Two-concentration Bachelor's Degree Annotated Rationale Essay
Note: this is a lengthier rationale essay because the student is pursuing a dual concentration.
Introduction and Goals
It has been said that great dancers, choreographers, and dance teachers cannot be taught, but must be born. My goals for pursuing a B.A. degree, with concentrations in both Arts Management and Arts Education, [s1] are to enhance the knowledge and skill sets that some would say I have been born with. I have found throughout my career as a performer, choreographer, and educator that even if one possesses great talent in any of these areas there are certain elements of a college education that can make that talent increase exponentially.
With the dual concentrations of Arts Management and Arts Education, I hope to develop a thorough knowledge of the business aspects of a not-for-profit arts organization as well as an understanding of how better to reach students in any classroom situation. [s2] Though I have enjoyed moderate success almost by chance in both concentration areas, I feel that my hands-on experience can only take me so far. I intend to use my Bachelor’s degree to enhance as well as fill in the gaps within my two areas of concentration in order to further my career goals.
Dance is a brief career under the best of circumstances, but from very early on in my professional life I found that I had two skills that set me apart from the average dancer. [s3] These two skills were the ability to teach and the ability to choreograph. When a dancer is armed with either of these skills, he is truly able to make a lifelong career out of dance. I have been truly fortunate to be born with a knack for both. When my stage career ends, I see these skills as my key to continuing my life in the dance world, and I see my degree as the neon sign that will keep these skills from going unnoticed.
When I can no longer physically dance I see my career diverging one of two ways. The first path would rely heavily on the Arts Management side of my degree. I would like nothing more than to either start my own ballet company, or to secure a place on the artistic staff of an existing company. In either case, I would be allowed to continue developing my passion for choreography, and in both cases knowing the business side of an arts organization is an invaluable asset.
The second path I would like to travel upon would rely heavily on the Arts Education side of my degree. I am a realist, and I know that as scarce as jobs for dancers are, jobs for artistic directors, choreographers, and ballet masters are even more scarce. If I cannot accomplish my goal to continue to pursue my choreography professionally, then I want to lend my skills as an educator to training the next generation of artists. Having a concentration in Arts Education puts me ahead of other teachers competing for jobs at private dance schools, and with the addition of formal teacher certification (somewhere down the line - I am not dealing with that in the context of this degree), I could even be a dance or drama teacher in the public school system.
My uncle once said to me “Don’t sell the steak; sell the sizzle.” I see the skills I have learned throughout my career as an artist as a steak. But I see my degree as the sizzle that adds endless appeal to that steak.
Expectations of the Profession
Expectations for professionals working in the fields of Arts Education and Arts Management could fill volumes. I chose to consult sources within these fields that directly correlated with my educational goals.
With regards to the field of Arts Education, in re-examining my goals for this portion of my degree I found there were two areas I needed to investigate: private dance instruction and arts education within the public school system. I decided to contact my previous employers in the realm of private dance education to inquire as to whether they looked for candidates with degrees when hiring teachers for their schools and companies. The response was overwhelmingly that they did not. One studio owner told me very pointedly that a degree does not mean that you can relate to students at all. This information comes as no surprise to me considering the fact that I have been finding work as a dance teacher since the age of nineteen without any semblance of a degree. In reality my concentration in Arts Education has more to do with the fact that I may want to teach dance or theater in the public school system some day.
I specifically researched teaching certification in Florida, [s4] as this is the state I would like to end up living in when I retire from the stage. In Florida the shortage of teachers is so great, that many districts will hire employees under a temporary three-year certification, while the employee works toward standard certification. According to the Florida Department of Education’s website (www.fldoe.org), my degree from Empire State College more than qualifies me to be hired as an arts teacher under a temporary certification. If I wished to obtain permanent certification before hunting for a job, many of the local community colleges, including ____ Community College where I have a relative who is an adjunct professor, have what is called the Educators Preparation Institute which fast tracks candidates with B.A. degrees (myself) to teacher certification. These two forms of certification in Florida will allow me to ride out the current trend in Arts Education of uncertainty. Although there is a large teacher shortage in this country, there is also a continued movement towards the cutting of art programs in schools. With my degree, I can work on formal certification if there are no jobs available, or be hired right away under temporary certification.
