Natural artistic talent creates issues for students and their parents. Everyone knows the odds are against it that an actor will be the next Benedict Cumberbatch or a singer the next Audra McDonald. But, almost always, decisions about careers in the arts are based on belief. So, what do you believe about a career in the arts?

When I ask this question, here are the most common responses I receive.

  • “I want my son to be happy, but he has to earn a living.”
  • “She will never be able to make a living doing her art”
  • “My child will be led away from God in the arts.”
  • “You don’t need a degree to be an actor.”
  • “My child needs something to fall back on, something practical, like business or teaching. So he can study art, but his degree needs to be marketable.

These parent beliefs are common, and often persuade a student to study something other than the art they love. Parents’ beliefs are one thing, students beliefs are another. If you truly love your art, and you believe God has given you a gift to share with the world, maybe you should seriously consider a career in the arts. Here are the 3 most common types of high school students considering the arts:

  1. You are your art. You can’t help it; your art consumes you. If this is you, you really might not have a different choice.  Most parents of these students have nurtured your gift and are fine with a professional career in the arts. These are the BFA students and conservatory students. They will study their art wherever they are, and if college is not a choice, they will get training in unconventional ways or they will make a living because they get really good at what they do in the arts.
  2. Your art is your high school identity. You have been the lead in the musicals at your school, or the visual artist who wins competitions. This is your identity in high school. But what happens outside of school? Do you practice? Do you love it? Can you imagine a life without it? These are the students at the most risk for not “making it” in the arts. The path leading to a career in the arts is paved with hard work and sacrifice. I advise students that if they can see themselves in any other industry they should choose that as their college major. These are the BA students, and maybe double majors.
  3. I love the arts, but I love something else too. You might have a love for video games, or writing, or science. Exploration through college is still acceptable. While some majors require wholehearted commitment, others can be begun with an elective. Don’t choose a major early unless you are sure. There is great pressure to know what your college major is while still in high school, but in reality, you have some time. Maybe your art is something you can do as a hobby, or an entrepreneurial pursuit after you get a business degree. Who knows? But college is a great place to explore what makes you tick.

Creating an adult life requires risk and sacrifice, no matter what industry you end up in. The most satisfied people explore what they are willing to do in order to be successful and line those activities up with their values. Don’t be deterred by the fact that the odds are against you. God gifted you for a reason, it is your responsibility to discover why.

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