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How are Students Finding Entertainment Technology Colleges in 2019?

Discussion in 'Education and Career Development' started by JohnHuntington, Feb 6, 2019.

  1. JohnHuntington

    JohnHuntington Active Member

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    Back in the dawn of time, when I was looking for a college, I got the printed Theatre Crafts directory of colleges and went through every listing. Being methodical, I found like 6 schools and forced my parents to take me to visit them all. Soon to be college students, or parents of college-age kids, how are you all finding show biz tech colleges to consider in the Internet age?

    Why am I asking? One of my sabbatical projects is revisiting an article I wrote 17 years ago, "Rethinking Entertainment Technology Education" (linked below) and I want to pick several schools and examine their curricula, and I'd like to pick a few that are somehow objectively the "top" schools for live entertainment technology. All I've found so far are some listicles that aren't really clear/open about their methodology.

    Here's the 2002 article:
    http://controlgeek.net/articles-and...nking-entertainment-technology-education.html
     
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  2. sk8rsdad

    sk8rsdad Well-Known Member Premium Member Fight Leukemia

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    In my neck of the woods it's mostly by reputation. The theatre tech schools with the best reputation are clustered around the big theatre destinations, aka Toronto and Montreal. Sheridan, and York University are the big names in Ontario with Ryerson making the list for performance and broadcasting. This article mostly nails it https://www.onstageblog.com/columns/2018/2/12/the-best-theatre-colleges-in-canada-for-2018. I suspect Vancouver has a few feeding BC's film industry.
     
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  3. MNicolai

    MNicolai Well-Known Member Fight Leukemia

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    At first I was accepted to Millikin, which I chose based on recommendations from industry friends. Ended up turning them down in favor of an engineering program. Wanted an education I could leverage for a more consistent workload and a higher paying position with benefits. Did the engineering thing for two years before needing to scratch the itch and transferred to a state school for theater design/tech.

    When I transferred, my decision was based on looking for something with a roadhouse venue and an academic venue. I wanted more experience hands-on with professional-level events. In my case I stayed close to home because I also wanted to maintain my existing relationships with other regional roadhouse venues. The top theater school in the state would've been a decent alternative but it was isolated and in the woods. I would've gotten a better design education but would have forfeited all of the outside experience and internships.

    The school's roadhouse venue funneled me into an AV design/build firm, which funneled me into a larger consulting firm.

    I have no empirical data to support this but it seemed like the students who were engaged in outside internships and overhire work have stayed in the industry moreso than students who were largely engaged just in the academic productions.
     
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  4. chawalang

    chawalang Active Member

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    I have to agree with MNicola, I am about to finish an MFA in Technical Production and from what I have seen students who branch beyond the institution tend to be the ones who stick with it. Like him I have no empirical data to draw this from but in my time between under grad and grad school this seemed to be a constant I saw over and over again in my career in various environments. Not to say if you stick to just the academic environment you will not be successful, I just noticed that those who tend to have that go getter attitude that is vital in our industry go beyond the academic environment and seek other opportunities.

    I can say from my experience looking at grad schools, I did some research online then attended USITT and just walked around and talked to schools to get a feel if they interested me. I felt that this was a better experience than if I went to URTA, keep in mind this is the mind set of someone who was out working for a decade before returning to school for graduate work.
     
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  5. macsound

    macsound Well-Known Member

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    Maybe an overarching question, but spurred by your thread, what do you learn getting a masters in Technical Production or degree in Theatre in general?
    Also realize I never finished college and only took 1 theatre related class, so I don't quite understand how college works.
     
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  6. chawalang

    chawalang Active Member

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    That is a very good question, that is actually a huge question I see a lot of undergrads asking themselves right now. Speaking for myself I am getting an MFA for two reasons, the first is that I do eventually want to go into academia. I do want to work for at least 10 more years once I am done with school but my end game is to eventually leave the industry and teach at a University. The second reason is that I had hit a metaphorical wall in my career, I did not have a background in drafting and entertainment engineering/ structural engineering/ mechanical engineering, it made sense to me to go back to school to further myself to progress in my career. Plus I wanted to do a job where I use more brain as oppose to muscle as I get older.

