Recommended Course Additions to the Higher Education Music Curriculum

February 4, 2015

Editor's Note: The following recommendations have been compiled by The College Music Society's Committee on Careers Outside the Academy. Contributing authors include Michael Drapkin, Chair of the Committee, and Committee members Astrid Baumgardner, Judith Coe, Bernard Dobroski, Gisela Flanigan, Michael Harrington, Gerald Klickstein, Michael Millar, Jeffrey Nytch, Mark Rabideau, and Julia Torgovitskaya. Guest authors include Jennifer Rosenfeld and Ivan Trevino. Contact any contributing author directly for a full course syllabus and/or more details.


  1. Creating Sustainable Careers in the Arts
  2. The Empowered Artist: Artistic Identity, The Mindset of Success and Creative Collaboration
  3. Arts Entrepreneurship in Today's Creative Economy
  4. Nonprofit Music
  5. Music Studies Integration
  6. Music & New Spaces
  7. The Entrepreneurial Artist
  8. Building Your Music Career
  9. Major Instrument Pedagogy
  10. Selling Your Music in the 21st Century
  11. Marketing Music in the 21st Century
  12. Music Finance
  13. Entrepreneurship Field Study
  14. Art is My Occupation: Professional Development for Creatives
  15. Audio, Video and Electronic Media for Musicians
  16. Composition and Arranging for Performers

1. Creating Sustainable Careers in the Arts
Astrid Baumgardner

This course teaches the entrepreneurial mindset and skills required to create sustainable careers in the arts including:

  • Developing a positive attitude and the growth mindset,
  • Creating and owning your artistic identity,
  • Building emotional intelligence, career planning,
  • Financial and project planning,
  • Time management,
  • Networking
  • Branding and marketing,
  • Communication skills and
  • Public speaking.

Course requirements include weekly readings, written assignments, a semester-long project and an in-class presentation of the project, a final paper and a career portfolio consisting of website materials, brand statement, elevator pitch, career plan and financial plan. The class combines instruction with group discussions and coaching.

2. The Empowered Artist: Artistic Identity, The Mindset of Success and Creative Collaboration
Astrid Baumgardner

Artists across the disciplines share a desire to create transformative experiences for the rest of society. This involves the ability to gain self-mastery as one shapes a unique identity as an artist in order to harness one's creativity and have the confidence to share that creativity with the world. In addition, collaboration both within an artistic discipline and with other artists is a hallmark of the 21st Century. Today's artists face common challenges, including a lack of confidence in their abilities, perfectionism, performance stress, as well as skills gaps including a lack of knowledge as to how to put ideas out into the world. This course proposes to bring artists from a variety of disciplines together to share in an inquiry of how to attain artistic and personal self-mastery and to explore creativity through the process of collaboration with other artists. The goal of this course is to help arts students to attain self-mastery so that they can share their ideas effectively and confidently. This course teaches the skills that enable artists to create their identity, harness their creativity, collaborate successfully and bring their ideas into the world. The course will examine theoretical underpinning of the mindset of success and opportunity from psychological research and neurosceince, hone the skills of creativity and collaboration through a multi-disciplinary project and then teach how to communicate those ideas successfully.

Course requirements include weekly readings and assignments together with a collaborative creative project. The class will combine instruction with group discussions and coaching on the project and assignments. Students will be required to teach a 10-minute segment of material.

3. Arts Entrepreneurship in Today's Creative Economy
Gisela Flanigan

Success as an arts entrepreneur depends on a comprehensive understanding of the many levels of the creative economy and how they function. We will study how the arts shape communities. The first half of the course is an introduction to the creative economy, presenting and defining the following fundamental concepts:

Creative Economy

  • Creative assets for economic development
  • Strategies for bringing these assets to the marketplace
  • Cultural leadership
  • Cultural tourism
  • Community development through creative building strategies

Business concepts

  • Developing an entrepreneurial mindset
  • For-profit/non-profit/L3C (Low-profit Limited Liability Company)
  • Traditional business plans/Business Model Canvas/Lean Start-Up concepts
  • Sustainability strategies

We will study how members of the cultural workforce (individual artists, performers, support staff and others) advocate and generate income to support the creative process. We will also define the role of "creatives" in bringing value to their community. The second half of the course is experiential. Using the knowledge gained, students will work in teams to start an arts related business in order to enter the creative economy. This applied study will be enhanced by the use of guest speakers (virtual and in-person) from various areas of the creative economy.

