So You Want To Be In The Arts (A Letter To The Class of 2014)


Dear Graduating Students,

 You are probably looking forward to finishing up your final classes, preparing for graduation (and any respective parties you may be having), and getting ready to kick off that final summer at home before you head off to college. You should definitely have some fun. You deserve it after all the hard work you’ve put in. However, as someone who has “been there” I would like to take this time to give you some (hopefully) helpful advice. Especially to those of you who want to go into the arts.

 First, I want to congratulate you on having the guts and spirit to go after what you want. Believe me that is definitely a hurdle that shouldn’t be underestimated. If you’ve got it in you to stand up and say “I want to do this” in spite of your parents, teachers, extended family, friends, politicians, and even your own self-doubting thoughts trying to steer you on a different path, then you just might have what it takes to make it as a singer, writer, actor, or whatever it is you want to be.

 That being said, let me give you my first piece of advice, prepare for difficulties. When I say this, please don’t think I’m insulting your intelligence. The first thing any of us hear when attempting to have a career in the arts is how hard it is. However, when I was in that place (that place being seventeen years old and deciding to major in music business) I knew there would be challenges but even I underestimated how many there would be. I think part of the problem is we tell ourselves that one day it will get easier; that all we have to do is get the record contract, write the perfect script, or star in the feature film. The hard reality is not that it’s difficult to get there. It’s that we believe when we do reach that point that things will suddenly get easier when that’s not the case. You got the record deal; great now you have to put out some quality albums (or at least what the label might think is quality), tour constantly, be interviewed by the press, and while you might have a more comfortable lifestyle then you did as a starving artist there are more responsibilities too. The sooner that you realize things won’t become “easier” the better off you’ll be. In the same way that your graduation doesn’t mean you won’t be facing new challenges in college, becoming a best-selling author or musician doesn’t mean that your life will be easier and that you’ll always create great work.

 My second piece of advice would be to get as much hands on experience as you can and build as many relationships as possible. You are probably aware that you will be required to complete an internship at some point during your time as a student. If I could go back and do things over again I would get an internship or volunteer with an organization every summer. Heck, start this summer. Call up an indie record label, music journal, publishing house, whatever organization you are interested in and say “I’m interested in this field and I’d like to intern or volunteer with your organization.” The best part? They’ll probably say yes. After all what person in their right mind is going to turn down free help? These internships are not to be underestimated, especially in the current economy. A secret that most people don’t realize about getting a job or career is that many organizations might not even post in the classifieds when they have a position open. They promote from within their organization or hire someone they know (Bolles, 8). If you start doing an internship or two every summer, then by the time you graduate college you will have gained a great amount of experience in the field you want to work in and you will have made deep connections with people who have the power to hire you or can recommend you to someone who can. I might add working for free now is going to be a lot easier then working for free with tons of student loan debt hanging over your head.

 My final piece of advice would be to not forget to have fun and take whatever opportunities you can to expand your horizons. College is one of the few times that you have enough freedom to make your own choices and do what you want but fewer responsibilities then you will have once you get out into the working world. While you should study hard, don’t forget to have fun and have as many new experiences as you can. Looking back on my college days, I tend to think I played it a little too close to the vest. While I did a very good job academically it does get to me at times that I don’t have any stories of wild road trips with friends or tales of studying abroad. Then again it’s never too late…it just might take me longer to scrounge up the time and money, so again have these experiences while you can.

I hope this advice can help you in your artistic journey. Best of luck to all of you and congratulations.