The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Meadows’ arts-entrepreneurship minor making impossible dreams come true


You leap onto the stage and are immediately hit by a spotlight and the eyes of thousands in the audience. The music climbs as you pirouette alongside elaborate scenery. You see your name in lights on a billboard in Time Square. You have made it.

Many dream of pursuing their passion for the performing arts in college by majoring in dance or theater, and start their journey at SMU Meadows School of the Arts.

Performing arts students at Meadows are top of the line. The audition process is highly selective and students must reach both technical skills of the program and academic requirements of the school to be admitted.

Some students, however, come in with dreams to be a star and realize that with the competition of the performing arts world, the performing arts might not be realistic in terms of career success.

“It’s a very hard life with dance as your profession,” sophomore dance turned advertising major Catherine Leslie says. “I ended up realizing I didn’t want to make a career out of dance, so I dropped to a minor.”

Post-graduation life for performers oftentimes means moving to New York and living paycheck to paycheck as a waiter, attending grueling auditions and hoping for a big break.

“There is not a whole lot of planning involved in an acting career,” says senior theater major Hunter Ringsmith. “I mean there is the logistics of location and hopefully the security of some sort of survival job, but no. You have to have loose plans because you work contract to contract.”

While taking a leap of faith and being flexible is part of the process of following the impossible dream, some decide they need a backup plan in college.

“I am double majoring in journalism and theater,” sophomore Ally Van Deuren says. “I [grew up doing] many musicals, plays, recitals and concerts… [then] I joined my high school’s newspaper and I fell in love with it… It seemed so relevant to theatre and playwriting. When I was accepted into SMU and I found out that I could pursue both of my passions, it seemed like all the stars were aligned.”

Van Deuren has the best of both worlds; she has an academic major that will give her options for a career after college, but she doesn’t have to lose the acting bug.

For those not interested in majoring in anything other than the performing arts, Meadows still provides them with the skills necessary to make a career in the tough market, with the new arts-entrepreneurship minor.

Meadows School of the Arts Dean Jose Bowen says this is the second year that the arts-entrepreneurship minor is available, and that it is the first minor of it’s kind in the United States.

The arts-entrepreneurship minor consists of classes in advertising, communications and arts management. It has been a huge success in its second year being offered, with 23 declared minors now in the program.

“What I tell students is that in the arts, you’re going to be a small business owner,” Bowen says. “You will have a company of one employee who will be you, you are the head of sales, you are the head of marketing, and you’re also the product.”

Through the arts-entrepreneurship minor, students learn how to support their careers through the art of selling themselves, which comes from having an elevator pitch and a website. The program gives performers a realistic shot at a career by teaching students how to launch a new arts venture and attract capital, donors, investors and public funds.

Bowen claims that while at many schools majoring and pursuing a career in the performing arts is a risky choice, this is not the case at SMU.

“I will guarantee you can make a living in the arts if you have a business plan,” Bowen says. “You might not be famous…99 percent of all working artists are not celebrities…but you can work.”

His confidence in the arts-entrepreneurship minor could reassure worried parents and students, however, he does recognize where they’re coming from.

“If you’re a classical guitar major then your parents should be worried,” Bowen says. “But, you can make a living as a classical guitarist… you just have to have a mission.”

While the new minor strengthens students’ undergraduate curriculum, it doesn’t make the workload any easier.

“It’s definitely a balancing act,” sophomore dance major Hattie Haggard says. “But then again it has been my whole life. Not having to balance schoolwork and dance rehearsals would feel odd and unnatural to me.”

Van Deuren agrees the time is worth it. “Our crew requirement takes up a great deal of time, as well as if we are cast in a main stage- these rehearsals are 6 to 11 every evening,” she says. “[It is] a huge chunk of each day. But I love it, so every minute of every hour is so worth it to me.”

A typical day for performing arts students consists of waking up early, getting dressed in the appropriate attire and attending a wide variety of rehearsals and classes.

It’s a fast paced life-much like the life of those who choose to pursue it as a career after college.

“I plan on getting a job with a contemporary ballet and hopefully touring the world with them,” Haggard says. “After that, I would like to have my own company where I would choreograph and set my own works and maybe even perform as well.”

To prepare students for the tough reality of the job market, professors try to make them as well rounded as possible. Both the dance and theater departments require students to go out of their comfort zones and learn all aspects that contribute to a production.

“The theatre department prepares its students for post-graduation,” Van Deuren says. “The curriculum includes classes such as Business and Professional Aspects of Theatre, which is a preparation for graduating actors that includes compiling resumes. The faculty also brings in various rep directors each semester for us to audition for.”

SMU’s location in Dallas also contributes to the strength of its performing arts program because it allows the school to have connections with local theaters, maximizing opportunities for students.

“We have professional choreographers,” Bowen says. “Our students got the chance to perform at the Winspear Opera House, one of the great opera houses of the world. Our training is real world.”

Ringsmith is proud to say he has a job performing in a small production of Macbeth upon graduation, and although it will only last for three months, he is content. He later plans on moving to New York.

“I’ll spend my days auditioning and my nights probably waiting tables to make enough money to pay rent,” he says. “Being involved in the arts you learn to live in the present tense. And to celebrate when it’s good, and to find a way to keep trudging on when it isn’t.”

To Bowen, it’s a dream worth chasing at SMU.

“It’s not a choice between following your dream and being some other profession,” Bowen says. “If your dream is being famous you have the wrong dream. If your dream is working in the arts, then Meadows is the best place in the country to be.”


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