4. Nonprofit Music
Michael Millar

This course provides students with an overview of the music nonprofit sector, including the topics of ensembles, orchestras, symphonies, and opera companies as business operations; responsibilities of personnel; financial operations, grants, and fund-raising; and promotion and marketing. For their major course project, students work in teams to create hypothetical music nonprofit organizations with missions of the students' own choosing. The final project requires both a written paper and an oral presentation by each team.

Learning Objectives:

  • To be able to identify crucial management and artistic issues of nonprofit music organizations.
  • To be able to create and describe a conceptual framework with which to analyze and address those issues.
  • To know and understand the structure of a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit corporation.
  • To know and understand the aspects and functions of management, boards, staff, artists, volunteers, strategic planning, programming, education, marketing, program evaluation, fundraising, grant writing, and budgeting in nonprofit music organizations.
  • To be able to compare and contrast the challenges faced by different types of music organizations.
  • To be able to evaluate the benefits of collaboration between the nonprofit, for-profit, and public sectors.
  • To be aware of the range of opportunities in nonprofit music for employment and for graduate study.
  • To be able to identify research sources for arts management topics.

5. Music Studies Integration
Michael Millar

This course provides practical applications in the integration of the creativity, performance, technological, and business aspects of music. In conjunction and in collaboration with a community partner, students will work together on a quarter-long group project resulting in a finished performance or production with a significant service-learning component.

Music Studies Integration coursework is in alignment with the Cal Poly Pomona Center for Community Engagement's description of service-learning:

  • Service-learning is a pedagogy that provides students with structured opportunities to learn, develop and reflect through active participation and thoughtfully organized community involvement.
  • Service-learning integrates assessment and student reflection on the interrelationships between course content and community-based learning activities.
  • Conducted in the community, it meets the needs of the students, faculty, and community partners and fosters civic competence and engagement.

Course Objectives:

To develop one or more group projects, as a class/team, which meet the Cal Poly Pomona service-learning goals, meet the needs of a community partner or partners, and integrate the different aspects of music studies, from using current technologies, marketing, and promotion to performance and production. By the end of the term, students who successfully complete this course should be able to:

  • Plan and produce a service-learning presentation or event that has music as a primary focus.
  • Work in a team environment with non-musicians as well as skilled performers.
  • Understand the process of planning and producing community programs or events, from the front of the house to the back.
  • Understand the various skills necessary to promote a community presentation or event.
  • Understand how to incorporate community service into one's life and career objectives
  • Reflect on their service-learning experience.

6. Music & New Spaces
E. Michael Harrington

This course will explore new means of distribution of music as well as how music and the arts intersect with law, business, technology and communication. We will primarily focus on newest means by which music is created, disseminated and experienced. Throughout the course we will examine the competing interests of consumer electronics, Silicon Valley, telecoms, mobile technologies and government and their impact on the music and entertainment industry. Course will examine new technology and means to disseminate music including but not limited to the Internet, social media, mobile devices, etc. Finally, this course will examine the important relationships between diverse groups involved in this process including creators, technologists, telecommunications and law.

Student Learning Objectives:

  • Students will be able to express themselves in collaborative projects in real space, online, asynchronously online, etc.
  • Be able to identify the principal issues in technology as they relate to music, entertainment and communication
  • Be able to debate the merits of new technology, technological services and platforms, and social media
  • Be able to explain the counterinfluences of technology, law, communication, business and artistic expression
  • Be able to differentiate between various social media as to methods of operation and functionality
  • Be able to explain the history of the opportunities, challenges, conflicts and outcomes presented by the intersections of technology, law and artistic expression, technology, communication and law
  • Be able to demonstrate a sound understanding of technology concepts, systems and operations
  • Be able to evaluate the impact of technology on the music and entertainment industry and society
  • Be able to perform in group situations

7. The Entrepreneurial Artist
Jeffrey Nytch

This course introduces the entrepreneurial process and will expose you to the concepts, practices and tools of the entrepreneur. You will investigate career and entrepreneurial opportunities that could be pursued upon graduation, and will learn why entrepreneurship is a state of mind, an artful, insightful, and innovative mentality, not simply business administration or marketing yourself. You will gain an understanding of the creative process and acquire skills that will be useful when contemplating a new venture.

