Are you a budding actor, director, or stage manager with dreams of making it big in the entertainment industry? With Excelsia College’s Bachelor of Dramatic Art and Bachelor of Screen Production courses, not only will you be learning skills for the profession but you also have the opportunity to engage in an immersive three-month experience with the Oz to LA unit, taught in the heart of Hollywood.  

  

The elective unit Oz to LA stands as an intensive training initiative hosted at the distinguished Los Angeles Performing Arts Conservatory. This unit transcends conventional classroom learning, providing unparalleled access to the inner workings of the entertainment business.  

 

Standout features of the Oz to LA unit include the engagement in audition and casting sessions, participation in exclusive meetings with industry professionals, and attendance at conferences that provide insights into the inner workings of the entertainment landscape. This unique exposure sets Excelsia students apart, equipping them with practical knowledge and real-world experience. 

 

Joss Chalmers, an alumnus of Excelsia College and former Bachelor of Dramatic Art student, attests to the unit’s impact on her journey. She emphasises the value of being taught by experienced professionals genuinely invested in the growth of their students, both as artists and individuals. Joss reflects on her time in Hollywood, stating, ‘Studying and training screen acting in Hollywood was a super inspiring experience.’ 

 

The Bachelor of Dramatic Art at Excelsia College spans three years full-time, offering two specialised strands: Performance, and Theatre Practice. This unique structure allows students to tailor their education to their specific career aspirations, be it acting, directing, stage management, or producing roles. 

 

Excelsia College understands that pursuing dreams sometimes comes with financial challenges. To alleviate this burden, FEE-HELP is available for the tuition cost of the Oz to LA unit. For more information visit Oz to LA (https://excelsia.edu.au/study/oz-to-la-program/).  

George Zhao studied the Bachelor of Dramatic Art at Excelsia College and graduated in 2015. He’s been determined to pave a way in the acting industry and landed his breakout role as Andrew Law in SBS TV’s drama-comedy series The Family Law in 2016.

 

He also won the Rising Star Award at the Casting Guild of Australia (CGA) in 2018 and an MEAA (Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance) Best Ensemble Cast for comedy for his role in The Family Law. He’s also acted in the film Runaway Millionaires in 2019.

 

For George, it was a chance encounter in even finding out about Excelsia College (then Wesley Institute), after coming across the campus during a visit with a chaplain he was working for at the time. After deciding that Excelsia was the right fit for him, George enrolled in the Bachelor of Dramatic Art and was able to develop an in-depth insight into acting within a supportive and caring environment. ‘My lecturers didn’t shy away from the harshness of the industry that I would be going into.’

 

Through the guidance of his peers and teachers, George undertook a lot of self-discovery. ‘I learned a lot about myself and what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Excelsia was the perfect place to cultivate crafts.’ Excelsia College endeavors to know its students by name and not by number and George appreciated this close-knit community. ‘The classes were small and frequent and allowed me to develop strong relationships with my classmates. Eventually I saw my classmates as more than my family; they shared my worries, joys and passions.’

 

George describes Excelsia as ‘hopeful, community and love’. He continues, ‘The fact that Excelsia still stands as a recognised beacon of creativity and faith is a testament to the passion and care of those working in the institution.’

 

There’s no doubt George has worked hard to carve out roles for himself as he explains, ‘I am still in the acting industry, but with more bruises, scars and a grizzled adventure beard. Joking. I’m Asian, I couldn’t grow a beard if I paid for it.’ Most recently George starred in Gold Diggers, an ABC show set in Australia during the 1850s where he plays the love interest of the younger sister. He also performed in a one-man show at the Opera House called Yong by Monkey Baa Theatre Company.

 

If you’re curious about exploring a career in the creative and performing arts industry and want to learn from industry professionals, why not explore our Bachelor of Dramatic Art? You never know the foundations it could set for you like it did for George.

Excelsia College News | George Zhao – Acting his way to the top

Hailey McQueen (nee Barrett) studied her Bachelor of Creative Arts (Theatre Performance) from 2000 to 2002 and graduated in 2003 as valedictorian. Twenty years on and she is still firmly connected with Excelsia College!

