Performing Arts Careers


A career in the Performing Arts can be the gateway to a life of creativity.  The big question is: “Is this the place for me?” There are numerous sites on the Web that can help you answer that question.  Here are some to check out:  Performing Arts Career Quiz,  Career Choice,   What’s Your Talent?

It may be best to ask yourself this:                                                                                                "Can I go 2 days, 3 days, a week without thinking about or being involved my Performing Art?”  

If the answer is yes, then you’ve found the greatest therapy, the best way to relieve the stress of your daily career.  Join a local choir, band or theatre group.  Attend local and traveling peformances when they come to town.  You’ll always appreciate the work that goes into a quality performance.

If your answer is no, you can’t get through the day without your Art, then it’s in your DNA.  You’ll only be happy molding your career around your lifestyle.  You belong in the Performing Arts!

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The first concern many people have is earning a paycheck in the Performing Arts.  There are jobs for those who are perpared to meet the challenges ahead.  You have numerous options when it comes to a life in the Arts.  Not every career in the Performing Arts leads to being on stage or in a public school classroom.  There are well-paying careers teaching privately, working backstage in theaters, designing productions and working in Performing Arts management.  This site gives you a good breakdown of many of the other options in the Arts: The Art Career Project  

If you were planning to be a professional athlete, you’d spend countless hours practicing your skills, attending sports camps and watching your favorite sport so you could model those who have already made the leap to the big leagues.  If you wanted to be a high level scientist, you’d take every STEM class your school offered and attend science workshops.  A career in the Performing Arts needs to have the same type of preparation.

Your first step to your future is to set a priority on your preparation.  While in Middle and High School, take as many Performing Arts classes as feasible.  That is, if you’re in Band, take Choir, do a Theatre production, …  All Performing Arts classes reinforce and expand the skills you’re learning in your primary discipline.  Go to as many professional and semi-professional performances as you can.  Many local and touring companies offer “Backstage Experiences” to students.  Look on-line for any volunteer opportunities with Performing Arts groups.

Whichever disipline, Dance, Music or Theatre, is your destiny, it’s always best to experience the other disciplines as well.  Artists do not live in a bubble.  We grow in our Art through all of the experiences we achieve in all the Arts.  

If you’re planning to attend college with a ‘traditional’ degree program, visit college websites to view the prerequisites and audition expectations for admission.  If college is not in your future, you can still have a life in the Arts.  In fact, your work in High School may be even more important to your success. 

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Here’s a breakdown of many of the things you should be thinking about as you prepare for your career in the Performing Arts.

- Dance -

Many people with Dance careers have begun training at an earlier, pre-teen age.  People can start later, but they need to look for the best training possible in order to be ready.  Local storefront studios can be a good experience, but many of them do not go into the depth of technique and Artistry needed to compete for jobs at a professional level.  Many of the careers in Dance are listed and described here.

You should look for studios and academies that are affiliated with local professional Dance companies.  These Dance educators know what is required to fulfill the needs of a professional performing ensemble.  They can also help you understand the need for nutrition and wellness training in Dance.  The associated Dance companies often provide opportunities for students to perform with company dancers in major venues.  During your training, experience as many types of movement as feasible.  Look for other student dancers who will work with you as you try your hand at choreography.  Attend multi-week intensive summer workshops sponsored by local and non-local companies that will give you the chance to learn different approaches to Dance.  

Many colleges sponsor College Experience and Practice Audition Days.  Theses are great oppurtunties to see what goes on in a college Dance program, meet college instructors and talk to other sudents like yourself considering a career in Dance.

After High School, you may be offered a Dance Internship/Pre-Professional position for more extensive training.  If not, find a college that has a well established Dance program and a track record of placing dancers in professional situations.  A college Dance experience can also provide you with the added time needed for your body and emotions to mature.  You’ll also be able to take classes that will assist you in your post-dance career.  A Dance audition is necessary for admission to college Dance programs.

- Music -

A Music career can be the easiest to think about, but is often the least planned for in High School.  Just being in your High School Band or Choir is not enough to be prepared for a college Music career.  Even if you’re not planning on the ‘traditional college’ music degree, you can’t wait until after High School to begin your preparation.  Regardless of what direction you’re planning, nothing beats private lessons.  Find a quality private teacher to help you understand the technique needed for your voice or instrument.  

Take advantage Solo and Ensemble competitions ofered in your state.  Many colleges sponsor Honor Bands, Choirs, Orchestras, Practice Audition Days, ….  Theses are great oppurtunties to see what goes on in a college Music program, meet college instructors and talk to other sudents like yourself considering a career in Muisc.

College music students are required to graduate with a level of piano proficiency.  Learning basic keyboard skills while in High School will help lower your college class requirements.  

Don’t restrict yourself to one kind of Music group.  Join other Music ensembles around your school.  Music is Music.  Everyone uses the same skills, just in a different approach.  Learning a new instrument or learning to sing will help you understand your primary instrument at a whole new level.  Many of the different careers in Music are listed described here.

Music Theory and Sight-Singing skills are the make or break classes for college Music students.  If your High School offers Music Theory, take it.  If not, look for locations on-line that you can learn the basics of Music composition.  EVERY Music student has to be able to sight-sing.  That includes those who are not training as voice majors.  If you don’t consider yourself a singer, you have to get over it.  Join your High School Choir.  Work on identifying intervals and qualities of chords.  A Music audition is necessary for admission to college Music programs. 

- Theatre -

College Theatre programs generally have one of two approaches to admissions.  Either it’s highly competitive from the beginning where each student must audition for a few select spots or all students are admitted without an audition to the Theatre program.  These students must undergo a review of their work after the first semester or year to see if they will be allowed to continue with the program.  Neither approach is better than the other.

To begin your training in Theatre, whether on-stage or backstage, you need to read, see or perform as much as possible to build your repertoire of plays and characters.  Participating in your High School Drama classes and productions are a big help, even shows that may not be your favorite.  Take any position offered: on-stage, backstage or front-of-house.  Every experience builds your understanding of the craft of Theatre.  

Many colleges sponsor College Experience and Practice Audition Days.  Theses are great oppurtunties to see what goes on in a college Theatre program, meet college instructors and talk to other sudents like yourself considering a career in Theatre.

Many aspects of Theatre involve the need for cross-disciplines with the other Art forms.  Take a Dance class.  Learn to sing. Take a Visual Arts class.  Take a writing class.  These other Art forms not only will help you build your skill set, they will also help you decide on where you want to be in the Theatre world: Acting, Playwriting, Production Design and Technology, Stage Management, Marketing, ….  Many of the different careers in Theatre are listed and described here.

Don’t limit yourself to just your High School.  Participate in local and community productions.  Test the waters in styles of theatre that you’re not comfortable with.  From Ancient Greek to Avant Garde, all Theatre is about the human condition.  You’ll grow from each new experience.  It’s most important that you auditon for shows that push your skill level.  An actor that only plays it safe, doing the same thing over and over again, never grows.  You may not be cast in some of these shows, but you’ll leave the audition knowing more about what is expected to achieve at a higher level.  You’ll also become a familar face and more likely to be involved with the company in the future.  Look for local professional and semi-professional theatre groups that host workshops or student internships.  Immerse yourself in all things Theatre.

Above all else, remember that a career in the Arts is not a job, it’s a life style.

CWPA Admin 2019