In this course we will study the core components of the entrepreneurial process, and develop an understanding of venture models using the business model canvas to investigate a range of contrasting models in both the for-profit and non-profit realms. Students will develop their own entrepreneurial idea and complete an Opportunity Assessment, addressing the economic, socio-cultural, political/legal, global, environmental, demographic and technological forces at play within their chosen industry & marketplace, as well as the feasibility of their business model.

The most effective way to understand what is happening is to interact with people in the entrepreneurship community; with that in mind you will meet with entrepreneurs through interviews and guest speakers. You will also conduct field observations, present case studies, and discuss current events/issues at play in the arts. Your final project will be presented in writing as well as an oral summary and pitch presented to the class. Students interested in developing their entrepreneurial idea with a full business plan are encouraged to participate in the New Venture Challenge program next Fall.

8. Building Your Music Career
Jeffrey Nytch

In this course you will explore your own skills and passions to gain a better understanding of your professional goals and ambitions, master a variety of skills that will equip you for success across a broad range of music careers, delve into the broader issues of the role of the arts in our society, and define your role as an "artist citizen." Topics include skills assessment and goal setting; marketing strategies, self-promotion, and social media; managing the various elements of a "portfolio career;" fundraising through grants, individual patrons, and events; taxes, financial management, and intellectual property; and developing your value proposition. Students will complete a range of projects that will culminate in an online portfolio/press-kit and a written career plan.

9. Major Instrument Pedagogy
Michael Drapkin
Ivan Trevino

Understanding how to teach private lessons is something that is needed by virtually every music performance major graduate at some point in their career. This course will include a survey of literature for their instrument across all grades, including solo pieces, etudes and methodology books and exercise books. Basic instruction in pedagogical methods is given, including an understanding of different learning styles and differences in approach to teaching based on the student's age and proficiency. Successful completion of this course should give future teachers and mentors how to effectively teach lessons on their instrument to students of all ages, backgrounds and levels.

Through a collaboration with local public schools, each student is required to maintain a small teaching studio throughout their senior year (maybe 5 students or more), teaching free weekly lessons to students of various ages and ability. Some of these lessons can be monitored by a mentor, who will offer suggestions, criticisms, etc., ultimately, helping our students become better educators and having them experience what it's like to teach on a semi-regular basis (i.e. scheduling, lesson planning, etc.)

10. Selling Your Music in the 21st Century
Michael Drapkin

Selling is universal. Everyone uses persuasive communication to "sell" products, services, ideas, opinions, or points of view. In this course, you will examine and practice the techniques and use the tools examined to develop and/or improve your sales skills. Focused on music, the concepts outline include basic sales techniques, electronic media and advertising, social media and other types of solicitation. From customer identification through gaining agreement and follow-up, learn to identify customer problems and develop solutions that appeal to customers and benefit your organization.

11. Marketing Music in the 21st Century
Michael Drapkin

Marketing provides a rationale and perspective for organizational and individual actions in our media-heavy society. This course provides an understanding of the roles of marketing in the economy and in music, and topics covered are the marketing environment, strategic planning, market segmentation, product development, pricing, distribution, promotion, consumer decision making, control, and marketing management.

12. Music Finance
Michael Drapkin

The goal of this course is to give musicians an understanding of how to manage money and finances, both individually and for their ensembles or organizations. This course takes a common sense approach to understanding finances, including creating financial plans, understanding tools such as Quicken, bank statements and credit, debt management and spending control, budgeting and financial principles.

