After the 2008-2009 economic collapse, support for the performing arts in New York City has suffered. According to reports by the Alliance for the Arts, after 2008, 75 percent of New York’s nonprofit performing arts groups — the kind most likely to employ classically trained performers — started slashing their budgets, and more than a third of them have cancelled or postponed planned programming in the years between 2008 and 2011. This means fewer jobs for young performers, even in what is indisputably America’s greatest bastion for the performing arts.
Which is why The Juilliard School has chosen “Entrepreneurship” as the theme of it’s 2012/2013 opening ceremonies. and why Dr. Bill Baker’s class, The Business of the Performing Arts, which he teaches jointly with Fordham University (where he is Claudio Aquaviva Chair at the Graduate School of Education and Journalist-in-Residence), has been so successful. The class gives students a snapshot of the structure and economics of America’s performing arts industry, and brings in practitioners ranging from the head of the Metropolitan Opera to young artist-entrepreneurs who graduated just a few years ago.
Baker is pleasantly surprised by how empowered his budding dancers and musicians feel after learning even the most basic business skills: “I teach them how to read a business statement, which is not that hard, really, compared to mastering a musical instrument, but suddenly my students feel like they’ve learned Chinese in just two classes.”
Baker believes that Juilliard and similar institutions have an obligation to prepare their students for life outside the cloistered walls of the conservatory. At stake is his students’ ability to keep practicing the art they have devoted years to mastering, and also the greater health of the arts in New York and the nation.
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