Downe House Performing Arts are excited to welcome new talent to the team this September to help our pupils to reach their full artistic potential. Chris Gould as Director of Drama and Dance, Matthew Hartley-Stevens as Assistant Director of Music (Composition), and Rob Castell in a newly created role as Head of Drama Enrichment.

18 August 2022

Mr Chris Gould
Director of Drama and Dance

Pupils can look forward to gaining an insight into conservatoire-standard training from a teacher who is passionate about performing arts, with a broad range of vocational and academic experience – and there’ll plenty of fun, excitement and enrichment along the way!

Leading the Drama and Dance Faculty from September 2022, Chris’s wealth of experience in performing arts education and industry will enable him to continue the long tradition of exceptional quality and opportunity in performing arts at Downe House. Guildford School of Acting-trained, Chris was always destined for a career in teaching and actor training. After training and performing as an actor for six years, he completed the School Direct Programme at the University of Reading, under the tutelage of Professor Andy Kempe, before gaining his Master’s in Advanced Teaching of Shakespeare at the University of Warwick and the Royal Shakespeare Company.

He started his career as a freelance director and drama tutor at various independent stage schools and went on to study his formal teaching qualification with a placement at King Alfred’s Academy in Wantage. After only a year, he was promoted to Dual Head of Drama, overseeing the creative aspects of the syllabus and Drama-related co-curricular activities, before heading to the Theatre department at the prestigious Hurtwood House independent specialist performing arts school. Chris joins us hot-on-the-heels of his return from UAE, where he cofounded the Sharjah Performing Arts Academy (SPAA), the region’s first performing arts conservatoire – where he designed and wrote the BA Acting.

The stage is set for an exciting new chapter at Downe as, together with the Faculty staff, Chris will deliver our exceptional programme of academic and co-curricular Drama and Dance to benefit each and every pupil, including our outstanding production programme.

I continually look to improve my own practice and develop subject knowledge – there is always more to learn and experience. The more I am inspired to learn, the more I can support each pupil to discover their potential, not just academically but personally and socially.

– Chris Gould, Director of Drama and Dance

Mr Rob Castell
Head of Drama Enrichment

Teaching helps me refocus and consider the fundamentals of what I love doing myself. I genuinely love thinking about what the next generation can achieve and helping equip them to be the heroes of the future.

We are absolutely thrilled to announce that Rob Castell will be joining our Drama and Dance faculty as Head of Drama Enrichment from September 2022, following a successful year with the School as Musical Theatre Director in Residence.

Rob’s career spans multiple disciplines in the performing arts and he brings an enormous amount of real-world experience in the industry to the role, as well as teaching expertise; from running performing arts programmes and establishing an award-winning acappella comedy theatre group, Barbershopera, to performing in the West End, on BBC Radio and appearing in the international Arena Tour of We Will Rock You.

Rob is also an accomplished song writer, a composer of music for television (including a BAFTA nominated show for CBeebies and E4) and has penned his own stage musicals, including original works for the award winning theatre company Out of Chaos. In what is a new position within the Faculty, Rob’s remit extends across the whole School community. He will be involved with the incredibly popular RADA and Trinity Speech and Drama provision within the School, as well as helping to further develop the Drama Scholars and Award Holders programme. Rob will also be offering advice and mentoring, as well as audition and application preparation for higher education pathways as well as productions.

Rob is keen to seek out opportunities for students to work with industry experts, as well as to experience live theatre, here in the UK and overseas, and to forge strong links with our alumnae community.

As well as leading the Drama enrichment programme for pupils at Downe House, Rob will be spearheading Drama outreach – part of the Experience Downe House programme for prep and primary schools – which will see him bringing his expertise and energy into schools around the country.

I am really looking forward to making connections with people, schools and organisations. For me, that symbiosis is especially rewarding when you forge bonds with new people and see the fruits of those relationships grow over the years.

– Rob Castell, Head of Drama Enrichment

Mr Matthew Hartley-Stevens
Assistant Director of Music (Composition)

I am looking forward to meeting my new pupils and discovering the music that excites them the most. I hope to build on their passions, while also challenging them with new experiences. In turn, they can look forward to meeting a teacher and musician who has a real enthusiasm for their music-making.

Matthew Hartley-Stevens joins Downe House in September 2022 as Assistant Director of Music (Composition) to work closely with Dr Exon in our thriving Music department as it continues to support, challenge and inspire pupils.

In this multi-faceted role, Matthew is particularly excited about working with Dr Exon to plan a range of fantastic musical experiences for our young musicians, as well as sharing his passion for composition and creating music.

Matthew graduated with a BA in Music with First Class Honors from the University of Bristol in 2010, having studied composition with John Pickard and being awarded the Napier Miles Prize. Alongside this, Matthew always continued performing and composing professionally and so it was natural that he would follow his passion and he began working full-time as a musician. He joined the outreach team at the English National Ballet, a highlight of which was being involved with the Cultural Olympiad during the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Matthew went on to work for other prestigious organisations, including The Royal Opera House and Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, as a composer
and a pianist. Throughout his early career, he enjoyed his working educational settings, from running musical workshops to working at Thomas’s London Day Schools, accompanying their dance and ballet classes.

The lure of teaching proved too strong to resist and since gaining his PGCE at the University of Roehampton, he has been inspiring young
musicians as a teacher at Hinchley Wood School in Esher and Queen Margaret’s School near York.

We are delighted that Matthew is joining our Music department and I know that he will be a valuable member of the team as we drive forward the vision of music a Downe House together. He is an all-round musician, specialising in composition and brings a wealth of musical experience to share with us.

-Dr Charlotte Exon, Director of Music

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