 

Hailey knew she wanted to study acting after finishing school but to pursue her dreams she had to make the move from her hometown on the South Coast of New South Wales. ‘When a family friend recommended the College and after I attended an open day, I knew it was the place for me. I was drawn to the Christian environment, the caring and close-knit community, and the practical and comprehensive outline of the theatre performance course, says Hailey. Hailey describes the experience as ‘nothing short of life changing’ and became inspired by her lecturers who genuinely cared for and championed their students. ‘They created a safe environment for learning and personal development with lashings of grace that made me feel safe and valued. Their masterful example of driven, focused, and dedicated creative process helped me grow and introduced me to new ways of seeing the world. They continue to inspire me as an artist to approach my practice with excellence and empathy,’ explains Hailey.

 

Finding friendships when you’ve left your family and friends behind are essential and Hailey found deep and defining relationships. ‘Spending three years in close community with people who share a deep affinity with each other is rare and precious. I am so grateful for my classmates and the time we spent creating, laughing, and growing together – they have become family.’ Some of Hailey’s key highlights include naps and chats in the sun on the ‘grassy knoll’ at the College’s Drummoyne campus.

 

During her time as a student, Hailey was gifted with opportunities to build skills in leadership and creative collaboration. ‘I was encouraged in my spiritual formation and inspired to explore my own unique creative practice in a safe environment. It has allowed me to become a “maker”, to solve problems, make headway on personally meaningful goals, and complete challenging projects with humility and empathy.’ Since graduating, Hailey has worked in a number of roles, from acting across the stage and screen to working as a producer and director for independent shows across Sydney. She is also co-founder and artistic director of Clock and Spiel Productions. For Hailey, however, one of her greatest roles has been lecturing in the drama department at Excelsia for the past 15 years. ‘It’s a privilege to work alongside the students, advocating for them as unique artists and encouraging them in their creative endeavours.

 

When reflecting on the College turning 40, Hailey’s attention turns to those that have gone before and paved the way for this landmark occasion to be reached, including David Johnston, whose vision for a creative arts college set it all in motion. ‘Their creativity, tenacity and sacrifice in building such a vision, through the highs and lows, is to be honoured and celebrated. We would not have such a life-defining education and community without them. They built a strong community, a family of people who are still cheering each other on today.’

 

If you want to find out more about our creative and performing arts courses, please visit our website, https://excelsia.edu.au/study/creative-and-performing-arts/

Excelsia College News | Hailey McQueen (nee Barrett) – From student to teacher

Lusi Austin (nee Vuki) is one busy woman. She’s a musician, a scriptwriter, magazine article writer, vintage and retro shop owner, all whilst homeschooling her five children for the past 15 years and sharing about the journey on her website That Homeschool Life. Before all these pursuits, Lusi studied a Bachelor of Creative Arts in Drama at Excelsia College from 1999 to 2001. She was valedictorian and graduated in April 2002. Lusi remembers having a very real faith journey whilst at Excelsia College as she explains, ‘I had met Jesus in a real way only a year or two before I heard about Wesley Institute (now Excelsia College). At that time, I felt that studying in my chosen field whilst still learning about my new faith would be a great thing to combine.’

 

Amongst Lusi’s highlights during her time studying were the moments spent at the weekly Gathering service. ‘It was an amazing time for collective worship and encouragement. There were so many people in the one room from different faith backgrounds and faith expressions. There was something very sacred about that,’ says Lusi. She also relished her Old Testament and New Testament classes which she says have been formative as she’s continued on with her life and faith post College. ‘We were also blessed to have incredibly gifted lecturers who had lived experiences in our industry. They shared their knowledge with us and I am incredibly grateful to them for the instruction they gave me in the dramatic arts,’ says Lusi.

 

Lusi also found she developed her holistic wellbeing at the College. ‘Spiritually, I had a solid foundation to stand on. Emotionally, I made some of the most incredible connections with friends, especially in the drama department. At that time, I had also moved out of home for the very first time so it gave me the confidence and opportunity to begin a new chapter of independence for me. I was equipped with knowledge and experiences that were invaluable to me as a young actor.’

