CTE and the Performing Arts

By Huston, Pat | Techniques, April 2015 | Go to article overview

CTE and the Performing Arts


Huston, Pat, Techniques


ENVISION NO MELODIES, DANCE, COSTUMES, CHOREOGRAPHY Colorful lights, or creative backdrops. No live theatre or movies. No Super Bowl half-time show. No Grammys. No Oscars.

Performing arts professionals Tatiana Owens, Sean Gannon, Jackson Gallagher and their career and technical education (CTE) teachers, administrators and state leaders can't. They, in fact, want more. In an economic environment emphasizing in-demand jobs, they are waging a battle not only to keep, but to elevate, those areas that most Americans enjoy but take for granted.

The U.S. Department of Education, Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE), categorizes performing arts within the Arts, Audiovisual Technology & Communications Career Cluster. Around the country, performing arts is known by such names as Arts and Communication and Visual and Performing Arts, among others. Among the 16 nationally recognized Career Clusters, performance programs are often thought of as the "stepchild." the one that multitudes want to see and hear and many secretly wish to be--except for the lack of a structured schedule, regular income and a house in the suburbs.

This story is about the value of CTE performing arts education in the United States. It is about local and state CTE leaders and performers who are working not only to keep dance, music, acting and stagecraft alive, but also to make it thrive. The focus is on what is happening in Ohio and New Jersey, but it is applicable to other states as well.

What CTE Performer Alumni Say

Tatiana Owens, 22, describes herself as "a female version of Bruno Mars." Taking a break from applying makeup and twisting strands of her hair into waves for a 1920s off-Broadway role, she explains that she is most at home being "very funk and R&B," but she can be pop if she needs the money. Mars, widely recognized for his mainstream songs "Just the Way You Are" and "Uptown Funk," is narrowly known for his more extensive reggae, hip-hop and rap. Owens hails from a Toledo, Ohio, CTE program and lives in a loft in upstate New York. She is a singer who acts, dances and writes music.

Sean Gannon, 25, a graduate of a New Jersey CTE program, lives in a small apartment across the Hudson River with a clear view of the New York City skyline. Five days a week he takes a 15-minute bus ride from Hoboken to Times Square, arriving before 8 a.m. and walking past more than 100 performing artist hopefuls to his job with a casting company. When he is not in his steady position that pays the rent and provides health insurance, he's a dancer and a dance teacher.

Across the Atlantic Ocean, 23-year-old Jackson Gallagher answers a knock on the door. Tonight, his dinner is Indian fare. He eats and relaxes in a London hotel room just before setting up visual effects for alt-J, a British indie rock band. Tomorrow, it will be less appetizing food with 16 people riding and sleeping in a tour bus. After four years as an actor, singer and dancer, he studied stagecraft in an Ohio CTE program and is a video technician/designer.

These three 20-something entertainment industry professionals, who have never met, are working in a risky, highly competitive, fast-paced career full of rewards and disappointments. They say achievement and success are surer bets for those who hone their talents and skills in a CTE program than for the teens balancing private lessons and single fine arts classes in traditional high schools.

CTE Performing Arts Status and Jobs

In a national climate that emphasizes more plentiful, higher-wage jobs in industries like information technology, health and engineering, CTE performing arts programs struggle for air, clamoring for local, state and national attention. An informal survey conducted by Ohio in the summer of 2014 revealed that most of the nation's CTE programs had moved away from performing arts to fine arts, where the emphasis is more on appreciation and less on making a living. …

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