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Performing Arts School Program Information and Options

Students enrolled in bachelor's-level performing arts programs have several concentration options, such as dance, music or theater. Within these program fields, students may further their interests with many diverse specialization areas.

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Essential Information

Students interested in a theater program will typically pursue a Bachelor of Arts in Theater, or a Bachelor of Fine Arts with a concentration in theater. Dance students have the option to pursue a Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, or Bachelor of Fine Arts, and finally, students of the music program may pursue a Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Fine Arts, or Bachelor of Music in different concentration areas. Some program specializations include theater management, dance style concentration, jazz studies, and instrumental performance.

A high school diploma is required to apply to these programs, and may also require an audition, work samples, and completed coursework depending on the student's concentration area.


Bachelor's Degree in Theater

Students interested in pursuing a theater degree will earn either a Bachelor of Arts in Theater or a Bachelor of Fine Arts with a theater concentration. Many BFA theater majors elect to take this option because it allows them to specialize in theater while taking a concentration or second major in a related field such as dance or music. Theater programs focus not only on acting, but directing, design (such as lighting, costume, and set), and history of theater. Within the theater discipline, students may elect to pursue a concentration in theater management, which typically puts more emphasis on theater literature, theater history, and directing.

Although previous theater training is not required for entrance to most programs, it can be beneficial, as many bachelor's degree programs in theater require students to audition for placement in the program, and will typically require additional auditions for casting in student theater workshops and performances. Additionally, students wishing to pursue a design concentration in theater, such as set design, costume design or lighting design, may be required to provide photographs, design drawings or samples of work.

Bachelor's programs in theater usually require around 64 hours of core coursework, in addition to students' general education courses. Depending on the concentration (performance, design, or management), students will be required to take elective courses that help develop skills in their chosen area. Typical theater program courses include:

  • Introduction to theater
  • Directing
  • Acting
  • History of theater
  • Lighting and scenic design
  • Stage movement

Bachelor's Degree in Dance

Students wishing to pursue a bachelor's degree in dance have several degree options: a B.A., B.S. or BFA in dance emphasizes skills necessary to become a dancer or choreographer, while a B.A., B.S., or BFA in dance education prepares students for careers as dance teachers. Within these programs, students may focus on a dance concentration, such as ballet, modern dance or dance production (typically a variety of dance and movement styles used in large-scale productions such as theater or opera). All dance majors must complete intermediate dance courses in ballet, modern dance, and movement, regardless of their concentration.

Acceptance to a dance program is usually contingent upon an audition; therefore, previous dance experience is usually necessary for admittance. Many programs weigh students' abilities and, on acceptance, some students may be required to complete additional dance coursework depending on the proficiency demonstrated at their auditions.

Bachelor's programs in dance typically require around 64 hours of coursework, in addition to the students' general education courses. Required dance coursework for most programs include:

  • Ballet
  • Modern dance
  • Dance production, technique, and composition
  • Kinesiology
  • Music

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Bachelor's Degree in Music

Musicians wishing to pursue a bachelor's degree have many options available to them, depending on their area of interest. Students may choose a Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Fine Arts or Bachelor of Music in instrumental performance, vocal performance, music composition, music business or music theory. Some schools even offer degrees with concentrations in areas such as jazz studies and contemporary music. Bachelor's degree programs in music not only focus on the performance aspect of music, but practical and academic areas such as theory, composition and music history.

Acceptance to many music degree programs is contingent upon an audition; therefore, previous music training is typically necessary for program admittance. Students who elect to pursue specific concentrations, such as jazz studies or composition, may be required to meet additional requirements, such as present samples of their own compositions or audition with a pre-approved piece of music specific to the area of concentration.

Students who pursue a bachelor's program in music must typically complete around 64 hours of coursework, in addition to their general education requirements. Depending on the concentration, students may have to complete specialized courses in areas such as performance of a specific instrument (such as piano, percussion, or saxophone) or in vocal technique, composition, or music studies. Typical music program coursework includes:

  • Applied music
  • Music history
  • Composition
  • Music theory
  • Piano

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Theater majors go into careers in theater, film and television, as well as at festivals and in theme parks. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov), acting job openings may increase 10% for the years 2014 through 2024. In 2015, actors made a median hourly wage of $18.80, according to the BLS.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of dancers is expected to grow slowly, with jobs expected to increase by 5% between 2014 and 2024. Employment of choreographers is expected to increase by 6% for the same period. In 2015, the median hourly income for dancers and choreographers was $16.85.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a 3% job growth was projected for musicians and singers for the years 2014 through 2024. The median hourly wage for these workers was $24.20 as of 2015.

Continuing Education Information

Graduates of a B.A. in Theater or a BFA Performing Arts with a theater concentration may go on to pursue graduate studies in theater. Typically, those who earn doctoral degrees in theater go on to teaching positions or theater management jobs. Students interested in theater management may also elect to pursue a master's degree in theater management.

Graduates of bachelor's programs in dance may decide to pursue a master's degree in dance performance or dance education. Others may elect to obtain a master's degree in performance arts administration, which can lead to management-level positions with dance or other performing arts companies.

Although a degree is not required to work in the performing arts, formal training can help advance an individual's career, and the type of degree pursued will largely depend upon students' career goals.

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