Over the past decade, I think Schools of Music have answered that question in this way: Arts Entrepreneurship helps our students find success in the field.
Academia has long placed an emphasis on outcomes based learning that prepares students for success. But what if those proposed outcomes aren’t preparing students for the field, or worse, they’re preparing students for a field that doesn’t exist?
Since the economic downturn in the mid-2000’s (and probably longer), defining student success has been plaguing institutions of higher education because the degrees offered don’t necessarily accommodate the available jobs in the field. This is particularly true in the arts, where over-saturation is rampant and even those who manage to find work find themselves underpaid, and often undervalued.
In an effort to counterbalance this trend, a large number of institutions have adopted arts entrepreneurship programming, rooted in the idea that if students can use their talents as a force to generate wealth on an individualized basis, they will dramatically improve their chances of landing a job when they graduate.
I believe embedding Arts Entrepreneurship into a curriculum within a school of music is a challenge for the following reasons:
- Like a degree in Music Performance, Arts Entrepreneurship is too focused. My guess is that, if you look at the student body of any given school of music, you might find that 5% of students are deeply interested in Arts Entrepreneurship as a career path. A few students will be inspired by this work and some will take this path, however, entrepreneurship training is not a one-size-fits all discipline. Advice: Encourage a pathways program in which one potential path is entrepreneurship, along with a multitude of other options that have the potential to inspire your students and allow them to be in control of their career.
- Arts Entrepreneurship folds the discipline back into over-saturated models that aren’t necessarily working. When artists explore Arts Entrepreneurship in the company of other artists, they potentially miss out on developing a strategy for addressing one of the biggest challenges artists face in entrepreneurship: They don’t develop the business vernacular necessary to cross sectors, so necessary in entrepreneurial endeavors. Advice: Instead of creating a unit within your college of music, partner with the business school and encourage interested students to take straight up entrepreneurship courses. I love the diversity of thought that comes when you smash students with different career pursuits together through cross-campus collaborations.
- Students need context. I think what the Arts Entrepreneurship movement is really trying to do is provide context to the bigger world for our students. In pursuit of perfection on an instrument, what students often miss is that they are one of the most important pieces of the 21st century economy. This is especially true because we’ve moved away from a manufacturing economy to a service economy where creativity and context rule the workforce. Advice: Infuse context with the deep work students do in their degree in order to help them define their career after graduation.
Having an entrepreneurial mindset as an artist in the 21st century is incredibly important. This mindset should introduced to all, and nurtured in a few who show interest and proclivity. The rest of our time should be spent helping our students find a path to success on an individualized basis. That is the only way they will truly find the path that is right for them.
How does this resonate with you? What programs or advice to you give your students as they embark upon their career. I’d love to hear from you in the comment section below.