Your Road Map to Success in Art, Culinary or Music School

General Education

Follow Your Passion to Success in Art, Culinary or Music School

Love baking? Are you a passionate musician? Does the thought of doing anything besides painting fill you with dread? Sometimes finding your passion is the easy part, but how you follow through after high school might be less obvious. Fortunately, there are great art, culinary and music schools that offer a variety of programs for you to choose from, but also give you the opportunity to perfect your craft and build a reputation to successfully launch a career.

The keys to your specialty in art, music or culinary school

When considering art, culinary or music school, it's important to consider your specific interests. No matter what school you decide to attend, you'll need to choose a specialty, like in music.

"Majoring in music involves choosing a specific field," said Ysabel Sarte, an adjunct music instructor at Texas A&M University, in an e-mail. "The most common ones are: performance, education, theory/composition, history, therapy, and business/management. The first two years of your undergrad are going to be the same regardless of your major (lots of core and general ed classes). After that, though, the training and courses veer off in different directions and become more specialized."

Art and culinary schools also require you to choose an area of focus. In art school, you'll need to first choose between fine art (painting, sculpture, etc.) and commercial art (graphic design, fashion, etc.), before selecting your speciality. Culinary schools often offer two tracks: one in culinary arts (which includes courses on baking) and one on baking and pastry arts (which focuses entirely on baking).

But don't worry if you're not exactly sure which program is for you. Choosing a school with a wide variety of programs will give you exposure to various coursework. Once you enter school, you'll be able to focus in the area that interests you.

Burning the midnight oil

Aaron Roosevelt, a visual effects artist at Electronic Arts, graduated from The Art Institutes in 2006. Following his passion to school for video game design gave him a chance to develop a portfolio in art school that would also let future employers know about his capabilities. Preparing a portfolio can be important to success in art school but also in securing a job afterward.

"I know it's cliché, but you get out of art school what you put in," Roosevelt said in an e-mail. "You really have to give it 150 percent. If you think you have free time while you're in art school, you're going to realllllly find a LOT of free time when you get out. That's because while you might think you have a time to relax, your classmates are burning the candle at both ends to make the most superior portfolio they can."

"At the end of the day, you have to always remember that your classmates are the ones who you will be competing with for jobs. The one with the best portfolio will usually win out."

Whether your portfolio includes culinary presentations, musical arrangements, photographs or other components, school is where you can start to create a reputation that can follow you into your career.

Networking, networking, networking

Being successful in art, culinary or music school is not just about the coursework, it's also about whom you meet. Sarte, the adjunct music instructor at Texas A&M, said that networking was a catalyst for gaining entry into grad school and obtaining a teaching assistantship. It was also important in helping her acquire her first professional orchestral performance and a position as assistant dean of students for the collegiate division of an elite summer music program in North Carolina.

"The truth of the matter is that no matter what field in music you pursue, so many of the jobs are attained through 'knowing people who know people' and a GREAT deal of that, early on, is done during your schooling years," she said.

This statement is backed up by Roosevelt, the visual effects artist at Electronic Arts. He attributed his success to networking connections made at school.

"School was super helpful for fostering job opportunities," he said. "Not only did it give me a forum to show off my work, but the networking I did while there was crucial to me getting my job at EA. I was recommended to them by a former classmate."

Continuing passion is essential

Whether going to art, culinary or music school, one thing is certain: Passion is essential to your personal success and to your professional advancement. Take it from Brittany Ferrar, a California Culinary Academy graduate who now works at Sante Restaurant in Sonoma, Calif.

"Make sure you really love cooking and that it is your passion," she said. "Because if not, it will not be easy to do. It's hard work: hot, and fast-paced in the kitchen - not at all a relaxing job. You've got to want it to get better."

Whether it's art, the culinary field or music, it really comes down to dedication to your passion.

"Really LOVE music," Sarte said. "If you don't, you will be miserable. The schooling is difficult and, in a way, is designed to weed people out who shouldn't be a music major . . . . If you truly love it and want to contribute something positive to the field, then you will be great. All the hard work and sacrifice will be worth it. I promise!"




Ysabel Sarte, adjunct instructor of Music at Texas A&M, explains that there are really three different types of music schools you can apply to:

2-year (community) college: This type of education can help you to get your feet wet, give you some experience in music classes and can potentially lead you to transfer into a 4-year program. While you can gain an associate degree in music, it could be more beneficial to complete a 4-year degree.

4-year college/university: Most music majors choose one of these as a top option. Almost all universities have a music department or music school of some kind. However, these schools offer different types of program majors and you might find variances in each.

Conservatory: These music programs are much more performance intensive and demanding. There is much less attention given to non-music related subjects (such as English, math, science, etc.) than you would find through a traditional college or university program. Conservatories are often small and can be difficult to gain entry into.