 

College can be a time where students’ eyes are opened to confronting themes and new ideas and this was something Lusi explored in a play performed with her fellow classmates called Back From Nowhere which dealt with teen suicide. This play was toured to schools and the Opera House Studio. She also forged significant friendships with her drama peers, students in other subjects and her lecturers. She also met both her best friend and future husband Brett during those days of College nearly 23 years ago! Lusi was also living in Sydney whilst studying in 2000 at the time of the Sydney Olympics which she says was pretty special.

 

Fast forward 21 years since graduating and Lusi has written and published a children’s picture book called Jack’s Visit to Cowra, a story designed to inform children about the Cowra prisoner of war (POW) breakout in an accessible and easy to understand way. She is currently working on a novella. Lusi has also released a solo studio-recorded EP called Walking Contradiction. On top of that, she is currently producing a play called Intertwined which she wrote and will direct.

 

On reflection of the College’s anniversary celebrations, Lusi says, ‘Happy birthday Excelsia College! You keep a lovely little space in my mind and I am grateful for the chance to have attended. I appreciate learning about performance in a small College-style setting. I will always be grateful for those years.’

Excelsia College News | Lusi Austin (nee Vuki) – Lusi Austin (nee Vuki) – A woman that embodies creativity

The Performing Arts Medicine Association (PAMA) has appointed Excelsia College creative and performing arts lecturer Dr Mark Seton to its Board of Directors. Mark is a passionate advocate for actor health and wellbeing and will serve over a two-year term. PAMA has already incorporated some of Mark’s expertise in its Essentials of Performing Arts Medicine Certification online course.

 

Mark has a long-standing interest in addressing the wellbeing challenges of actors, musicians and dancers and he is one of the founding members of the Australian Society for Performing Arts Healthcare. The first national study of professional actor wellbeing in the world was conducted through the University of Sydney by Mark, with colleagues Dr Marianna Szabo and Dr Ian Maxwell, in collaboration with the Equity Foundation of the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) in 2013. Prior to this ground-breaking quantitative and qualitative research, Mark was awarded a Churchill Fellowship in 2009 to investigate what was or wasn’t being done for the wellbeing of actors in training and in the workplace in the UK.

 

Inspired by such experiences, Mark has designed and facilitated various iterations of actor wellbeing training in drama schools across Australia, in workshops conducted at PAMA conferences in the US, and at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in the UK. He also hosts online training in actor identity and resilience through his own website, the Actors Wellbeing Academy.

Excelsia College is proud to have a high calibre of staff who bring their wealth of knowledge to the College, including Mark who is helping to shape the future of actors and make real-world impact.

Ruth Kost decided to enrol in the Bachelor of Music at Excelsia College in 2011 after realising her calling for playing piano. From the get-go, she found Excelsia’s environment very welcoming. ‘I felt like everybody – both staff and students – wanted to help each other succeed,’ explains Ruth.

 

Throughout her time at Excelsia, Ruth loved the opportunities to perform not only her instrument, but also to branch out into ensembles including choir. ‘Being a classical pianist, I would spend most of my time alone practising my instrument and performing solo. Choir was the first time I was able to perform with other musicians and I discovered a love for it.’ Ruth was able to take the ‘Choir Tour’ subject and travelled to Europe where she performed in different countries, as well as a choir competition in Vienna where Excelsia placed second. The choir also performed with the Strathfield Symphony Orchestra (Beethoven’s 9th Symphony and Bach’s Mass in B Minor). ‘These experiences helped me to develop a deeper understanding and interpretation of music, which I now use to help guide my own students.’ Excelsia also provided Ruth with the opportunity to perform at various locations she had never played before such as the Sydney Opera House and Balmain Presbyterian, as well as prepare and perform in numerous recitals at the College.

 

Excelsia also helped Ruth feel more comfortable in her Christian faith and in her knowledge that other people share similar beliefs. Her favourite Bible verse is Deuteronomy 31:6 which says, ‘Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.’

