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Guest Post By Marie Schwartz, CEO, TeenLife Media

If you’re the parent of a student interested in the arts, your emotions probably ricochet between amazement and panic.

There’s nothing like the thrill of seeing your children’s artwork on a gallery wall, or hearing them play in a concert, or seeing them perform on a stage. Then, comes the fear that they might actually want to do this as a career. And, you’re imagining them living in the basement forever.

I’m here to tell you it’s going to be OK. I know that because for the last eight years, TeenLife Media has partnered with the National Association of College Admission Counseling (NACAC) to produce an annual Guide to Performing and Visual Arts Colleges. Our guide offers not only listings of arts college fairs and schools, but tips from experts on how students can thrive in the arts life, and how their parents can help them do that.

The arts keep us engaged in the world, they delight our senses and touch our emotions. Value your child’s interest in an arts career, don’t dismiss it. Here are some of the reasons we’ve learned to value the arts life:

  • The arts foster skills that are very, very important. OK, it’s a mystery how some kids can’t memorize vocab words yet remember 100 lines of Shakespearean dialogue. But try to focus on what students learn by putting their creative sides out there: communication, self-confidence, discipline, commitment to hard work, collaboration, empathy, creative problem-solving, and, eventually, time management. These are touted as “21st century skills.”
  • Arts kids learn early about bouncing back from rejection. It’s killer when the audition doesn’t go right; when the video short doesn’t get accepted to the film festival; when the invite for the premier summer music camp doesn’t come. And at that moment, arts students need you, their parents, to mourn with them and appreciate that there are lots of talented people out in the world, all competing for the spotlight. Sometimes it’s not about talent: The director just wants a blonde instead of a redhead, the orchestra needs a tuba not a trombone; the art show needs watercolors not pottery. Arts kids discover how to pick themselves up and move on to the next opportunity.
  • Just because you start out in performance, doesn’t mean you end up there. High school arts students don’t even know about half the jobs in their chosen fields—in fact, many of their job options might not even exist yet. (Remember life before YouTube?) You can encourage your child to look at options. Theaters need performers but they also need lighting designers, communications specialists, graphic designers and costume designers. Museums need curators, restoration experts and accountants. Healthcare organizations need music and art therapists, as well as videographers and medical illustrators. There are many ways to indulge a love of the arts with earning a living.
  • Every artist is also an entrepreneur. Stars are no longer discovered sitting on a stool at a drug store on Sunset Boulevard. These days, creativity requires its own entrepreneurial spirit and knowledge of marketing, trends and social media. Keep driving to those auditions, but also encourage your student to learn whatever skills are necessary to get their talent out to the world. Bonus: Those marketing and financial skills will be transferable to all kinds of jobs. Start-ups love theater majors, for example, because they know how to think outside the box and stay calm in a crisis!
  • Remember: You are not the star. The best stage parents are supportive without being bossy. They know this is not about them. They understand they are not the conductor or the director or the art curator. They love that their kid has talent, but they understand their role to is support and nurture, not to give professional advice. Your job is to help your child find good professional support or training, whether it’s at school, a community theater, or a summer camp. It’s to help your child learn to handle the stress of performance; the demands of a schedule that includes school, rehearsal and sports; and the agony of waiting for acceptance to a program. It’s to be the biggest fan, not the biggest pain. And it will pay off, as you watch your student’s talent grow into something that will engage and delight the world—and provide a way to make a living.

Help your child to get started on an arts career by downloading our 2018 Guide to Performing & Visual Arts Colleges.

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Written by Marie Schwartz
Marie Schwartz is the CEO and Founder of TeenLife Media. She launched TeenLife in 2007 after moving to Boston with her family and discovering that there were no information resources for families with teenagers. Now, TeenLife's award-winning website lists thousands of summer, performing arts, therapeutic and gap year programs; schools; college-admission resources and volunteer opportunities for teens throughout the world.