Saturday, September 18, 2010

What about studying theater after high school?

Mary Anna Dennard, the author of “I Got In!: The Ultimate College Audition Guide for Acting and Musical Theater,” answered readers’ questions about auditioning, getting the right head shot and other topics.

One answer to a question about whether a college program could possibly prepare you for the "real" arts world, or be useful at all - she has this to say:

I respectfully disagree. First of all, we are talking about getting an education while learning your craft. College is one of the most opportune places to do both. Second, not all conservatories are created equally. Carnegie Mellon, Cincinnati Conservatory, Texas State, DePaul, Pace University, Boston Conservatory, the American Conservatory Theater, Juilliard are all considered conservatories or conservatory-style programs in that their training is rigorous and intense with little or no coursework in general education and electives. However, each of these offers direct relationships with industry professionals. I was a casting director for film and television for 15 years, and I had relationships with and respect for these institutions.

Many of these programs offer substantial scholarships, and even full rides to those who qualify. A majority of the students I coach do get substantial financial aid. The enormous price tag you speak of might actually be the same cost as any typical four-year liberal arts degree. Texas State’s tuition for its musical theater B.F.A. students is $3,700 per semester! And that applies even for out-of-state students.
As far as preparing students for a profession, there are certainly no guarantees, and the families and students I coach understand the liabilities inherent in such a tenuous occupation. But the schools do make every effort to develop intelligent artists as well as introduce them into the professional world.
So I will sum it up this way:
1. Getting a college degree is valuable.
2. Learning your craft is essential.
3. A performing arts undergraduate degree is worthwhile no matter what career one ultimately decides upon.

You can read the whole blog Q&A at the NYTimes Artbeat online.

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