Thursday, August 29, 2013

Michael Josephson: Competition in the arts

  Competition often brings out the best performance but it doesn’t always bring out the best in people.

  Even in the arts, actors, singers, dancers, and musicians must survive and thrive in a competitive community as rude and rough as any. Ambitious parents often introduce toxic gamesmanship and back-biting attitudes very early as their children are judged and ranked by the awards they receive, the parts they get, and the schools they are admitted to.

  Every aspect has a competitive element, and everything matters — how many lines you have in a play, whether you are first, second, or third chair in an orchestra, and whether you are placed in the center or side in a dance number – and everyone wants a monologue or solo.

  So we had mixed emotions when our daughter Aby was offered a scholarship to the renowned Interlochen Center for the Arts Summer Camp. She wants to have a career in performing arts, so we couldn’t deny her the opportunity to receive world-class training and intermingle with some of the most talented young people in the world.

  We knew it would be an enriching experience likely to result in lifelong memories and possibly career-enhancing skill development, but we worried whether the experience would enhance or undermine her confidence, whether fear of rejection would prevent the joy of participation, and whether she would be taught to think of her fellow campers as friends or foes. Would they teach her techniques for getting an edge in a dog-eat-dog profession?

  We knew she had been up for the lead in “Jane Eyre” but was ultimately given a small part. So when I went to see the final production, I was nervous.

  I was relieved, delighted, and frankly surprised to see how she had flourished. She was excited and happy. She loved her director (J. W. Morrissette, Chair of the Theatre Studies Program at the University of Illinois) and her play mates, and she made friends with dozens of amazingly talented and apparently really decent kids in every field of the arts.

  It was no accident, and it couldn’t have been easy.

  Despite the extraordinary aptitude, endowments, and early achievements of these remarkably talented young people, only a small percentage will accomplish their career goals in the cold, competitive world ahead.

  And while I can’t vouch for all the programs at Interlochen (as each seems to be run like a separate school), I did talk to some of the administrators and was encouraged and impressed by their commitment to preparing these budding and blooming artists for the hard realities of the professional world, and to doing so in the context of a social and learning ethos that cultivates their love and appreciation for their art, nurtures their human qualities, encourages them to be mutually supportive, and helps them become better balanced, better people. That itself was an impressive performance – five stars!

  About the author: Michael Josephson is one of the nation’s most sought-after and quoted ethicists. Founder and president of Josephson Institute and its CHARACTER COUNTS! project, he has conducted programs for more than 100,000 leaders in government, business, education, sports, law enforcement, journalism, law, and the military. Mr. Josephson is also an award-winning radio commentator.

  This article was published by the Josephson Institute.

No comments:

Post a Comment