A potential college student interested in pursuing the performing arts as a career or hobby may not look to a community college as their first choice in realizing that dream. However, many community colleges nationwide offer state-of-the-art facilities and first-class instructors in theatre and music today. Whether you are looking for a college major program or simply a place to ham it up onstage after class time, a community college might be the perfect place to explore your creative side.
The Benefits of Music in Higher Education
Music is a beneficial component to add to the higher education experience, whether it is a major course of study or something to enjoy on the side. According to Tarpley Music, some of the benefits of music in education at any level include:
- Social Benefits – Studies show that students who participate in some sort of music program while in school have a lower incidence of drug, alcohol and tobacco abuse.
- Scholastic Benefits – Music students also tend to score higher on standardized examinations, whether in primary, secondary or post-secondary schools. They also earn more “A’s” and “B’s” in their coursework than students who are not in music.
- Behavioral Benefits – Research from the National Data Resource Center shows that students in music programs are less likely to be classified as “disruptive” in school
- Intellectual Benefits – One study suggested that music training is superior to computer training in enhancing abstract reasoning skills used in math and science courses.
- Quality of Life Benefits – Music introduces students to the world around them in unique and creative ways.
This video offers a look at Barstow Community College's Performing Arts Center.
Community colleges offer a wide range of music programs for interested students, from instrumental music instruction to fully-equipped recording studios. Many students graduate from a two-year program prepared to launch a successful music career or transfer to a four-year program where they can continue their music studies. Some find that the ability to indulge in music at a community college, without majoring in the subject, is a nice way to enhance their college experience overall.
Why Study Theatre at Community College?
A robust theatre department is another attractive feature at many community colleges today. Many of these schools allow students to participate in productions whether or not they are majoring in the subject. In addition to the fun of performing onstage, there are many benefits of theatre exploration, including:
- Academic Performance – Students who participate in theatre have been shown to earn higher marks in school than those who do not.
- Public Speaking Skills – Public speaking is an important component to many successful careers today, and theatre classes and performances effectively enhance public speaking skills
- Self-Confidence – Students who spend time on stage develop self confidence that will take them far in any career field they choose.
- Teamwork – as a member of an ensemble, those who participate in theatre show they can work well with others on a team.
- Ability to Take Constructive Criticism – Through work in a production, students learn to take direction and accept feedback on their performance.
In addition to the benefits listed here, the website for St. Norbert College also offers some reasons to pursue theatre in school, including:
- Alternative views of society and cultures
- Greater communication skills with groups and individuals
- Exploration of creativity
- Increased awareness of self-image and communication styles
- Increased appreciation of the performing arts overall
Students receive many of these benefits whether they major in theatre or simply take part in the occasional production or theatre course. Those skills learned from the stage can go with them into nearly any sort of professional environment, improving their odds for success in whatever career they choose.
How to Choose a Performing Arts Program
Whether you are choosing your school with a performing arts major in mind, or simply want to take part in some of the offerings while studying other subjects, choosing the right school will make all the difference in your quality of education. Once you find a school that offers a performing arts program, research further to find out where their focus in the field might be. For example, some schools might focus more on critique and theory, while others primarily train for performance. By researching the focus of the program, you can rest assured the school you choose will cater to your specific needs.
The University of Wisconsin La Crosse website offers additional questions for those seeking a school with a performance arts program:
This video offers an overview of the performing arts programs at Waubonsee Community College.
What is the division of the program?
A theatre major might include performance, theory, technical theatre and history. Find out how the coursework is divided to ensure you gain sufficient knowledge in the specific area in which you are interested.
What are the credentials of the faculty?
Whether you are interested in studying film, theatre or music, it is important to learn from instructors who have worked in the field and hold significant credentials. Some may continue to work in their area of specialty part-time while they are teaching. Some may have connections in the professional world and can help students gain practical experience in the industry.
Where do students go after they graduate from your program?
Did they find work in their chosen field, or were they able to transfer easily into a four-year program? Ask about graduates that are working in music or theatre now to determine whether the program is able to churn out performance-ready graduates.
What is the ratio of students to instructors?
Time for individual instruction is essential for those who want to be successful in the performing arts. The advantage to a community college is that classes are often smaller, allowing for more interaction between the instructors and students.
Can I participate even if I my major is not in performing arts?
For those who simply want to enjoy participation in the occasional concert or production, this question is essential to the quality of their college experience.
By researching programs carefully before choosing a school, you can rest assured the community college you select will provide you with the performing arts background you seek.