13. Entrepreneurship Field Study
Michael Drapkin
Ivan Trevino

A 6 to 12 month investigation conducted during the school year, fielding teams of three to five students and their faculty advisor to create a new ensemble, program, concert series, either independently or within an existing organization. This field study will consist of the following characteristics or activities:

  • Self-funding projects.
  • Students will book, present, market, and organize a set minimum number of concerts. These self-presented concerts should not happen at the school (i.e. no concert office, stage crew, music stands to help these students). Students should encounter issues and challenges that they face in the real world. This may mean that students will barter with a local church to gain a performance space, find a local coffee shop that agrees to host them, etc.
  • Components of the self-presented concert could include repertoire the student is studying with their primary teacher as well as a required original composition / arrangement or a required multi-arts or collaborative project (chamber music, dance, film, etc.), using the skills they've developed in their classes in an over-arching, real world way.
  • Develop a set minimum number of educational outreach presentations at public schools. Cultivating a young audience for classical music is probably the single most important thing we can do in terms of keeping classical music alive. Creating meaningful initiatives, presenting them, studying them, fixing them, making them better, is critically important.
  • Build a website and/or YouTube channel that has at least a set minimum number of performance videos. These could be in different musical styles, such as solo, chamber, or classical, jazz, original composition, etc. Students will use the skills learned in audio/video, arranging/composing class to create content that can be beneficial post-graduation.
  • Contest: Students submit their field studies, results and lessons learned. The winning program gets a Carnegie Hall debut (or the equivalent) sponsored by the school or industry.
  • Students may conceivably graduate into their own groups and organizations.

This field study will be carefully monitored by career mentors from the school; however the implementation and execution of this study will be totally up to the student. They will plan rehearsals, video shoots, call venues, make posters, create social media events, etc. This "learn by doing" education gives students freedom, a great deal of responsibility, and a genuine real world experience from which practical lessons can be derived and learned. It demands that students use their own initiative and be active instead of passive about their careers. In the real world, we ultimately learn by doing, and with this field study, we are essentially giving our students an entire year to experience the real world in a supportive, educational environment, before they actually graduate and be on their own.

14. Art is My Occupation: Professional Development for Creatives
Julia Torgovitskaya
Jennifer Rosenfeld

Many artists struggle to connect their authentic, heart-felt dreams with a tangible action plan, regardless of how certain we are about our career goals. As students approach the big question of life after college, now is the time to start planning for their dreams. Students might be evaluating whether to pursue a career as an artist, in arts administration or teaching, or just wondering how to keep their art a part of their life. In addition to helping students build practical, professional skills, this course will empower them to ask and answer the following questions:

  • How do I define success and fulfillment?
  • What role will my art play in my professional and personal life?
  • How can I shape my educational experiences and career to serve my long-term goals?

Topics Covered:

  • Mission statements and career vision
  • iCadenza MACRO model for career development (My Values, Action, Communication, Relationships, Openness to Growth and Learning)
  • Storytelling
  • Design Thinking
  • Grant-writing and fundraising
  • Personal branding
  • Promotional materials
  • Press releases
  • Pitching to presenters

Course Requirements include periodic readings, oral presentations to the class and guest speakers, a 2-page individual development plan that follows the MACRO model, a video interview with a person in the industry that they would like to have as a mentor, and a final reflection paper.

15. Audio, Video and Electronic Media for Musicians
Ivan Trevino

Online videos are currently the biggest platform for reaching new audiences, which is critical to a musician's survival. This is a required class in Audio / Visual and Electronic Media production:

  • How to operate a camera
  • Sync recorded audio to video
  • Learn about aperture / brightness / editing / splicing
  • Create a platform to showcase his/her music skills using these video skills
  • How to create a personal website using WordPress and understand website customization and plugins and integrate audio and video.

Students will develop these skills and graduate with a basic online portfolio, including:

  • A YouTube channel
  • SoundCloud page
  • Personal website

16. Composition and Arranging for Performers
Ivan Trevino

Having experience composing and arranging can create supplemental sources of income for musicians, (i.e. marching band arrangements, chamber music arrangements of larger works, and even writing your own music), which gives you your own voice as a performer. This will culminate with a performance of an original composition or arrangement.

4953 Last modified on March 7, 2019
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