Finding your place: Pursuing a career in the performing arts

Published September 6th, 2013

It’s no secret: pursuing a career in the performing arts is hard work. Even those who’ve already “made it big” admit that it’s never been easy and they never stop working. If you’re an aspiring performing artist, you already know that, and you’re going to follow your dreams anyway. This is why artists are some of the bravest, most passionate people out there.

Whether you’re an actor, dancer, musician, or an awesome combination of the three, we want to help you find your place.

If you’re just beginning your journey into a performing arts career, you’ve most likely started hearing people throw around words like “risky” and “back-up plan.” If you’ve already started working toward your performing arts degree, you’re probably used to hearing “In this economy…” and “Find something more practical…” when you tell people your major. Although those people (most likely) are just trying to help, they also (most likely) don’t know the full story.

Contrary to popular belief, there are a lot of career options for somebody who wants to work in the arts. You just need to find your place.

On the stage

This is the most obvious career for performing artists, and the primary reason degrees in this industry are viewed as “risky.” It takes an extreme amount of discipline and drive to make a career on the stage as an actor, dancer, or musician. It’s obviously not impossible, you just need to be conscious of every decision you make, from what performing arts schools you’re interested in, to how to prepare your digital audition. It’s probably the most difficult path to choose, but if you’re dedicated, it can be one of the most rewarding.

In the classroom

The wonderful thing about being a music, dance, or theatre teacher is that you get to work with passionate, brave young artists daily. You can help them navigate the world of performances, auditions, and college applications with first-hand experience of the industry. You get to be their role model. It can be just as satisfying and hands-on as a career on the stage but can offer more stability. Arts programs are being cut from school budgets, however, so a career in the classroom doesn’t come without its risks. You’ll need to work hard to keep the arts in the classroom.

Behind the curtain

Backstage work is often overlooked because it takes place out of sight. But the work that happens behind the curtain is absolutely essential to the work that happens in front of it. Stage managers, prop managers, wardrobe technicians, stagehands, and design/tech teams all work silently to uphold the old adage “The show must go on!” If you love the stage but don’t necessarily love being on it, consider looking into careers behind the curtain. There are a lot programs available for degrees in this aspect of the performing arts.

On the set

As performing artists, you also have the option of working in TV or film. Certain technical knowledge can be applied to both stage and TV and film communities, like design, sound, or costume. However, if you’re an actor considering TV and film, you should sign up for specific classes that teach you how to adjust acting for a camera and not having a live audience. Dancers in TV and film usually help choreograph different scenes, like fight scenes. Musicians can find their place on the set as composers, performers, and musical engineers. If you know you want a career in TV and film, you should adjust your path slightly to be better prepared.

At the desk

At first, you might be shocked that a desk job would even be a suggestion for a career in the performing arts, but there are actually a lot of options. From production to script writers to nonprofit arts advocates, the arts need as many business-minded artists as performance-minded artists. Your friends on the stage, in the classroom, on the set, and behind the curtain will thank you for it.

A career in the performing arts is a very real option, and you shouldn’t let nay-sayings like “back-up plan” and “economic recession” scare you off. There’s a place for you. You just need to find it.

Get started.

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