By: Grasan Kingsberry
Before I dive deeper into what life after attending a conservatory can be, I want to preface it by saying that there are many pathways to achieve success. What works for one person does not automatically guarantee that it will work for all conservatory students. Understanding that our experiences are uniquely designed for us for our own personal growth, development, and unfoldment will put you in the driver’s seat of your life.
I will share with you what they don’t often teach you in liberal arts colleges or conservatories. Through sharing my personal and professional experiences it is my hope that I can impart some wisdom, guidance, or even help inspire the idea of possibility and potentiality after a traditional college experience or performing arts conservatory.
If you have attended or are currently attending a conservatory for the arts, I commend you on your achievements! It’s a wonderful time to invest in your craft, understand your instrument more, refine your techniques, and ultimately become a better artist through a conservatory program. So, now that you’ve completed your collegiate career, received more training, experienced some growth, it is time to enter “the real world!”
Understanding Who You Are as a Person
One thing I felt I was struggling with after I graduated was “who am I?” An existential question I’m sure most humans ask themselves at some point in their lives, but artists ask this question frequently. That’s because arts students are constant seekers of information, knowledge, and experiences. We’re able to use that and transmute those experiences into our work to make art. But knowing who you are takes time, and work. Time to have fully lived experiences, as well as time for self-discovery, self-reflection, self-love, and self-care, which requires doing inner work.
As artists, it is our job and duty to reveal and tell the truth. To authentically be ourselves and share our stories through art. And in order to tell that truth, you have to have an understanding of what truth means for you. What are the things that are most important to you in your life? What daily routines can you adopt to maintain your peace of mind? What is your relationship to creativity and how readily can you access it for yourself? What inspires you? What moves you to tears? Once you understand who you are as a person, you’ll have a better understanding of who you are as an artist, and what you have to offer.
The Power of Visualization and Imagination
Most of my life I’ve had an imaginative mind, which definitely serves me well as an artist. Moreover, it has served me in setting my goals, hopes, and dreams…and reaching them! There can be great power in being able to visualize, feel, and see yourself in the dream, doing the thing(s) you most love or want to do. Deciding on what dreams to pursue in your life is a personal decision based on desire, drive, and dedication. Once you have an idea of what you want to do post-graduation, visualize that dream job, or the end goal, and embody the feeling of what it would be like. Feeling as though you already have it will help in your manifestation process, but it still takes work on your part.
Let’s say your dream is to be a Broadway performer or a member of a dance company. From where you currently are (point A) to the point of reaching your goal (point B), there will be a series of steps you will have to take. No step is more important than the next one right in front of you, so don’t fret or worry about the end game. Your job is to put your focus on each step so that once completed, you can confidently move onto the next one, and closer to your goal. Ask yourself, what do I need to do to prepare myself for this goal? And be honest with yourself.
I knew that in order for me to be fully ready to enter the world of Broadway, I needed to study music and create a strong vocal book for the audition process, and I needed to hone in on my acting chops. So my advice would be to work on your weaknesses and the things that make you most uncomfortable because that’s when you grow and become better.
Using Your Voice in a Powerful Way
I am a proponent of mentorship, allyship, brother, sister, and siblinghood. In other words, I think it’s perfectly fine to find someone doing the thing that you want to be doing, or that interests you, and reach out to them. Share with them who you are, that you are interested in learning more about whatever it is they’re doing—and be specific. Ask if they would be interested and willing to give you some advice, shadow them on a project, or point you in the direction where someone could help you. Some will respond, and some may not, but that’s all part of networking.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Creating Your Personal and Professional Network
Your personal network should be the people who help inspire you, support your dreams and goals, and keep it 100% truthful too. These people can be, but are not limited to, relatives, chosen family, friends, colleagues, even an agent or manager. Think of these folks as your hype crew, people who build you up, hold you accountable when necessary, and are there for you when you most need them.
Your professional network will be the people you come in contact with through the biz via auditions, workshops & master classes, or previous jobs. These should be people with whom you have a great working relationship, whether they are teachers, a faculty member you’ve worked with, or former colleagues. Once you’ve made that connection with those working professionals, save their contact information in the event you want to reach out to them later.
For example, I saw a breakdown for an audition that a colleague of mine was choreographing, and because I had his contact information I reached out to him to share my interest in the project. From that message I sent to him, I was able to secure an appointment to audition!
Another example: I worked with this person over 15 years ago on a Broadway show. At the time he was the associate choreographer of the project we were both working on. Fast-forward to this year, he reached out to me to be the lead of a new show that he is now directing and choreographing!
We cannot achieve our dreams and become successful solely by ourselves. Work begets work—particularly when you’re respectful, reliable, professional, and just a good person to be around.
Ultimately, It is Your Journey and Your Choices to Make
I have an acting coach that tells his students, “There are no wrong choices…although there are better choices.” In the decision-making process we are often faced with this dilemma of making a choice: Do I go for the thing that scares me and challenges me? Or do I go for the thing that I’m most familiar and comfortable with? Do I go towards hope, love, and inspiration, or away from fear, doubt, and worry?
Obviously, going for the things that challenge you will help accelerate your growth, but you have to go and grow at your own pace, making sure the foundations and fundamentals are all there before choosing to move on to a more challenging task. No matter what career path you choose for yourself, honor your choice and commit to being the best you can be. Remember that it is your uniquely yours, your own experience. Listen to your heart, follow inspiration, focus, and trust the process.
Learn more about attending the CLI Conservatory, our faculty, and what the program has to offer!