 

After graduating from the Bachelor of Music in 2015, Ruth decided to further her studies and began her Master of Music at the College that same year. She wasn’t exactly sure what her end goal was going to be; she just knew she wanted to keep studying music. During her masters, she studied part-time and began teaching piano, which she enjoyed more and more.

 

Since graduating in 2020, Ruth has gone on to become a full-time piano teacher. Her favourite part of teaching is seeing her students’ joy when they realise they can finally tackle a difficult passage or grasp a technique they hadn’t been able to before. ‘Not only do I get to spend my time working with music, but I also have the privilege of teaching some hilarious kids as well. Kids have such an amazing sense of humour and I try to make my lessons as enjoyable as possible so they will grow to love the piano and music as much as I do.’

 

Reflecting on the College turning forty, Ruth says, ‘Excelsia has come a long way from when I started back in 2011. In my nine years studying, I have not only seen it grow into a more nurturing community but also improve its quality of education.’

 

If you want to foster your passion for music and be taught within a supportive learning environment where you can choose to explore more than one instrument and be involved in ensembles, why not consider Excelsia College’s Bachelor of Music or Master of Music?

Excelsia College News | Ruth Kost – On becoming in tune to her passion for music

Want to see someone who’s aiming for the sky? For one Excelsia College alumnus, her career is quite literally getting off the ground! Esther Williams was cast as the lead actress in the Virgin Airlines Bring on Wonderful Campaign in 2022. The effervescent 24-year-old graduated from Excelsia College’s Bachelor of Dramatic Art in 2020 and is picking up momentum as she pursues a career in the performing arts.

 

‘I decided to study at Excelsia to deepen my techniques in acting. The second I walked into Excelsia College during open day, I remember everyone being super welcoming and I fell in love with the facilities such as the theatre, dressing rooms and costume storage,’ explains Esther.

 

For Esther, her experience at Excelsia went above and beyond her expectations. ‘It feels more like family and everyone looks out for one another. Some of my dearest friends I’ve made at Excelsia are people I still see frequently to this day. The teachers are exceptional with so much knowledge and care for their students.’

 

Before studying at Excelsia, Esther found it difficult to trust in herself and her abilities and lacked personal awareness. ‘With the three years of coaching from some of the best acting, voice and movement teachers in Sydney, I was able to break through many shells and discover myself in a completely new way.’ Since graduating, Esther has signed to an agent and has been cast on Netflix series Heartbreak High, as well as in a couple of theatre plays. 

 

The budding actress’s personal highlight was producing her own show in her third year of studies. ‘I played Miss Pat from The Coloured Museum by George C. Wolfe (one of my favourite monologues to date). It was a magical experience putting something on stage that I was so passionate about and having full control over all aspects of the production. I learned so much,’ she says.

 

Esther is thankful for her time at Excelsia and for having played a small part in the College’s journey. ‘I have experienced firsthand just how passionate Excelsia is about growing and improving the College every year. They take feedback from their students very seriously. Forty years is a huge milestone and I only see great things happening on top of all that the College has already achieved. Go Excelsia!’

 

If you want to extend yourself and learn from industry professionals with years of experience behind them, why not consider Excelsia College’s creative and performing arts courses? Like Esther, you never know where you might end up!

 

Excelsia College News | Esther Williams’ future is looking sky high!

Community engagement is a key pillar at Excelsia College and we are proud to be a multicultural community. This Saturday 6 May, Excelsia College will host K-Culture Festival! K-pop, otherwise known as Korean pop, is taking the world by storm. This event will feature K-pop and dance covers from some of Australia’s leading K-pop cover artists including Sirius, Orbit and Maverick. The event will run over two shows, the first from 4pm to 6pm and the second from 7pm to 9pm at Excelsia College Theatre (69–71 Waterloo Rd, Macquarie Park NSW).

K-Culture Festival is hosted by AKTC (Australian Korean Theatre Company) where Excelsia College music teacher and alumnus Na Ri Kim is involved as a music director. Na Ri is an experienced piano teacher, organist and music theory teacher from South Korea. She studied and completed a Bachelor of Music at the College and is currently teaching at Excelsia College.

