Need help finding the right school

Discussion in 'Education and Career Development' started by NCulmone, Sep 21, 2017.

  1. NCulmone

    NCulmone Member

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    I've been working in theater since high school and chose to attend a school for Theatre Technology and Design. The only issue is, most schools focus more on the design part, and only touch the technology part. Right now, I have no desire to design. I really enjoy entertainment electrician work, hanging lights, programming light boards, building and wiring practicals, and have really enjoyed my time working at school as a theater master electrician for our shows. The point is, I really want to find a school that can teach me more about what I want to do, rather than force a design agenda on me while I learn about what I want to do on my own.
     
  2. NCulmone

    NCulmone Member

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    Also non-college options would be cool too. I suck at school.
     
  3. TuckerD

    TuckerD Active Member

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  4. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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    How far is Center Valley from Lititz, PA? I hear there might be some production work going on there.
     
  5. porkchop

    porkchop Well-Known Member

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    Shotgun of ideas because I rarely common on college program threads:

    If you want to make a career out of this get a degree, or at least start the process and if an opportunity presents itself before you graduate take it. The networking and communication soft skills most people learn in college (if not later in life) are way more important than how fast you can hang a light or how well you can program on a console.

    Find a program that is willing to talk to you now while you're looking. If they're that interested in what you have to say odds are they'll be a lot more willing to listen to your crazy idea for senior year.

    Full Sail and UNCSA have shoddy reputations because they are willing to take anyones money and amplify whatever skill and drive they have in the process. If you're full of yourself and don't know anything going in you'll be even more full of yourself and even more clueless going out. If you're inquisitive and willing to ask questions so that you can be a better technician you might come out with a lot of hands on experience with pro level equipment and the humility to get (and keep) a solid job as a pro.
     
  6. soundofsparks

    soundofsparks Active Member

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    Occupation:
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    Here's another shotgun blast.

    When looking at schools for anything, you'll want to focus on the resources of the school and the faculty background.

    Start with schools near you to save on scratch. You are going to need money when you start out as many entry-level gigs pay terribly. So don't get stuck with an ass-ton of debt.

    Look at faculty profiles and try to find ones that have a background doing the professional work that you want to do. Train with people who are who you want to be.

    Also see if you can find some specifications on the facilities. What sort of gear do they have? Are they keeping pace with the industry?

    You don't need to go somewhere fancy or expensive to have a worthwhile experience.

    Speaking of theatre work (as opposed to events and concerts), what you learn in school probably won't matter. The people that I've hired require a good amount of retraining regardless of their educational background. What successful people learn in school is how to learn, how to be humble and open to new ideas, and how to problem solve.

    I went to a random college with low show budgets, old gear, and hardly any faculty or students. We worked closely with professors to solve production problems creatively. I built my career on creative problem solving and learned about gear as I went.

    I think it is absolutely fine to skip college all together and get an entry-level gig without a college degree. Unfortunately, there are so many college graduates applying for those same jobs that might get ranked ahead of you just because of their age/degree.

    I wish there were more programs like this one: http://www.roundabouttheatre.org/Teach-Learn/For-Students/Theatrical-Workforce-Development.aspx

    One final thought. If you do go to college. Do summer gigs. Work at summer stocks, arts festivals, whatever. Be an intern or staff. The resumes that I see that are uninteresting are ones with no professional work at all. No matter how terrible the summer gig (and some will work you to death for sure), it's more beneficial to your career than some other summer job.
     
  7. gafftapegreenia

    gafftapegreenia CBMod CB Mods

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    If I had to do it over again, I wouldn't go into private school debt for a theatre arts degree. That's just my two cents.
     
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  8. TuckerD

    TuckerD Active Member

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  9. JohnD

    JohnD Well-Known Member Fight Leukemia

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    For a true come-to-Jesus moment also think about Sight & Sound in the Lancaster area.
    https://www.sight-sound.com/
     
  10. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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    Firstly, I'm shocked that you paint both institutions with the same brush. Upon further thought; yes, most of the graduates I've met from both places have been dicks, but at least the NCSotA ones were competent, albeit arrogant.

    1. If it weren't for designers, you'd have nothing to hang or wire up.
    2. If you're able to communicate with a designer on their level, you're a better electrician.
    3. Similarly, one can't be a good lighting programmer without knowing some design aesthetics.

