I was fortunate to be in California last week as Baltimore was getting hit with a historic blizzard. I was even more fortunate to meet with a variety of BSA alumni in L. A. and San Francisco, as well as visiting a couple of schools.
I saw a couple of career threads among the alumni I met that were encouraging. For mid-life (ages 30-45) alumni, I found them generally in solid middle-class jobs that provided opportunities to use their artistic training and interests to a large or significant degree. Of course there are some who are appearing on stage or exhibiting in galleries. I expected to see some of those folks as we tend to keep a close eye on their careers.
But we also met folks who use their BSA training in fascinating ways—
- working for the film/tv industry in some of the tremendous variety of jobs they have available—from real estate management to art direction
- opening a fitness studio
- developing a special niche for their artistic work—a guitarist who primarily works playing guitar in baroque continuo settings
- developing brand awareness for companies through still images and video content.
Younger alumni in California are in the time of finding their own path—as are 20-somethings everywhere. But there seemed to be an optimism that was exciting, a belief that a great path was in their future and a willingness to keep looking till they find it.
I found the whole professional environment they inhabit to be encouraging—they are keeping connections to others from Baltimore and reaching out to make connections with the broader cultural community in California. I also found that the values identified in our Strategic Plan – curiosity, confidence, expertise, collaboration, purpose, and global perspective – to be essential to their drive forward.
These values were also echoed at the two universities we visited—the University of Southern California and Stanford University. We visited these schools because of early connections with BSA that we wish to develop further.
The USC visit was spurred by their creation of a new school for dance—the Glorya Kaufman School of Dance. BSA alumnus Lenai Wilkerson (2015) is in their inaugural class and stood out as fantastic dancer in the class our team saw. This school has at its core three pillars of dance—modern dance, ballet and hip-hop dance. All USC dance students seriously study these three forms and they cross-pollinate to an interesting degree. When asked the goal of the program, Asst. Dean Jody Gates said, “for our students to create art in forms that currently do not exist.” I think this is a bold and smart goal for a cultural world that is changing very quickly.
We also visited the “Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy for Arts, Technology and the Business of Innovation.” It focuses on design thinking, visual thinking, social design, creative/design leadership, fabrication etc. in a facility much like our C-CAT. It’s exciting to see our ideas replicated by some of the most forward-thinking schools & artistic entrepreneurs of our country. By the way Andre Young is “Dr. Dre” and Mr. Iovine was his partner in developing “Beats by Dr. Dre.”
The Stanford visit was spurred by a former BSA music student, Daphna Davidson, who has a lead position as the Chief Financial Officer for the Stanford development office. We also spoke with staff that are charged with infusing art into the education of all students at the University and with admissions folks.
We learned that Stanford is pushing its exceptional student population to engage in artistic practice, regardless of major. We learned that the art students at Stanford Arts have great opportunities to create projects that cross disciplinary boundaries and take advantage of the amazing tech community that the school is famous for (Apple & Silicon Valley are in the immediate area).
Based on these conversations, I think there are great opportunities at this amazing school for some of our students—and that the University is interested in our kids as well.
While it took a couple of extra days to get home because of the snow, the trip was very valuable in seeing, first-hand, what our alumni are doing at a variety of points in their careers, and in visiting excellent universities that are considering how to best serve their students in a changing world. Exactly the kind of work we are doing at BSA for our students from 2nd to 12th grade!