In Part 1 of this series, we looked at faulty assumptions thatÂ many artistsÂ make when seeking a graduate school.
So, if you decide to pursue an advanced degree in the arts, what question should you ask above all others?Â In my opinion, this is the most important one:
How will this next degree advance my life goals?
Many artists never ponder thisÂ angle before applying to schools, let alone attempt to answer it.Â They just try to improve in their major field and cross their fingers that life will magically work out.Â As a result, they garner degree after degree, yet have no realistic idea how to create a viable life through their art.Â Upon graduation,Â these individualsÂ are barely closer to having a career than they were as a high school student.
Finally in the real world, without the benefits and resources of aÂ school, these artists have no choice but to start from scratch to build their career.Â They are forced to develop essential marketable skills that were neglected during the college years.Â Or give upÂ their artÂ altogether.Â Hmmmâ€¦maybe itâ€™s time to go back to school in another fieldâ€¦
Graduate school can be a wonderful and valuable experience.Â Personally, I loved my graduate years.Â And when approached in a savvy way, it can be one of the best tools for propelling your career and life in the arts.
Many of the resources available throughÂ schools cannot beÂ found in any other environment.Â Obviously, they provide a framework for focusing intensely onÂ your art and craft.Â They allow you to develop weaknesses and hone strengths.Â There are ample opportunitiesÂ to network.Â Faculty members, even ones with whom you don’t study, are readily accessible.Â Student colleagues are often willing to rehearse/collaborate for long hours without compensation (i.e. if you’d like to become a professional chamber musician, this is an ideal place to start a group that will continue beyond the school years).Â Academia is the idealÂ environmentÂ for experimentation, as the consequences for failure are low.Â In fact, most skills that contribute to success in the outside world–marketing, attractingÂ new audiences, developing your voice, differentiating your work, exploiting technology, colloaborating with others, usingÂ art as a tool for transformation and change, etc.–can be developedÂ within the pearly gates. If these things are not part of the curriculum, it just takes creativity and pro-activity on your part. (In future posts, I will outline some specificÂ activities and approachesÂ that savvy students can take.)
SoÂ before contemplating where you should attend, what would look most prestigious on your resume, and whoâ€™s the best teacher, ask a different question.Â What do you truly want to do with your life, and how canÂ an academic experience help you realize those aspirations?Â How will your studies help position you for future professional and personal success? If this is your point of departure,Â you may make a very different kind of decision about whereÂ to studyÂ and howÂ to approach the experience.
Only after answering this query should youÂ beginÂ considering schools and compiling your priority list.Â At this point, pickÂ institutions that will actively assist you in achieving those objectives.Â And after enrolling, be sure toÂ realize your goals.Â After all, youâ€”and no one elseâ€”are in control of your own education.
- Choosing the Perfect Grad School: PartÂ 1
- Average Student,Â Entrepreneurial Student
- An Essential Question When Applying to Arts School
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