The Business Side of Performing Arts Education
Should performing arts exist in a vacuum, isolated from the challenges and problems of the modern world? Many consider the performing arts to be pure escapism. The expertise and passion of the artist – in music, theatre or dance – inspires the audience to experience new worlds.
And while the audience’s imagination can soar above the clouds, some people believe today’s performing arts education system needs more solid grounding in businesslike reality.
With the skyrocketing cost of education and the economy still sputtering along with high unemployment, many question the value of any humanities-based field of study – including performing arts – that doesn’t have a career trajectory with reasonable job prospects.
In this month’s issue of Opera News magazine, an article titled “The Business of Music” describes how music schools are moving beyond technical training to place more emphasis on career management — helping young performers navigate the “real world” beyond school. It’s written by Allan Kozinn, a culture reporter at The New York Times.
For example, the article cites professional development workshops at the Bard College Conservatory of Music in New York. Aspiring professionals are taught how to market themselves – writing press releases, selecting publicity photos – and they also undergo mock auditions and practice interviews with representatives from management agencies. Negotiating contracts and entertainment law are topics covered at other universities.
Is this trend cause for alarm? The performing arts have thrived over the years by blending a respect for tradition with a love of disruptive innovation.
For aspiring performers, education is a tremendous investment – in time, effort and expense. It seems reasonable to expect the scope of that education to evolve to encompass non-traditional, more business-focused topics. We live in dynamic times – maintaining the status quo is rarely a recipe for success.