    Two CB members (by chance Ithaca College alums) come to mind: @icewolf08 and @rochem . Also @ship does daily what you appear to want to do. All have extensive design experience as well.
     
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  11. Quillons

    Quillons Active Member

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    I'll throw out PCPA, a conservatory in central California that I went to. We had a mix of people who transferred to another school vs people who went straight to work. A two-year certificate.
    https://www.pcpa.org/conservatory1/page18/

    And New York City College of Technology's Entertainment Technology program. I know nothing about this one other than it seems really cool. A four-year bachelor's degree.
    http://www.citytech.cuny.edu/entertainment/entertainment-technology-btech.aspx
     
  12. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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  13. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

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    @NCulmone, there certainly are a lot of schools that are much more "design-centric" than technology focused, and I think that comes a lot from the schools not wanting to feel like a vocational program. However, as @derekleffew mentioned, there are schools that do put an emphasis on technology and Ithaca College is one of those schools. I am somewhat biased, being an alum, but the flip side to that coin is that, if theatre is where you see yourself, you can't spit in NYC/Broadway without hitting an IC alum. Not to mention, our alumni network expands all over the country in theatre and other entertainment markets. I certainly came out of that program feeling prepared to take on the jobs that I did, and it is great to know that there are people who I can call on, even if we never really met, who are happy to offer guidance and insight.

    All that said, I do agree with some of the other folks who have posted. You want a well rounded education that not only includes technology and lighting, but design in all areas of the industry. I certainly am not a costume person, but, the fact that I had to take basic costuming classes and courses like "History of Costume and Decor" really helped me be able to interface with other departments. It gives you the background knowledge to understand what people are talking about when they talk about periods or styles or other design choices. It gives you the vocabulary to really communicate and develop ideas. It also makes it much easier when a costumer comes to you needing help with some kind of light up costume to be able to offer help in an intelligent and functional way.

    If you look for them, there are programs that will satisfy whatever direction you feel you would like to take in the industry. They best programs are the ones that help you grow and foster the sense of where you would like to go. Some schools have developed reputations for what they send their graduates off to. Carnegie Melon University and Emmerson both have the reputation of sending graduates off into the liver performance world (award shows, concerts, events, etc.). CalArts has a very good program and can set you up on a path to work for Walt Disney Imagineering. Then you have schools like Ithaca and NYU that really lean more towards traditional theatre. Point being, what you want is out there!

    Now, to play my own devil's advocate... There are also plenty of people who have made it big in the industry without completing or even attending college, or a college theatre program. As some folks mentioned, it is possible to get in with your local union, or a rental shop, or maybe even just start working at a local theatre and building skills and connections. There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking a path like this. The most important thing when choosing such a path, is that you need to be humble. Your high school experience counts for next to nothing, you have to OK with pushing boxes and coiling cables when you start out. It is likely that you will be working your way up from the bottom of the ladder. This is a great way to learn and get experience, just know that it may not be glamorous. However, one could argue that it is a lot cheaper than going to college.

    While I personally advocate for people to go to school, I also tell people that they should go in open minded. If you take a gen-ed in biology and find you really enjoy it, you want to be open to pursuing it. Theatre and entertainment will always be there and it is easy to come back to or do as a hobby, but if you find something else that really strikes a chord with you, it may be worth doing.

    Since @derekleffew brought it up, it looks like you are a little over an hour from Lititz, PA, which is where I am located now, working for TAIT Towers. While it was a bit of a departure from my background in lighting, as a controls technician it wasn't too much of a jump. We do some pretty wild stuff in the world of automation and staging so I would encourage you to come down and visit if you can. Also, we offer summer internships for people your age, and it is the kind of thing that you would want to start talking to our HR folks about soon if it is something you might be interested in as internship positions are highly coveted and go fast. Certainly give me a shout if you want to know more or come down and see what we are about.
     
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  14. MRW Lights

    MRW Lights Active Member

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    Here is why I would vote for going to school...

