My child wants to be an actor, so now what? What type of training do they need, and how can I best prepare them for life in the arts? Does my child really have the talent to make it? How much will this all cost? What about a back-up plan?
If you are asking yourself these questions, you are not alone. We hear them all the time. We have worked with thousands of students and their parents over the past nearly forty years, and one common thread remains true — deciding on pursuing a career in the dramatic arts is a big life decision for your child — and for you.
While it may seem daunting, and a career full of challenges, pursuing a life in the arts can be extremely rewarding. Contributing to the cultural fabric of our society through the arts can be a vehicle for self-expression — moving and inspiring others through the craft of acting. It’s a calling — one that some know from childhood they are born to pursue. Some others will discover their talent through their drama teacher in secondary school, or a favorite movie or play. However it happens, it’s a passion that is life-changing.
In our work with students’ parents, we’ve found that helping your child pursue their dreams of a life in the arts involves understanding what challenges they may be up against, and how to best prepare them for professional training as they begin the next phase of following their passion. Here are a few thoughts on questions you may have.
Does my child have the talent to make it?
The New York Conservatory’s audition process is designed to provide acting skills evaluation and development through intensive one-on-one group coaching environments. We provide direct and honest feedback — not only to support our evaluation criteria for admissions — but also to help prospective students and their parents answer this question for themselves in a supportive and constructive environment. Talent reveals itself through hard work. A better question would be — Does my child have the discipline to succeed at whatever they choose to do?
What are the chances my child will get a job?
This is one of the most common questions we hear from prospective parents. Our number one goal is to provide our students with the professional training necessary to prepare for successful careers, not just giving them an acting “experience.” Like most things in life, to achieve your goals you need to work and work hard. It may not be the first few auditions that land the big opportunity, it could take a hundred. Having that perseverance and total belief in yourself and your skills can make the difference. As with any path of study, whether or not you end up working in your studied field depends on many factors.
What about a four-year college? Don’t they need a back-up plan?
Any actor will tell you, “If you can think of anything else you’d like to do, go do it.” Acting is a very competitive field. People choose careers in the arts because they don’t want to do anything else. Lots of professions are difficult, but only artists are constantly asked about a back-up plan. At the New York Conservatory, we share the investment in each student’s career and dream. We are 100 percent student-focused, existing to build a community for students where the sole purpose is to prepare them to go out and pursue work. And, the sooner your child can start their career, the better. Having professional acting training is important to landing jobs, however a four-year degree is not.
Unlike some four-year colleges, we aren’t trying to build a department, or answering to institutional funding bodies (like most non-profit schools do). We’re not really a “destination,” but rather a path forward within our student’s career track.
All students graduate with an Associate Degree and the tools in hand to get work — including a professional reel or musical theater repertoire and a network of industry contacts. If a student chooses not to start their acting career at this time, we do have articulation relationships with several four-year colleges to allow our graduates to enter as juniors in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in the arts.
Do professional schools hold weight in the industry?
The industry looks very favorably upon students coming out of professional training programs. Why? From casting directors to talent agents to directors, the industry wants actors who already have the intensive professional training that prepares them for the rigors of life on set or on stage. Students who graduate from a two-year program have this, as well as a head start over those in four-year degree programs. An undergraduate degree takes four years because of the general education requirements. A conservatory does away with those classes, focusing solely on acquiring the skills employers are seeking.
Is New York City safe?
New York City is the most respected actor training ground in the country, and despite what many may think, one of the safest big cities as well. Based on the city’s recent past, New Yorkers are alert and watching out for one another, and police presence is large and expert. Our student housing is located on East 3rd Street in the East Village, a half-hour walk from campus through the busy heart of Manhattan. The route takes students through the NYU campus and Union Square. Our residence is comfortable and safe, with entrance attended by security guards 24/7/365, live-in RA’s on each floor, and a close community of New York Conservatory students.
What is the training really like?
In The New York Conservatory environment, students work all day, every day strictly on their craft. In a way, we are also a continuation of the home “nest.” Due to the small size of the student body and our personalized attention, no student can slip through the cracks. We have a laser focus on developing our students’ ability to be responsible and accountable, and we employ a mentoring approach to developing self-management skills. If a student is late to class, the doors are locked and they won’t be let in. If they’re absent, students will receive a call directly from me. Why? Professional productions expect actors to be on time and ready to go when action is called. We help our students become actors that the industry wants to work with.
How is The New York Conservatory different than other two-year programs out there?
The New York Conservatory was the first two-year degree-granting acting program in NYC — we’ve been doing this longer than anyone else. Through this journey, we have developed our own unique approach and curriculum to help students get ready to launch into an industry that is in a constant state of change. Yesterday’s methods of landing jobs and building a career are not today’s. We prepare our students to enter the field as it is right now, with a faculty comprised of working actors, who teach a living curriculum that changes each year to reflect the industry. But perhaps what really makes us different is how much we invest in our students.
Is this the right choice?
The most important question is one only your family can answer. As you have read, a life as an actor is not for everyone. Over the years, we have seen that our approach yields the best results when students have the full support of their families. If you don’t think your child has what it takes, then maybe you shouldn’t invest in them. If you know they can’t get up in the morning or that they lack self-discipline, this career path may not be for them. But if you know your child was born to do this, then let’s join forces and provide everything they need to turn their potential into a career.
We hope this helps address some of the questions you may have as your child embarks on their journey into the professional world of the dramatic arts. We welcome the opportunity to meet you in person at one of our next auditions or our frequent Open Houses in New York City. You can also set up an individual time to come tour our school and meet with me. In the meantime, we wish you and your child the best in this exciting, meaningful and rewarding career path.