to the vocational education and training (VET) sector for up to 25 years.
Picton High School, where Suzanne works, has one of the highest rates of employment from the entertainment industry course than any other school.
‘The course is everything that makes a show happen except for the talent,’ says Suzanne. ‘Students work in real-life situations through the partnerships the school has developed with local companies.’
Initially a music teacher, Suzanne developed the course when it dawned on her that students would work hard on a musical performance in class but when playing it elsewhere it never sounded perfect. Technical production support was the missing factor.
The entertainment course Suzanne developed is relevant and hands-on. It teaches skills and how to deal with real-life pressure. ‘You can write an essay on how to set up a microphone but that’s not the same as actually setting it up or fixing it in front of a crowd if it breaks,’ says Suzanne.
‘VET is complete learning. Students love it because it gives them more power in their lives,’ says Suzanne.
Suzanne is chuffed that many of her past students who have graduated stay in touch: ‘They phone and say: “I just saw my name in the credits on a television show.” One called to say he was opening his own business in Melbourne. Another texted to announce he was head hunted to work at Chameleon Touring Systems. Another student is now teaching at the National Institute of Dramatic Art.
Graduates pop up everywhere, having seized exciting opportunities, like the one who toured as Lighting Designer with Muse, Macklemore and Nick Cave, those who worked on Sydney’s Vivid, and those employed by Staging Connections, specialists in AV solutions, lighting, staging and event technology.
Although recently retired, Suzanne is also pleased to be part of the Australian VET Alumni. ‘If it wasn’t for VET, some of my students wouldn’t have finished high school,’ she says. ‘I’m keen to speak about the value of VET. It was the making of my son in his career, and hundreds of students I’ve taught.’