    1. If you want to teach in the future the application process is easier with the letters BFA/MFA behind your name.

    2. More importantly the people you meet in school will help fast track you to getting jobs. The same can be true of who you meet in the field, but I honestly rarely "search" for work. Friends from school recommend me and then someone I work with on that show recommends me and then I recommend someone else to bring to the team and the cycle continues. I would safely say the majority of my work comes from personal references and other designers/directors preference for my work. It won't happen instantly, but when you stop looking for work and realize the work is looking for you, then you can really begin to measure your success.
     
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  15. themuzicman

    themuzicman Well-Known Member

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    I 100% agree with Point #1 - I know a few folks teaching without college degrees or MFA's, but those folks worked on Broadway for a number of years and still had to fight with University hiring committees to get hired. The degree makes that so much easier.

    On #2 I'd say it really depends on what part of the field you're going into after college and how much time a college has put into fostering an alumni network. I know several students who went to programs like CCM and UNCSA and they have an extensive network to draw on, and the folks who stay in the field a few years out tend to be top-notch. I went to a very large state school that had a well developed alumni network for every major school, except the school of arts & humanities. The majority of the graduates in my year and surrounding years who still work in the arts all keep in contact but we all work in radically different areas of the entertainment market. The majority of my work now comes from connections I made in the grind I did post-college.

    College taught me a ton, all related to theater, but almost none related to my trade. It was a good proving-ground for learning the politics of theater, which is just as important as knowing your trade as well as possible which may have been the most valuable take-away. The plus side is now when a gig gets out of my comfort zone, I can shoot a text to someone who works in a tangential part of the field and get some feedback really quick -- I work in audio, I know that, so when it comes time to integrate my plot with lighting and they yell at my center cluster array being in the way, I have a few LX friends from college who can give me quick feedback on what I can do to fix a problem, or what to say to get the problem to fix itself around me, or a few scenic fab folks who can tell me how to notate my fabrication bids so I don't look utterly clueless to a scene shop. On the flip side, I am generally their first call for show-control tech support, we don't get each other work per-se, but we have a good little network of friends keeping each other looking smart on the job!

    Post-college I took work in a few different shops and chatted up every designer and production person that walked in the door, I get 100% of my work now word-of-mouth and as a direct reference or direct hire which is great from those conversations, but none of that came from connections from a college - college did teach me how to play the game of getting work and staying on top of it all without drowning. I could have skipped college and gone right to working for any of the shops in any major market and probably been fine, but I bet my first few years of freelancing would have been rough not having a grounding in the politics of theater and how to effectively communicate cross-department or how to manage fluctuations between no shows and insane show-loads.

    As for colleges that focus on technology - Brooklyn City Tech, as mentioned above, I've met some really stellar students from those places. UNCSA and CCM seem to be the other two that have quality students. CCM folks seem to be as good as UNCSA, but without the ego.
     
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  16. porkchop

    porkchop Well-Known Member

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    The interns and graduates that UNCSA send to Vegas tend to remind me a lot of the Full Sail grads that we would get on tour. The programs have very different focuses, but the outcome seems to be much the same.
     
  17. JohnHuntington

    JohnHuntington Active Member

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    Thanks for the mention! I oversee Audio, Video and Control in Entertainment Technology at City Tech. I wrote an article in 2002 comparing the way we teach to conservatories some years ago and I think it's still pretty relevant: http://controlgeek.net/articles-and-other-work/2002/9/1/rethinking-entertainment-technology-education.html?rq=rethinking

    Also, everyone is welcome for a backstage tour of our Gravesend Inn haunted attraction.

    Info on current doings on our facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/entertainmenttechnology

    Thanks!

    John
     
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  18. EdSavoie

    EdSavoie Well-Known Member

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    I've got no complaints with the Entertainment Technology program at St Clair College thus far.

    Three weeks in and We've already gotten right into the meat of it. Working with Truss, calculating weight loads, making cables, crucifying Stagepin connectors (Sorry America, we'll stick to our Twist-lock.), passing working at heights training and dismantling and putting back together a Source 4 to name a few. (Mind you, I had already done that to a Soruce 4 prior to this, but I digress.)

    The only bane to my existence at this point is the drafting / CAD course, where we are 'lucky' to inherit the imperial system from you guys...
     
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  19. NCulmone

    NCulmone Member

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    Thanks for the replies everyone! I haven't had a chance to read through them all yet (We just opened our first show of the year tonight). But thanks for all of your responses!
     
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