The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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College of Fine Arts Prepares Students to Pursue Dreams

Corinne Penka has no fear.

As a freshman majoring in modern dance, Penka wants to be a performer when she graduates, and is confident she will be able to get a job when she leaves school.

“I’m so young still, that kind of fear hasn’t set in yet,” she said. “This is still very new to me.”

According to Scott Marsh, chairman of the department of modern dance, auditions for national touring dance companies are “very competitive.” There are only 20 such companies in the United States, and there are hundreds of potential dancers at each audition.

Students throughout the College of Fine Arts face the same situation. Graduating dance, music and theatre majors will face harsh auditions on the road to their dream jobs, if they land them at all.

Many students are not looking for these jobs when they graduate with art degrees, however. Many go into teaching or administrative jobs, while others go to graduate school, seeking professional training in another field altogether.

“Students who go out of here are very capable of creating their own life path,” Marsh said. “They all don’t want to perform in companies.”

Although many graduating modern dance majors do not want to become dancers in a company, the program at the U ensures all students are prepared for the job market. As part of a senior capstone class, students create resumes, personal Web sites and professional photographs of themselves. The students also learn interviewing skills. Dance majors in the capstone class design their own job search materials if they plan to teach or pursue other careers.

“We prepare them well to enter the workplace,” Marsh said.

The ballet program also includes a job-search class for graduating students, where students learn how to make resumes and contacts that could help them get the job they want. The department will not solicit jobs for their students, however.

Carole Iwasaki, ballet department chairwoman, said finding a job in a ballet company was “very difficult.” Auditions consist of an advanced class where potential ballet dancers go through a series of complex exercises, judging their form, musicality, learning speed and artistry. The audition could also be decided on factors such as height and weight, depending on the look of the company.

“There are a lot of dancers out there vying for the same positions,” Iwasaki said. “A lot of times it’s luck, being in the right place at the right time.”

Jill Patterson, a modern dance student currently seeking her master’s degree, did not have a hard time getting a job after earning her bachelor’s, and is confident she will remain employed throughout her life. She taught high school in the two years she took off of school, and also danced professionally. She hopes to teach at a university when she graduates, and said that was always her long-term goal.

Theatre Department

Like Patterson, many theatre students find it necessary to go to graduate school before entering their desired career fields.

“[Graduate school] isn’t necessary, but I think it’s an important step for people who are going to make careers in theatre,” said David Dynak, chairman of the department of theatre.

Making the connections necessary to pursue a theatre career is initially difficult after college, while graduate students meet agents and mature, Dynak said.

“It’s a tough road if you are going to try and make it as an intern,” Dynak said. “You’re going to be constantly looking for parts, it’s pretty demanding.”

The department tries to prepare graduating students to succeed after leaving the program. The major requirements include an entire year of audition classes, and the department recently started an internship program with Pioneer Memorial Theatre. This program allows four senior acting majors to participate in all Pioneer Theatre Company productions, and all students take a class associated with the internship.

“It’s a great experience for them to be one foot in academia, one foot in the business,” Dynak said.

Film Studies

Students from the film department also receive practical experience before they graduate, but unlike theatre majors, most of them do not go to graduate school.

“We do offer enough production opportunities that they can go right out into the business,” said Bill Siska, film studies chairman. “I would say less than half of our graduates go to graduate school.”

Siska said all graduates from the film studies division work in some area of visual media or teaching. Many graduates become independent film makers, but must hold another job to survive.

Finding employment in film is difficult and requires initiative.

“I would stress that it is a daunting field to choose to go into because it demands self initiative,” Siska said. “It’s really worth it if you love what you’re doing.”

Students with dreams of making a career in feature movies should go to graduate school in New York or Los Angeles, but many students start their own operations in Salt Lake City, Siska said. Of these businesses, some are successful, while others fold.

“I tell people the work is out there, unlike other areas in the U where recruiters come in,” Siska said. “This is a business that demands more self initiative, anything in the arts does.”

School of Music

Music education majors should not have trouble finding jobs at all, according to Bob Walzel, chairman of the music department. There is a national shortage of music teachers, and many music teaching positions in the education system Utah remained unfilled last year.

A degree in music prepares students for many other fields besides teaching, however. Music majors can become performers, pursue careers in academia or enter the business end of music. Other students simply go to graduate school in a different field, like law.

Steve Nelson, a senior graduating with a degree in music, does not plan to use his degree professionally.

“My thinking with your university career is you should do what you love,” Nelson said. “It will push you onto further education always.”

Nelson, who has changed his major several times, plans to market business systems.

“In many ways I would say all of the fine arts degrees function as great liberal arts degrees,” Walzel said. “When you have to perform a piece of music, there is a very specific task at hand that has to be accomplished. That carries over to whether they want to go to medical school or end up being engineers or musicians.”

Students who wish to become professional music performers must go through a national audition process to land a job, and should earn a master’s degree.

Art and Art History

Students graduating with degrees in art history have many career options open, according to Judy Stubbs, undergraduate adviser for art history. Art history courses teach students to write and research, which makes them marketable in many different areas, including historic preservation offices and architectural firms.

“Any place where you need some research an art historian can do it,” Stubbs said.

Although jobs are open to art history majors, Stubbs said students do not go into the field because of the career options.

“A lot of students are in the degree because they really like the material,” she said. “If you do what you really love to do, you can make it pay.”

Justin Biggle, assistant professor of art, said graduating students may have to pay off student loans after graduation, taking a job such as moving printing equipment like Biggle did. Graduating students may want to go into illustration or graphics, or they can get an internship, or join a workshop to continue producing art.

Artists who want to sell work must rent gallery space or find some way to exhibit it, according to Biggle.

Career paths for graduating art majors can be as varied as they are for other students leaving the College of Fine Arts.

“There is a lot of work,” Biggle said. ”
It could be in any number of different places, you could end up doing any number of things.”

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