Top Theatre Programs at Community Colleges
College Explorer estimates that there are around 1,000 schools nationwide offering film and theatre degrees, including technical and community colleges. With many choices available, it is much more likely you can find a quality program right in your own area. To get you started, we have a list of some of the top community college programs in theatre around the country.
Seminole State College
This Florida school offers and Associate of Arts Degree in Theatre that allows students to easily transfer to a four-year school once the associate program is completed. According to the school’s website, Seminole State College offers students the chance to work “side-by-side with instructors, peers and accomplished theatre professionals from the Central Florida area.” The program provides opportunities for plenty of production experience, as well as smaller class sizes and more personalized instruction.
Glendale Community College
Those who want to learn about the theatre industry in close proximity to the glitz and glamor of Hollywood, Glendale Community College is the place to be. This school offers connections to both the local theatre and film communities, and many of the Glendale students work within their chosen industry even while they are still in school. The theatre department also boasts close relationships with both the music and dance departments, and the three come together at least once a year to create a full-scale musical production, according to the college website.
Kansas City Kansas Community College
The theatre department at Kansas City Kansas Community College has recently been revamped to provide students with a more professional environment that prepares them for life beyond school. Class sizes are small, so students enjoy personal attention from a faculty that includes some of the best professional actors, designers and technicians in the Kansas City area. According to the school’s website, the theatre department “encourages students to seek out and develop interdisciplinary pursuits among the visual and performing arts areas.”
State Fair Community College
A brand new venue and rave reviews from area educators highlight the website for Missouri’s State Fair Community College. Michael Beam, a theatre director for a nearby high school, states, “With one of the finest theatres in the state, an incredible acting director/teacher, and a technical designer/designer that can’t be beat, SFCC has put together an unbeatable theatre program. If a student of mine wants a smaller theatre program where they are sure to be cast often and well, I always recommend SFCC. I’ve been teaching theatre for nearly 30 years, and for the cost, this is, hands down, the best theatre program in Missouri.”
Top Music Programs at Community Colleges
Music program also abound at community colleges nationwide. Many have state-of-the-art recording facilities, as well as opportunities for live performances with a variety of ensembles. Students can find degree programs that prepare them for a professional career or transfer to a four-year program. Others simply find a place where they can nurture their musical abilities while studying other subjects. Check out some of the most popular music programs at community colleges today.
Lane Community College
Lane Community College is a place where students can explore music for a wide range of reasons, including preparation for performance, transfer to a four-year program or sheer enjoyment. According to the college website, the music program is designed to “help students develop themselves musically on many different levels.” The department is currently ranked #3 among community college music programs nationwide and has the largest community college program in the state of Oregon. With plenty of instrumental and vocal ensembles to choose from, this school offers something for everyone.
Mesa Community College
Arizona residents interested in pursuing music for fun or profit will find a high quality program at Mesa Community College. According to the school’s website, the MCC music department “provides an environment that is innovative, responsive, adaptable and inclusive.” The school offer preparation for a wide range of music careers, including:
- Private instruction
The music department provides opportunities in vocal and instrumental music, as well as musical theatre. Students may participate in ensembles and productions whether they are a music major or choosing an entirely different course of study.
Mt. Hood Community College
In addition to Lane Community College, Oregon residents can also choose Mt. Hood Community College for their musical training. According to Mt. Hood’s website, the school has been “developing world class musicians for over four decades.” Some of the graduates of Mt. Hood’s music program have gone on to play with world-class musicians like Woody Herman, Mel Torme, Diana Ross, Herbie Hancock, Frank Sinatra, Harry Connick Jr., Liza Minelli and Wynton Marsalis. Others have played in Las Vegas showrooms, symphonies and orchestras nationwide and cruise ships. The school offers a degree program and ensembles in both instrumental and vocal music.
McLennan Community College
Students living in the Southwest can also find a quality music program at McLennan Community College in Texas. This school states on its website that it has been training first-class musicians for more than 40 years, and it offers a wide range of training options, including commercial music for those interested in getting in on the business end of the industry. Students at the school have the opportunity to perform in large ensembles for the McLennan community and study privately with music professionals associated with the school. Former students of McLennan teach and perform throughout the country.
The performing arts are a wonderful way to enhance the college experience, whether they are embraced as a major field of study or enjoyed on the side as an extracurricular activity during the college years. Fortunately, high quality music and theatre programs are not restricted to four-year institutions today. Community colleges across the country are offering high quality degree programs in theatre and music that prepare students for professional careers or transfer to a bachelor’s degree program. If you dream of life in front of an audience, or working behind the scenes, check out what your local community college has to offer.
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