    Now that I see people who are between 18-22 go to school I see a lot of them question if their degrees will actually do anything for them once they are done. They also question if they are actually learning the skill's they need to know so that they can go out and conquer. The advice I have given them is that if they are in school to be stagehand #4 then they are wasting their time. If they are in school they should be sharpening skills to go into a management and oversight role. I have actually had one student take my advice and she went to the local I.A.T.S.E hall and has started her apprenticeship as a scenic carpenter, she is much happier in that environment than she was in a University, she feels that she is learning more. It does raise the question of what role will academic theatre programs fill as our society moves further into this century. I see a lot of kids getting hip to the idea of trade schools/ trade programs. I feel that I.A.T.S.E is a definite option for a young person due to the apprentice programs that a lot of them offer. How do academic theatre programs survive in a world where young people are learning from the actions of millennials and the exorbitant amount of student loans they have? At the same time how do we make sure the academic program is teaching them viable skills. A lot of young people don't even realize that there are other options in our industry besides regional theatre for them to go into. Academic programs rarely talk about architecture, corporate entertainment, themed entertainment, or film. This is a conversation that floats around this forum all the time but I think it is worth civil debate. I think the future landscape of our industry and the well being of those who want to go into it is worth the time to discuss. Plus, if those of us who want to eventually teach want those jobs to stick around for the future, we do need to talk about this.
     
  7. macsound

    macsound Well-Known Member

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    I think you probably got really close at the end there, and something that would have kept me in school.
    Architecture is probably the #1 place where lighting, sound, video, control and scenic elements are decided by people who are good at math, not art or science, and could truly use some creatively trained individuals.
     
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  8. chawalang

    chawalang Active Member

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    That is another really valid point. a lot of technical programs lack the resources, it may be faculty or time, to teach more of the math behind what we do. It doesn't matter if you are dealing with scenery, audio or lighting its something that is always there. That is something as I mentioned before was really lacking in my undergraduate education. I am not saying that we should only focus on that, I still think its important to understand the art aspect of what we do, even if you don't go into theatre you need to understand why decisions are made for the look of a corporate trade show, the aesthete choices for a theme park installation, why the designer needs the columns in this Greek period film to look Doric and not Ionic. We definitely need to understand that but at the same time we need to be armed with the knowledge from a math and standards point of view to make the right decisions that not only affect our budget but can also save lives. Maybe the pedagogical method needs to be examined as we go forward? Western society decided to blend art, mathematics and reason. Why should we not do that in a modern school of technical Production? I fear if we do not do this people from engineering programs will start to be put into the jobs that we currently do. Is that a good thing? Is that a bad thing? They can understand the math behind what we do but where does that mean for the aesthetic of what we do?
     
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  9. JohnHuntington

    JohnHuntington Active Member

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    I think this is excellent advice. As a college professor I think too many people go to college right out of school without a clear focus/plan. Except for the super passionate/motivated I would suggest every one go out and work for a year doing whatever and then when you figure out what you want to do and why, and then go to college. A lot of my students are older and very focused and they are my favorite to teach. And I believe that very few people in our field should go to grad school straight out of college.

    I'm doing final edits on my article (for TD&T) this week, and from my research I was surprised to see how many Entertainment Technology associates degrees there now are, which I think is a great development.

    John
     
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2019
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  10. JohnHuntington

    JohnHuntington Active Member

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    Actually, from reviewing a bunch of conservatory curricula, it's quite clear that many have excluded math/science intentionally, and those credits are filled with many, many credits of theatre and art history, acting, etc. There are valid arguments for that, especially for designers, and also since a lot of students (like me) really struggle with math. But I went to a conservatory and took calculus as an elective Pass/Fail and made it through by the skin of my teeth and I'm better for it. My school requires math (calculus if they can handle it, algebra if not) and science.

    John
     
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  11. TimMc

    TimMc Well-Known Member

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    John, you and @chawalang are spot on, IMHO. This kind of goes back to your query about spectacle v. snobbery, too. Part of it is how the artistic side of tech is positioned in the academic hierarchy:

    "Designers" make pretty pictures. The Designer is not to worry his/her pretty little head with the idea that the design be buildable., structurally safe for actors and other animals, and that it must be moveable by mere mortals.

    "The Shop" makes some reasonable projections about structural needs and executes a structure upon which to build the Designer's 3D Pretty Picture. In order to do that, the shop or TD or both need to have some basic structural design and engineering concept training and this is where I think undergraduate programs fall short. Ultimately it's a safety thing and the same concepts that transfer loads to the floor/earth are the same whether building for community theater or touring a show - the longevity and portability change, but not the concepts of statics. I think students should be taught enough to know when they're in over their heads - they don't have to experts, they need to know when they need an expert.

    Structural engineering for Dummies? Maybe it's time. :pray:
     

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