The History of AMDA
Celebrating more than 50 years as one of America’s premier conservatories for the performing arts, AMDA is recognized throughout the industry for its rich history and tradition of launching some of the most successful careers in theatre, film and television.
AMDA began its journey in 1964 as a musical theatre school emerging from the vibrant Manhattan arts scene. AMDA was born with a simple but powerful idea: to create a school run by professional performers, for performers. The institution quickly established itself as an integral part of the New York performing arts community, garnering early support from Broadway’s theatre elite including Sammy Davis Jr., Dina Merrill, Carol Channing, Richard Burton and renowned actress Elizabeth Taylor.
AMDA soon became known throughout the performing arts world for its critically acclaimed fundraising productions, with gave tribute to such luminaries as Stephen Sondheim, Julie Styne, Ira Gershwin and Cole Porter. These shows featured numerous icons of the stage and screen, such as Angela Lansbury, Liza Minnelli, Bette Midler and Kevin Kline.
In those early years, AMDA’s first director, Philip Burton—the actor and instructor best known for helping launch the career of his adopted son, Richard Burton—became fast friends with David Martin, who had studied under famed actor Charles Laughton. At the time, David Martin was an actor, director and producer working in both New York and London. In the late 1970s, Burton passed the torch to David and his wife, Jan Martin, both of whom went on to produce several televised gala productions for PBS at the famed Lincoln Center. To this day, the Martins continue to serve as AMDA’s Executive and Artistic Directors.
AMDA flourished under the Martins, who developed new programs and hired some of the world’s top-performing artists as faculty. The school’s explosive growth in the 1970’s prompted a move to the historic Ansonia Building on Manhattan’s the Upper West Side. Continued success in the 1990s led to a second building near the Lincoln Center, which now serves as AMDA New York’s principal location.
In 2003, the Martins brought AMDA’s success to the golden West Coast, founding a Los Angeles campus in the Art Deco Yucca Vine Tower located in the heart of Hollywood. With this groundbreaking move, AMDA became the only Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree-granting performing arts institution with campuses in both New York and Los Angeles.
More than a half century after its humble beginnings, AMDA is now a thriving, fully accredited institution, offering Professional Conservatory (New York and Los Angeles) and Bachelor of Fine Arts Degrees (Los Angeles) in Acting, Dance Theatre, Music Theatre and Performing Arts. Building upon decades of history, AMDA’s growth continues with the ongoing addition of new programs, facilities and resources for our prolific body of students and alumni.
Each year, more than 1,400 students engage in AMDA’s rigorous curricula, each young artist training under the guidance of our faculty of professional artists and instructors at the leading edge of their respective fields. As we look forward to the next generation of performance, AMDA remains committed to nurturing artists who have the skills and drive to launch effective, creative careers that shape the life of our local, national and global communities.