All of the sources I consulted stated that experience and formal education make good teachers. I have experience, but I lack formal training. I will address this void with the courses of Human Development and Educational Psychology in my studies at Empire State College. [s5] These courses, plus the credit I have received by evaluation in the realm of dance teaching are an important step towards a possible future professional goal. I understand that this degree does not lead to teaching certification at this time. [s6] This concentration does, however, add to my formal knowledge of education in the present, and give me the building blocks to possibly pursue more formalized educational training in the future.
I have lost count as to the number of times I have heard an artistic director of a ballet company bemoan the fact that they do not know enough about the business aspect of running their organization. ____, a former artistic director of two ballet companies and my former boss, has specifically told me the only way he would take the helm of another ballet company is if he was allowed the joint title of Artistic Director and CEO. In my research of countless ballet companies’ web sites, I found that this is a rare occurrence indeed, and when there was an Artistic Director who was also the organization’s CEO, their biography made no mention of their business management credentials. My concentration in Arts Management will literally put me miles ahead of other applicants applying for artistic directorships, and will also lend credibility to my business plan should I decide to start my own company. [s7] My degree will also help me address the current trend in the area of the arts of cut funding and streamlined organizations. I am confident that any board of directors would love to pay one person as both Artistic Director and CEO rather than pay salary on two positions.
I have chosen a broad spectrum of business and management courses to plump up my knowledge of business and specifically Arts Management. [s8] Not only will I be taking courses in Not-for-Profit Management and Arts Management, I have also included Proposal Writing, Marketing Principles, Business Ethics, Human Resource Management, Legal Environment of Business, and Employment Law. This intense study of all aspects of the business management realm is not only nearly identical to the course of study in Arts Management at other institutions, but will completely eradicate my lack of business knowledge.
By including formal education courses and a plethora of business management courses, my B.A. degree with concentrations in Arts Education and Arts Management will meet and exceed the professional expectations required within both fields.
By now I have made it clear that I am pursuing a Bachelor’s degree with a dual concentration. Formally speaking, I wish to receive a Bachelor of Arts degree with my areas of study being Business, Management, and Economics and The Arts, and my concentrations being Arts Management and Arts Education respectively.
According to Empire State College’s introduction to the business area of study guidelines, [s9] in order to receive a concentration in Business, Management, and Economics, the student must explore (in relation to the business world): communication, information management, economics, ethics, quantitative skills, understanding human resources and people in organizations, and understanding the types of organizations they wish to manage. I have addressed these broad areas through courses such as Proposal Writing, Economics/Macro, HR Management and Development, Business Ethics, Accounting, Arts Management, et al.
More specifically, Management guidelines [s10] focus on management concepts and theory, knowledge specific to the chosen field (arts management), and disciplinary knowledge as described above. In taking courses such as Arts Management, Not-for-Profit Management, Human Resource Management and Development, Business Ethics, and Employment Law, my degree plan more than meets the criteria for a BME concentration with a focus on management. These courses cover management theory and the various “units of analysis” required in this concentration. With the addition of introductory courses such as Legal Environment of Business, an Arts Marketing Independent Study, and Accounting, I have given my concentration in Arts Management a healthy progression of introductory, intermediate, and advanced course work, and also fulfilled the requirement of disciplinary knowledge.
I researched the Arts Administration concentration at Goucher College, because Goucher is the only higher education institution in the nation that offers a distance learning Master’s degree in this subject (something I may pursue in the future). Although I know that a bachelor’s degree concentration does not need to approximate the more focused, in-depth study of a master’s degree, this research still was useful in providing insight into an arts management concentration. [s11] According to the college’s website (www.goucher.edu) the B.A. with a concentration in arts management requires that students major in an arts field and then supplement that major with three courses in Arts Administration and four courses in management, economics, and business. According to my degree plan, I will surpass Goucher’s requirements by taking a total of ten courses in business and arts management. These courses also more than satisfy ESC’s requirements for a BME concentration.
