Oberlin College & Conservatory’s Creativity & Leadership Project

MaryClare Brzytwa, Director of Conservatory Professional Development, Oberlin College


How is the curriculum changing to reflect career needs of today’s students?

We are incorporating more technology and entrepreneurship classes into professional development. We are increasing the bandwidth of our traditional professional development practices by working with students on social networking, web design, basic proficiency in the audio and video tools needed to develop and maintain an online portfolio, as well as critical thinking regarding blogging and developing an organic personal brand. One way I am encouraging students to begin the practice of “putting themselves out there” is to work with them in a one on one setting to develop the content for a website with a basic bio, photos, and ( if appropriate) video and audio documentation of their skills. This includes project management planning and developing timelines for recording and mastering in our world class studios and concerts halls. Once we have polished all of the basic ingredients, we work together on the construction of a site. The Office of Professional Development maintains a searchable blog which is constantly being updated with opportunities for professional development and a gig referral service with access to all of these student sites for local community members who are interested in hiring students.

Some students have even begun blogging about their experiences performing in the community. My personal favorite is a student who has begun to keep a collection of photos of every organ she has performed on. We see these services as an opportunity for students to practice for their professional life beyond Oberlin.

What are your and Oberlin’s plans for helping arts students in their career choices?

Oberlin College’s Creativity & Leadership Project is a multi-disciplinary effort designed to encourage students to put their innovative ideas into practice. The project reflects Oberlin’s musical and artistic excellence, academic rigor, and longstanding commitment to preparing students for leadership and civic engagement. Oberlin’s approach to entrepreneurship derives from the synergy between the liberal arts and pre-professional training. It challenges students to imagine their lives beyond Oberlin, to prepare for and “practice” those lives while they are students, and to draw upon and interweave their intellectual and artistic interests, ideas, and aspirations with experiential learning and co-curricular activities as they seek to tackle the questions, challenges, and opportunities of the 21st century. The project emphasizes creativity, leadership, and innovation as attributes at the core of successful ventures in any field.

Open to all Oberlin students, the Creativity & Leadership Project offers various levels of financial support for project development and, through mentored experiential opportunities, courses, workshops, and guest lectures, helps to prepare students for the challenges of implementing their own ideas.

In addition to the C&L program we also offer a one of a kind internship program in the Bay Area that gives students the chance to work in Bay Area arts internships with organizations ranging from a 5-person jazz non-profit to the San Francisco Opera. This year we sent over 30 students to the Bay Area where they interned with an array of organizations, from studio orchestras, string quartets, and light opera theaters to coffee house concert venues, radio talk shows, and elementary school music programs. All tried their hand at many tasks, from marketing and organizing events to teaching and performing. Much of this was accomplished by harnessing Oberlin’s vast alumni network and there are plans to expand the program to New York in the near future.

What opportunities do you foresee developing in the business world for students in the arts?

I am very interested in the intersection of arts and technology. Commercial sound design and composition jobs in the fields gaming, interactive apps, and media in general.

MaryClare Brzytwa is the Director of Conservatory Professional Development, Oberlin College & Conservatory of Music. Information on Oberlin’s programs are at:

Creativity and Leadership Program: http://new.oberlin.edu/office/creativity/
Professional Development Opportunities Blog: http://oberlinconprodev.tumblr.com/
Bay Area Internship Program: http://obiebayarea.tumblr.com/InternshipDescriptions
Gig Referral Service: http://oberlin.edu/career/employers/gig_referral.html


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