Musical Theatre Alumni Calista Nelmes and Sam Harmon Are Making their Way in the Industry
The Diploma of Musical Theatre (DMT) is a one-year intensive course that trains students to become a ‘triple threat’: singer, dancer and actor and NIDA is proud to celebrate two talented Diploma of Musical Theatre graduates, Calista Nelmes (2018) and Sam Harmon (2019) who are making strides in their early musical careers.
Calista Nelmes (DMT 2018) impressed audiences with her incredible pop vocals since her blind audition on The Voice, performing Remember by Becky Hill and David Guetta, which resulted in four chairs turning and coach Jason Derulo blocking fellow coach Rita Ora, to ensure Calista would join his team.
On why she decided to audition for The Voice: ‘It’s possibly the most nerve wracking but rewarding experience I’ve ever had the pleasure of being a part of. It’s a constant masterclass in controlling your nerves, staying focused on the song’s intention and your connection to it, all while trying to showcase yourself to the best of your ability in only 60 second. So, it has taught me to multitask and stay versatile to say the least.
I wanted to audition for The Voice because I wanted to take a leap of faith and just be brave. I have never loved anything more than singing, and I wanted to share that passion and my story on a global platform. What I think is the most beautiful thing about The Voice, is that we are all artists with a story to tell. Most of us have faced some sort of adversity or struggle in our life, and we all have a reason that we were inspired to express ourselves through our creativity and follow our dreams despite our setbacks in life. We’re story tellers, and through this show we get to tell our story.
On her NIDA training, ‘My time at NIDA was a very inspiring time in my life. It was my first time away from home, and I was suddenly attending my dream school, surrounded by incredibly talented, passionate, like-minded individuals, and learning how to perfect my craft from some literal industry legends! I learnt a lot from this course, not just about music theatre but about myself as a performer as well. It was a very humbling, grounding, and much needed experience.’
Calistra drew on her NIDA training to prepare for The Voice blind audition, ‘Practice makes perfect! (Sounds so typical and simple but it works). Another key thing that I always go back to is finding the intention of the song and trying to find how the lyrics relate to you personally. It was a challenge to do this with pop songs we hear on the radio a lot because so often we gloss over the lyrics and focus on the catchy melody, but I think once I was able to find an emotional connection to the song I found that I was singing it with much more conviction and passion than I would if I was just focusing on getting perfect pitch.
Fellow Diploma of Musical Theatre graduate Sam Harmon (2019) plays a range of characters in the audacious musical extravaganza, The Marvellous Elephant Man the Musical now playing at Entertainment Quarter Sydney Spiegeltent. The musical premiered at Adelaide Fringe, where it won the Adelaide Critics Circle Award, and the bawdy and hilarious musical is part of the 2023 Sydney Fringe Festival and is touted as the must-see spectacle of the season.
On securing his role in The Marvellous Elephant Man the Musical: ‘In late 2022 my agent sent me the brief, the team were looking for singer/actors interested in a new Australian work. The process took around 2 months of auditions and callbacks (all online). I was lucky enough receive an offer. I am playing various characters within the ensemble and am understudying John Merrick the lead character. The show has now toured the Fringe Festival circuit, with success in Adelaide, winning the Critics’ Circle Award, Melbourne and now Sydney'.
On his training at NIDA: 'It is a privilege to have studied the Diploma of Musical Theatre. NIDA has been a huge part of my journey as an actor. The course itself is second to none in Australia, providing the opportunity to work with seasoned industry professionals. Not only was I immersed in the fundamentals of singing, acting and dancing, but taught how to be a professional. NIDA’s program gave me the skills to continue to build my craft and further my love and passion post-graduation.
Some important advice for musical theatre students: 'Collaborate, don’t compare. Your peers are extremely important. Keep each other inspired and create your own work. Keep going to class, I believe you never stop developing as a creative and in class is the perfect environment to explore whilst also meeting other like-minded people and industry personalities. Don’t measure success on the amount of jobs that you book. There are so many ways to make a living in this industry. Explore all options, be imaginative and fill your life with things that you love to do. Resilience is key, don’t take the rejections personally, every experience is a learning experience. If you have the passion and drive things will come your way'.