Arts entrepreneurship isn’t a slice of the educational pie – it’s the pan.

I hope that lead-off sentence strikes a chord with you as it does with me.

I adapted it from a statement attributed to Andrew Rasiej (“Innovation is not a slice of the pie – it’s the pan”).

Here are 3 reasons why I find those words and entrepreneurship education so compelling.

1. Adaptability
Entrepreneurship education provides an adaptable container in which today’s artists can build rewarding lives. Like a pan, it can accommodate limitless career recipes.

For instance, music students in entrepreneurship courses identify their individual creative interests and explore varying ways in which they can flourish artistically and economically. They forge their own routes.

In contrast, traditional music curricula, especially classical ones, have groomed students for scarce, predefined roles – say, as players in top orchestras or as touring virtuosi handled by managers.

Graduates of such old-school programs often scratch out meager livings because only the tiniest percentage succeed in the roles they were trained for and they lack the adaptable knowledge base needed to prosper in today’s scene. (For more about how U.S. music graduates fare, see the recent SNAAP data.)

Entrepreneurial graduates, though, learn to recognize emerging opportunities, create value with their art, and market their work to diverse audiences.

2. Integration
When schools add entrepreneurship education to their curricula, they do well to aim for integration as opposed to creating an entrepreneurship-studies silo (i.e., a pie slice).

Such integration can interweave both curricular and extra-curricular offerings, as I describe in “Music Education and Entrepreneurship,” to the overall benefit of students.

As an illustration, to reinforce the work students do in their entrepreneurship classes, integration-minded music history teachers can juxtapose historic and current arts economies.

Graduates of traditional curricula, by comparison, may know more about 19th-century music economies than present-day ones because their accreditor-approved coursework won’t include any study of contemporary arts ecologies.

More small examples of integration:

  • Music literature courses can include exercises in concert programming, which would challenge students to apply their coursework in creative ways that would be meaningful to them and to prospective audiences.
  • Music theory classes can incorporate more composition exercises, emphasizing creative applications of things like conventional part-writing.
  • Career-development seminars can address issues of Web culture and recording technology so that students connect their entrepreneurial roles as, say, live performers, recording artists, and online personalities.

3. Inclusiveness
Entrepreneurship education doesn’t favor the most virtuosic musicians – it enables students of all levels of accomplishment to find avenues via which they can thrive.

For instance, students who might be good but not stellar soloists can apply their entrepreneurial studies to plan portfolio careers in which, depending on their interests, they might launch small ensembles and festivals, contract, gig, and teach.

Conversely, traditional curricula have tended to lavish attention on the most virtuosic performers, granting them concerto appearances and other sorts of support while leaving the majority of students to bring up the rear.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Although arts entrepreneurship education is an emerging field, we possess sufficient know-how to empower all motivated students to transform their well-considered dreams into exhilarating realities.

It still isn’t easy to flesh out a music career, but it’s probably more possible than ever. And the intrinsic rewards for doing so have never been sweeter.

Related posts can be found in the Entrepreneurship category. Complementary resources are indexed on the Music Careers page at MusiciansWay.com and throughout The Musician’s Way.

© 2011 Gerald Klickstein
Photo © wavebreak media, licensed from Shutterstock.com

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