Arts Entrepreneurship Class — Final Words

Last night was the last Arts Entrepreneurship class.  Student projects were nothing short of amazing.  The amount of hard work (hours in), plus creativity and demonstration of already-acquired skills and knowledge was impressive.  This experience once again reinforces what we have known in education for a century: that students working on projects of interest will greatly exceed expectations. 

The larger question, and one worthy of addressing here is, does the teaching of arts entrepreneurship positively change the thinking and actions of emerging arts leaders? 

The answer is an unqualified yes.  What struck me as I observed students’ work were a number of critical skills, abilities and commitment.

One, the sensitivity to market conditions, often lacking in arts leaders, was clearly demonstrated. Their work not only addressed feasibility (addressed in an earlier blog post), but also researched the competition.  One student actually infiltrated a competitor’s business to observe, first-hand, how a potential competitor operates.  Another (a group of 3) conducted extensive market research through online questionnaires and in-person interviews.  If nothing else, these students will know how to go about “testing” new ideas and programs (as well as existing ones!).  Additionally, students’ marketing plans were comprehensive and imaginative.

Two, business plans were well-constructed and realistic, especially in regard to revenue, regardless of whether it was earned or contributed (in not-for-profit projects).  Interestingly, 2 students created enterprises that combined a for-profit function to a not-for-profit entity. 

Three, the level of passion for their projects was palpable, truly astounding.  I am convinced that at least 4 of the 14 students will eventually create and experience the projects they created in class.  More than one student said that h/she had experienced an “AHA” moment, that in the process of exploring and creating their enterprise, they understood why they had chosen arts administration as a career. 

When I asked the class how it could have been taught better, among the many good suggestions was one worth mentioning here.  The entire class expressed that they could only have experienced at this optimum level because they had already taken 2 full terms of courses, that if they had taken it during their first or second terms, their heads would have spun.  This observation is worth noting.


About the author

James Undercofler

Jim has been a Professor at Drexel University since May, 2009. His previous appointment - since August, 2007 - was as the President and CEO of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Jim was Dean of the Eastman School of Music from 1997 to 2007. He has played a prominent role in musical arts and music education throughout his career. Before joining Eastman in 1995 as associate director for academic affairs and professor of music education, he was an active, performing chamber musician as well as first horn in the New Haven Symphony. Jim serves as board president, American Music Center; advisory board member, Arts Education Policy Review; board member, Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, New York State Association of College Music Programs and American Symphony Orchestra League, and is a founding member, NETWORK of Performing and Visual Arts Schools and Mercury Opera of Rochester.

Read James Undercofler's blog [l=]here[/l].

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