Thursday, April 12, 2012

Performing arts

There has been a lot of hand wringing over the state of STEM in the United States and I’ve added my share. In that same post was a link to an MR post that said:

In 2009 the U.S. graduated 89,140 students in the visual and performing arts, more than in computer science, math and chemical engineering combined and more than double the number of visual and performing arts graduates in 1985.

As far as performing arts (versus visual arts) is concerned, when I’ve thought about it in the past, I was and still am uncertain whether majoring or even encouraging our kids to be part actors or singers is a good thing. Yet with the increasing fragmentation in the delivery of entertainment into our homes (even Hulu is producing original shows) and the proliferation of ‘reality’ talent shows, is the market signalling that the opportunities in this field are increasing? (The BLS begs to differ on actors but not singers.) The entertainment industry is perhaps the few industries that have had some success in the global marketplace. Is this industry becoming a growth industry as well?

After all the general audience would prefer to sit back, relax and enjoy watching a play or a singer rather than say, someone reciting the periodic table of elements. And while quiz shows such as the Spelling or Geographic Bee or Jeopardy have a decent sized audience, it is not quite the same thing as trying to be the next Kelly Clarkson or David Archuleta or Ramin Karimloo. You can’t turn being a contestant in Jeopardy into a vocation or profession as easily as when you’re a good singer or actor.

Unfortunately performance arts is also a field where luck could matter as much as talent. Perhaps I am not a good judge of talent but I am always surprised to see so much of it in the instances when I watch American Idol or it its ilk. And there are more out there on YouTube who are waiting to be discovered. Talent itself then is not a sufficient condition for success. Consider Christina Perri:

Perri's song "Jar of Hearts" was featured on So You Think You Can Dance during the June 30, 2010 show. It was featured in performance by Billy Bell and Kathryn McCormick. Perri's friend Keltie Colleen passed the song to show choreographer Stacey Tookey; Perri and Colleen watched the performance in the audience. Following its exposure on the show, "Jar of Hearts" sold 48,000 digital copies, debuting on the Billboard Hot 100 at #63 and reaching #28 on Billboard's Hot Digital Songs. Within a month, it sold more than 100,000 copies. Then, her music video for "Jar of Hearts" landed on the VH1 top 20 music video countdown.

What if her song hadn’t been featured? Would she still have been as successful? And what about those who have been successful? Fame can be short lived. Whatever happened to Judge Reinhold after the Beverly Hills Cop movies? Or Erik Estrada? Remember him? I’m half-expecting them to appear on DWTS. Yet these fields can also be an ocean of opportunities. If they can’t remain a singer/actor they can work in the studio in other capacities.

In so many ways this is a field where it isn’t only what you do with your talent, it’s also what else you can do with your interest, willingness and talent.

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