Daily Video

June 30, 2013

Tough Economics for Musicians, Dancers and Artists

Watch Performing Artists Compete, Move, Adapt in Tough Economy on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.

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With a new report showing that almost half of young college graduates now underemployed, the job market is tough for young people these days. But while landing a job is difficult for the average graduate, performing arts students are finding the odds nearly impossible to make a living in their field.

Diane Wittry, the conductor of the Allentown Symphony in Allentown, Penn., explains that, “For any orchestral opening in the United States, you might have, for one violin opening, 300 people applying that are all completely qualified to do that job.”

This means that even the most talented students from the top arts schools in the country are struggling against the odds.

One of the problems is that fewer people are going out to see performance art. This decline is in part due to the recession, but also because of the emergence of technology like YouTube that can bring an orchestra to your laptop.

As Greg Sandow of the prestigious Julliard School put it, “We are in the business of selling buggy whips in the age of the automobile.”

However, those in the arts are still looking for a way to keep their dreams alive, either by moving to Europe where the arts are supported by the government, or by taking up other work.

Aspiring musician Fitzhugh Gary says that this is, “All the more reason to create your job, your own job. Create your own project. Go out there and be your own boss, and figure out something that hasn’t been done before, and chances are you will love it.”

Warm up questions

1. What are some jobs related to the performing arts?

2. Are there certain careers where it is easier or more difficult to find a job? What do you think these are?

3. What does it mean to be an entrepreneur?

Discussion questions

1. What did you find most interesting about this video?

2. What does this quote mean? Who said it and why? Do you agree or disagree?

So we’re creating more and more musicians who, in order to earn a living, have to teach, creating more and more really great students, who then have to do the same thing. It’s like a Ponzi scheme now.

3. What does this quote mean? Who said it and why? Do you agree or disagree?

We, as musicians, we don’t go into music for the money. We go into music because it’s part of our soul. It’s part of who we are. It’s what we ave to do. We want to share music with the world, and we would do it whether we got paid or not.

4. Would you consider a career in the arts despite the odds? Why or why not?

5. Do you think it is important to support the arts in the United States? Why or why not?

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