Program Support Brings Insight

Endowment strengthens career opportunities and entrepreneurial programming.

MSU professors Derek Polischuk and Richard Fracker lead a workshop on recruiting students for a private teaching studio.
College of Music Alumna Cynthia Kay helps students identify opportunities for business in the Lansing area.
Members of the DSO string section discuss best practices for winning auditions.

Students looking to launch careers as 21st century musicians are hearing firsthand from people who have done just that, thanks to the ongoing support of an endowment through the MSU College of Music.

Established in 2013, the Career Builder Endowment has enabled the College’s Running Start program to create engaging activities and curriculum focused on building vibrant music careers. Made possible by Spartan alumni John (Jack) and Dortha (Dottie) Withrow, the endowment funded 15 of the 22 Running Start events delivered this year by guest artists, alumni, business professionals, financial experts, and faculty. The endowment also enabled Running Start leadership to present to nearly 40 peer institutions at the Network of Music Career Development Officer’s Conference in New York City in January.

“The Withrow’s generous gift makes it possible for us to develop programming that empowers our students with the confidence they need to build careers in music,” says Christine Beamer, director of career services and music entrepreneurship in the College of Music. “Their support is essential to ensuring that our students and the College remain competitive in today’s world.”

Since Fall 2014, the endowment has supported visits by eight College of Music alumni to facilitate Running Start events. Alumni related their perspectives on hiring within higher education, developing entrepreneurial business ideas in the arts, creating niche careers in vocal performance, applying administrative skills in music education, and more.

The endowment also allowed Running Start to bring seven members of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra to campus to conduct mock auditions. Thirty-five students played for the DSO panelists, while more than 100 students in the brass, wind, and string areas learned about auditioning practices. Orchestra members also met with faculty of the College’s brass, woodwind, and string areas to build ongoing relationships.

“Part of our goal is to make the world aware that we have some fantastic talent here at MSU,” says Beamer. “It’s incredibly valuable when organizations like the DSO can see that our students are extremely qualified to become performing musicians.”

Other Running Start programming supported by the endowment included workshops and master classes by guest artists and music business professionals on topics like financial management, social media strategy, networking, film music careers, and opera music. Hollywood film composer Larry Groupé was one of five professionals who came to campus to speak and work with students.

“I was very impressed with the level of musicianship of the MSU students I saw,” says Groupé. “Their questions for me were intelligent and astute.”

Undergraduate student Tom Rudnitsky was equally energized by Running Start events and was among hundreds of students who gained valuable insights for musical careers.

“Classical music is a very tradition-bound field, and traditional career paths are becoming less viable,” says Rudnitsky. “I think the entrepreneurial mindset will be an essential asset for musicians who find success today and in the future.”

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