With regards to The Arts area of study, ESC wishes students to be technically proficient, aware of different cultural and historical influences, be able to be critical of art itself, and have a broad understanding of current developments and cultural perspectives.strong [s12] Other institutions seem quite in line and on the same page as ESC in their requirements for these concentrations.
When looking at my degree plan and especially the credit I have received by evaluation it may be easy to distinguish my technical proficiency, but in looking deeper you should come to realize that having spent almost a decade as a professional dancer, I have gained a vast knowledge of ballet’s cultural and historical influences, as well as current developments and cultural perspective.
I have received a total of eighteen credits for performance and choreography. Performing in a work from one of ballet history’s great eras (for example the Romantic, Imperial, or Neo-Classical periods) as I have many times, is like opening a window into another time: the costumes reflect fashion of the day, the score reflects popular music styles, and the choreography itself gives light to how citizens of the era related to one another. Being a choreographer means having your finger on the pulse of what is “Hot” in the dance world (a euphemism for current developments and cultural perspectives). Are audiences ready for something new? Should I make a piece that reflects a current trend in social dancing? These questions and more are asked and answered every day in my career. With regards to the critical aspect of ESC’s requirements for this concentration, my career reflects not only my own forays into performance and choreography, but countless hours spent watching others’ works of choreography and performance. Add to this countless reviews read (again about my work and others), and it is impossible not to develop a critical eye toward the art form that I have given my life to.
With the Prior Learning Assessments in Dance that I have received, Goucher and ESC’s requirement (as far as my second concentration of arts education goes) of in-depth knowledge of an art form has been more than covered. My in-depth knowledge of dance as an art form, and as a profession, more than meets ESC’s requirement for a concentration in the Arts. In fact, I also researched another school in the SUNY system, Purchase College, in order to look at what a dance degree looks like, and my PLA also more than covers the in-depth “from studio to stage knowledge” that Purchase’s website talks about (www.purchase.edu). Even though I have designed this concentration to be housed under the area of The Arts, I have consulted requirements for Educational Studies as well. [s13] My PLA’s in dance teaching (adults and children), as well as choreography (again for adults and children) specifically require knowledge of education. In addition, I have added broader theoretical knowledge through my courses in Human Development, Educational Psychology, and The Learning Organization. Should I pursue teaching on a more full-time basis at a later date, the knowledge gained from courses in Human Development and Educational Psychology will give my teaching more depth of knowledge in a social, developmental, and historical context. Adding the course The Learning Organization, not only complements further my concentration studies in arts education, but also adds progression to my second concentration, as well as linking it to my concentration in Arts Management by covering skills related to education and management.
I have also taken time to address SUNY General Education requirements with the following courses: [s14] AP Calculus, Human Nutrition, American Ethnic History, An Introduction to Philosophy, The Middle East, Planning and Finalizing the Degree, and Spanish 2. My multitude of CBE credit in the Arts not only also fulfills SUNY’s General Education requirement of study in the arts, but it also enhances the arts side of both my concentrations. In addition, College Writing, Macroeconomics, An Economic History of the West, and Proposal Writing enhance and aid the progression of my concentration of Arts Management by linking concepts as well as introductory level learning throughout my degree plan.
My chosen degree is a B.A. with dual concentrations in Arts Management and Arts Education, but in reality I have designed a degree that takes my in-depth knowledge and understanding of ballet (and dance in general) and enhances it to the point that I can fit into any facet of the arts world. By focusing my education on the two areas of Arts Management and Arts Education, I have made myself more marketable not only as a dancer, but as an administrator and as a teacher. I have given myself the tools to pursue a myriad of career options, and the breadth of studies I will undertake will no doubt enhance my perspective as an artist and as a human being. [s15]
See the associated degree program plan.