5 Questions to Barrett Hipes (director of Juilliard’s Alan D. Marks Center for Career Services and Entrepreneurship)

Juilliard recently announced a gift of $5 million from Juilliard Board Trustee Michael E. Marks and his wife, Carole, to create the Alan D. Marks Center for Career Services and Entrepreneurship. The Center’s mission is to provide a comprehensive integration of entrepreneurial strategies and career services programs into the ecosystem of the Juilliard community, preparing graduates from all three Juilliard divisions (music, dance, and drama) to thrive professionally at the intersection of creativity, technology, and business.

The Director of the Center is Barrett Hipes, a percussionist from Arkansas who started off at Juilliard 7 years ago in Residence Life and then transitioned to the Office of Career Services where he has been doing career advising for students and alumni, managing off-campus concerts and performances, coaching students on public speaking and job preparation strategies and overseeing and promoting the private teacher directory. He now steps up his activities to direct the Center and its new initiatives.

I sat down with Barrett to find out more about the center in order to give our readers a more complete picture of what the Center hopes to accomplish.

Congratulations, Barrett, on the Center and on your appointment as Director! What gave rise to the need for the Center and why now?

Career Services has been in existence at Juilliard for a long time, evolving over the last couple of decades from a “gig office” and place to polish a résumé to a robust and comprehensive office that adapts and adjusts to the needs of the students in light of ever-changing industry trends. We have begun to emphasize entrepreneurship over the last few years, largely in response to the need for performers to think bigger when it comes to their careers. Performers, as you know, are not always guaranteed a clearly defined path when they leave school. Some acquire orchestral positions or contracts with dance companies, but we’re seeing more and more performers venture out to create their own opportunities and enterprises that are not only creatively satisfying but also financially sustainable. Foundational skills in business are essential to the success of today’s artists, and we have responded to that with a more intense focus in that area and on entrepreneurial skill building. Thanks to the generous gift from Michael Marks (a member of our Board of Trustees) and his wife Carole, given in memory of Mr. Marks’ brother (pianist and Juilliard alumnus, Alan D. Marks), we are now able to take all of our current offerings to the next level, and create so many new opportunities and resources for our students and alumni.

Barrett Hipes

Barrett Hipes

What are the biggest challenges facing Juilliard graduates and how does the Center address those challenges?

The competitive landscape is a challenge. Juilliard sends an immensely talented graduating class out into the profession each year, as do other universities and conservatories. There are not a tremendous number of full-time opportunities for these students and the competition is fierce. However, not everyone is looking for a full-time orchestra position and attitudes have changed. In the past, many professional performers have told me told me that starting your own professional chamber group or non-profit organization was actually looked down upon, or viewed as a fall back– as if it was an acceptance of defeat, whereas, in other professions running your own business is viewed as “The American Dream.” We’re certainly seeing a shift in thinking among students in the latter direction. They have a much broader and more exciting view of what success looks like in their industry, and there are more and more examples of unique successes out there. Moreover, many performing arts students lack the necessary skills to create the kind of success that they envision. The Center is here to answer questions, solve problems, help develop skills, educate and award grants to support students after they graduate,

What initiatives does the Center provide and what are you particularly excited about?

The Center will now be able to present more frequent programs, with featured guests, entrepreneurship residencies and intensives, alumni panels, skills training sessions, seminars and discussion groups. We have also begun to integrate entrepreneurial skills across the curriculum and we are coordinating our existing courses that teach entrepreneurship, as well as creating new credit and non-credit courses. In addition, we are building online resources for interview preparation, job banks, event management, and access to a variety of career resources. Finally, the Center will furnish opportunities for financial support of entrepreneurial ventures. In addition to our new fellowship program (see below), we are continuing the Juilliard Entrepreneurship Challenge which provides coaching and financial support for several student-initiated sustainable business and artistic ventures.

I’m very excited about the programs, guest artists, industry professionals, residencies, intensives, and other resources that we will be bringing to the table. We constantly reiterate to our students the importance of networking, and we are now able to sponsor Mastermind Discussion Groups guided by a professional coach, consultations with alumni and business professionals and faculty/student/staff networking events. These activities will certainly bring students face-to-face with a lot of industry leaders, prominent alumni and potential mentors. We are also expanding our training of public speaking since that is a critical skills for today’s performing artists. I am also very excited about the new fellowship program which will provide financial support for a select group of graduating students, with artistic merit, initiative, leadership, and entrepreneurial thinking all as important criteria for selection.

Lunch & Learn featuring Bill Baker, President Emeritus of WNET

Lunch & Learn featuring Bill Baker, President Emeritus of WNET

What are the priorities for the Center and what is the timing of rolling out the new initiatives?

We hope to maintain the success of current programs, such as our weekly Lunch & Learn series and the “Hire Juilliard Performers” program (which provides professional training and facilitates over 450 performance opportunities per year), while concurrently launching these new ventures. Other immediate priorities are goal-setting, laying out a model for assessment, and spreading the word (and generating enthusiasm) about the Center so that our busy students will get a sense of all the different ways that we can help them create sustainable and successful careers. The wheels are already in motion! We have four “resident entrepreneurs” on the calendar this semester, over a dozen seminars, an upcoming application process for our Juilliard Entrepreneurship Challenge, and we have begun discussing the selection process for the first year of our new fellowship program. The first round of fellows will be selected in May. As for coursework, we will continue to offer classes such as “The Musician as Entrepreneur,” “Understanding the Profession: The Performing Arts in the 21st Century,” and “American Society and the Arts” (taught by President Polisi). We are also exploring and adding new courses like “Leadership and Innovation in the Creative Arts” taught by Juilliard alum and MBA J.Y. Song, and we are introducing an entrepreneurship module in the required Freshmen Colloquium in order to introduce our newest students to these important programs and concepts.

How will you measure the success of the Center?

There are some basics like program attendance numbers, course enrollment, outcomes assessment (through surveys), and web tracking. We are also preparing to launch a new survey campaign for our alumni, which will even better inform the direction of our programs and the services we offer. I hope to see an increase in student interaction with the Center, an increase in tangible resources, more student-initiated projects, and more interaction with our alumni. I also expect to see more collaboration among faculty and staff, and am hopeful that the range of content the Center provides will be helpful across all divisions.

Thank you Barrett! We wish you much success with this new venture and we are thrilled that Juilliard students will now have more resources to support them in creating new and sustainable entrepreneurial careers.