What can you do with a performing arts degree?

Published December 9th, 2016

Contrary to popular belief, there are plenty of viable career options for someone who has obtained a performing arts degree. And it should go without saying that no career path can guarantee employment right out of school. Truth is, graduates from arts programs are armed with many skills employers look for in candidates. However, you may not be aware of the scope of options that are available to you. Here's how you can make your degree work for you.

Case Study: The Hartt Schoolhartt-logo

The Hartt School reports that 97% of their alumni attribute their work to their major of study. Much of this can be attributed to two things; Hartt's encouragement of professional opportunities for students while in school and a strong faculty mentorship. Faculty at Hartt work closely with students to help them fully recognize their potential and afford them the opportunities to explore all of their options.

Megan Abernathy, Director of Admissions, shared one such story. Austin Davy ('15) "came to Hartt as a Music Education/Vocal major who also played piano.  He also had a love of musical theatre and soon came to realize that music directing was his calling." Hartt worked with Davy to create a contract major in music directing that prepared him for his current position as Music Director for the Boston Children's Theatre.

The more opportunities a school can offer, the more likely a student is to figure out where they truly belong for their career. Start to ask:

  • Who am I?
  • What do I have to contribute?
  • How can I be the best at what I want to do?

Professional Artist

A career in the performing arts as a professional artist is a very real option. One of the most important deciding factors when looking at schools is how you will be engaged in the professional world while in college. In addition to professional opportunities, like internships, The Hartt School has over 25 groups and ensembles for students to participate in. One ensemble, Foot in the Door, has recorded for record labels and played on radio stations.

In 2015, Foot in the Door was the only student ensemble invited to perform at the Dark Music Days Festival in Reykjavik, Iceland. The faculty went above and beyond to make this trip an enriching opportunity for students. The students were taken on a mini-tour around Iceland to experience the culture, community, and expand their ability to perform.

As Ken Steen, Professor of Composition and Music Theory, shared "The impact of this project on our students is that it gave them a really clear set of examples of how to live as a musician. To go to a foreign country and find opportunities. Really seek them out. Experiential learning to me is the way that performing artists learn.[...]Playing your instrument is only one aspect of what you do."


"My time spent at Hartt allowed me to become a well-rounded musician who feels at home in an orchestra, an opera pit, a small chamber ensemble, or a solo setting.  After becoming a student (at Hartt), I found that I could gain knowledge and experience from almost any part of the music program that I participated in. My decision to go to Hartt was one that has led me to a successful path in music"

 -- Schuyler Jackson, B.M. ’13, (Bassoon Performance) - Currently second bassoon with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra

Other Careers in the Performing Arts

Search online for what you can do with a music degrePerforming Arts Degrees The Hartt School Compositione and you will find countless articles listing everything from arts administration to stage management. The opportunities are endless and only growing. One Hartt student, Gala Flagello (B.M. Composition ’16) founded a non-profit composition festival and was commissioned to compose music for a new app while in school.

Abernathy shared that during Gala's "pursuit of these ventures, she received a great deal of faculty support and mentorship both within composition as well as other areas of the school to help her engage as a professional while a student and be better prepared to forward her career after graduation." Finding the right school to help you realize how you can make the most out of what you have to offer in order to follow your passion is a great starting point for your career.


Outside the Arts Sector

Countless hours spent practicing, rehearsing, and performing in college will not go to waste. The skills acquired during a bachelor's degree are transferable to may industries. Choosing to pursue a performing arts degree is ambitious. Employers want that entrepreneurial spirit. The life of an artist is about being a hard-working and passionate perfectionist. What's not to like?

In an interview with InTune Magazine, Abernathy summed up the value of an arts degree beautifully.

Graduates from arts programs are especially valued by a wide variety of industry. They are creative problem solvers, work well in a team environment, understand how to critically think about their work, and know how to take ownership of their job and manage their time toward the goal. Therefore, graduates of music schools move on to any and every industry throughout their careers. Music is also a valued undergraduate major for medical and law school applications.

The most important thing you can do is to follow your passion. In turn, you will be happier, more dedicated, and, therefore, successful.

To learn more about The Hartt School visit them on Acceptd.


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