 

Tickets cost $30 per person. To purchase your tickets, please contact Skye on 0451 010 629 and he will send you an E-ticket. College staff and students can attend for $20 per person.  

Excelsia College is proud to offer the Bachelor of Screen Production in partnership with Sydney Film School. The course is now in its third year running and has gifted two students with the Excelsia Sydney Film School Award (ESFSA), a partial scholarship towards their studies. We checked in with 2021 and 2022 winners Luke O’Donnell and Harrison Brown who shared how they’re finding their studies so far.

 

Inaugural winner and 2021 ESFSA scholarship recipient Luke explains, ‘While my second year of the Bachelor of Screen Production has only just begun, we’re being steered in a very clear direction. Production class is focusing heavily on documentary production, while screenwriting class is helping us develop our writing and scripting skills. During this second year, our specialty workshop classes allow us to build on the skills we learned in our first year and follow the paths of specific roles of our liking and learn about them on a much deeper level. I’m really looking forward to the amount of films we’ll be shooting this year and being able to further our skills both personally and together as a class.’

 

Winner of ESFSA 2022, Harrison says, ‘I’ve been really enjoying the course; the lecturers are all very friendly and I’ve been learning a lot so far.’

 

We are excited to see how these two students develop their skill sets, learn from industry professionals and immerse themselves in all elements of filmmaking in-house, from writing, creating, acting, composing, and producing.

 

Early offer intake for Semester 1 2024 is now open. Visit https://excelsia.edu.au/study/early-offer/ to find out more!

Lara Pilcher first began her association with Excelsia College in 1997 when she commenced her Bachelor of Creative Arts in Dance. For Lara, studying at an institution that taught creative arts from a faith-based perspective excited her. From the get-go, she became involved in the community and was able to refine her creative talents, learning from creatives from all over the world. Lara also enjoyed being a student representative of the entire college in her final year of studies.


When reflecting on her studies, Lara explains, ‘The dance degree was vigorous and very full. I further pursued acting and singing and broadened my education after the strong foundation I gained from Excelsia.’ After graduating from Excelsia in 1999, Lara completed a Musical Theatre Certificate II at Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) and then a master’s in musical theatre at Arts Educational School in London. Now, she’s using her knowledge as a performer and arts advocate and she networks with Christian artists all around the world. She also produces high quality events in Sydney and London and has taught performance masterclasses in Paris, Beijing, and New York. Prior to relocating to London to further pursue performing, Lara ran her own dance studio in Perth. She has also married a man who shares her same passion for the arts as a specialist physiotherapist for artists and the couple have two children.


The creative and performing arts industry is fluid and ever changing, reflective of the number of roles and locations Lara has worked in throughout her twenty-year career. ‘I moved to Melbourne for five years to continue performing and be closer to family. I worked in Australian television, musical theatre and theatre. Then I worked as an associate professor of acting at Bethel Conservatory of The Arts in Redding, California.’ Now, Lara and her family are based in Atlanta, Georgia, working as part of films shooting for Netflix, Marvel and beyond in the region. This year, Lara also started her own self-titled business larabiancapilcher.com, providing coaching and courses for performers.


Undertaking study at a tertiary institution is a stepping stone on one’s journey to pursuing their dream career and for Lara, it’s an experience that she would do all over again! ‘Excelsia College made a huge difference to me. I’m grateful for my three happy years and I smile every time I remember it. I had the time of my life and still have many friends from College; we made lifetime bonds and have so many happy memories. My vision was broadened and passion ignited for the entire world and all the artists and creativity it carries. I believe deeply in faith-based artists and their impact on the professional world of arts,’ says Lara reflectively.


We are proud of Lara and for her drive and ambition to succeed in the competitive creative and performing arts space. She embodies Excelsia’s ethos of being a lifelong learner engaged with and positively impacting the world. ‘I love leading artists and still lead artists today,’ says Lara. It seems Lara has certainly found her calling in life and it will be exciting to see the places she will go!


Excelsia College offers creative and performing arts courses and many of our alumni have gone on to pursue successful careers across areas such as music, drama, performance studies and screen production.

Lara Pilcher | Excelsia College Alumni