Saturday, February 27, 2010

Arts Entrepreneurship in Schools of Music: What Do Young Musicians Want?

Whether they were aware of it or not, young musicians were an important topic of discussion at two major conferences last month: The College Music Society’s Summit on Music Entrepreneurship at Vanderbilt in Nashville, TN, and the American Orchestras Summit at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.  This demographic wasn’t necessarily written into the conferences’ agendas—and wasn’t proportionately represented in body—but they were certainly the subjects of an unaddressed dilemma in the room.

The dilemma is that young musicians are not getting jobs in their fields, and it’s not a new problem. Recently, however, music schools are attempting to incorporate arts entrepreneurship and career development curricula to address this issue.  Although the dilemma and the proposed solutions focus on young musicians, music students and recent graduates are largely excluded from the discussion.  It’s ironic and disappointing, but few leaders in the arts entrepreneurship movement have considered young musicians’ opinions about this subject.

In an attempt to advocate for young musicians, I attended the two conferences in Nashville and Ann Arbor.  With Kristen Hoverman, flute performance and entrepreneurship major at Bowling Green State University (Ohio), and Jonathan Kuuskoski, recent graduate of the piano pedagogy program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I co-presented the results of a survey that actually asked students and professionals in the arts field their opinions on arts entrepreneurship.  The survey was conducted under the auspices of Arts Enterprise Central, a nonprofit arts entrepreneurship organization of which Hoverman, Kuuskoski, and I are a part.

We surveyed almost 200 students—ranging from undergraduate to doctoral from a variety of music schools nationwide—and over 50 professionals—defined as anyone with an arts degree and included college faculty, freelancers and multiple job holders, to private teachers—looking for responses to four big questions:
  1. What is the correlation between students’ career goals and the realities of the young professional artists surveyed?
  2. Are students aware of and participating in existing arts entrepreneurship offerings on their campuses?
  3. What would students like to learn in regards to arts entrepreneurship?
  4. In what format (i.e. how) would students like to learn about arts entrepreneurship?
Professionals were asked their opinions retrospectively.
The survey results—expressed in quantitative and qualitative terms—pointed towards four big conclusions:
  1. The reality of young professional artists is vastly different from the career for which they are prepared at schools of music.
  2. Results indicated an overall lack of awareness of and participation in existing arts entrepreneurship offerings on college campuses.
  3. Participants want an arts entrepreneurship class that combines lecture- and project-based curricular education with a non-curricular arts entrepreneurship student club.
  4. Arts entrepreneurship education must be flexible and personalized towards the needs and realities of the post-graduate 21st-century artist.
We reached the first conclusion by comparing the degree programs and career goals of the students with the degrees obtained by and career activities of the professionals surveyed.  Of the surveyed students, 67% were in an undergraduate or graduate performance program.  Nearly 100% of student participants wanted performance to comprise the majority of their professional activities.  But when asked to define their careers, not one professional respondent had a career in which they only performed.  One participant performed in just one orchestra, but he also supplemented his income with private teaching.  Thirty two percent of respondents taught at a college level, 18% identified as freelancers, and 20% defined themselves as having multiple jobs, some of which were not in the arts field. 

Students and professionals alike are aware of and concerned about this reality.  The survey question related to post-college anxieties drew four times as many free responses (88 in total) as any other question, emphasizing the fears of young artists entering the professional world.  This student’s response best captures these concerns:

"[I worry] that I won't be prepared for real life as a working musician outside of the school environment, that I will have to give up my artistic pursuits in order to make a living for myself, and that all of the time I spent preparing to be a performer was not time well spent after all."

In the case of professionals, these realities translate to a need for arts entrepreneurship offerings:

"Most music performance students are groomed and prepared only for careers as orchestral players, when in fact very few make a living doing only that. We need to be prepared to understand business, marketing, and community relations to have maximum success in these endeavors."

Although both students and professionals acknowledge that arts students are poorly prepared for the professional world and affirm the importance of arts entrepreneurship, only 46% of students reported having arts entrepreneurship offerings on their campus and 61% reported to have not engaged in these offerings if they were present.  Nearly half of students surveyed didn’t know if their campus had any sort of arts entrepreneurship offering.

Despite these unimpressive statistics, the survey results indicate that 73% of students want to learn about arts entrepreneurship, and 81% of students are willing to take a class on the subject.  Most of these students want a class that allows them to explore arts entrepreneurship in a variety of formats: through lectures, projects, and in conjunction with a non-curricular arts entrepreneurship club.  This format allows students to apply ideas learned in the classroom in a low risk environment in preparation to enter the professional world in which consequences of failure are much higher.

The fourth conclusion, calling for arts entrepreneurship programs to be flexible and adaptable, is probably the most important.  Both students and professionals agreed that arts entrepreneurship education needed to be personalized towards individual students’ needs and that realities of the 21st-century artist must be addressed.  The following two responses, the first from a student, and the second from a professional, reinforce the need for personalized curricula:

"I enrolled in the [Nonprofit management] certificate as part of my doctoral studies so that I can be a stronger teacher, leader, and organizer in the arts.…Many of the classes are inflexible and designed to fit a butts-in-the-seat style of teaching. The teachers cover theory and literature, but are not able to cope with the diverse backgrounds of their students or [their fields of interest]. Entrepreneurship should be more like private coaching so that individual attention can be paid to the specifics of each field."

"Arts Entrepreneurship is thinking outside the box and allowing our students to relate to the music field in new and meaningful ways that may differ from previous generations. As educators, we need to honor the creativity and authenticity of our students and nurture their own development as artists and professionals. We need to serve as mentors that are not just interested in creating clones of ourselves, but rather embrace the new visionary models of what it means to be an artist in the 21st century."

The survey results call great change in collegiate arts training.  Not only do 74% of students and 86% of professionals agree that music schools need arts entrepreneurship programs, but the programs developed must be carefully planned and the student voice must be considered.  We have evidence that students see arts entrepreneurship training as valuable to their careers and professionals are ready to promote relevant ideas to these students.  Finding the ways to do this, however, will be the next great challenge for our music schools.

Emily Weingarten is a community musician and aspiring entrepreneur residing in Ann Arbor, MI.  She is in the process of starting a business to empower young artists called Independent Artists Consulting.  Emily is also the Chapter Development Specialist for Arts Enterprise.  Click here to contact Emily.

1 comment:

Kerry said...

Its a sad reality and its great you're looking to make a difference.

Brad Dayley