New Center to Expand Opportunities for UTEP Arts Students

Last Updated on April 04, 2017 at 12:00 AM

Originally published April 04, 2017

By Leonard Martinez

UTEP Communications

Walk down the music side of the Fox Fine Arts Center and you're bound to hear beautiful sounds coming from the practice rooms.

New Center to Expand Opportunities for UTEP Arts Students

A saxophone warming up with scales, a soprano perfecting an aria, or Isaac Drewes in the midst of his three hours of piano practice a day.

Drewes is graduating with a bachelor's degree in piano performance in May 2017. He knows that to pursue a career as a musician, he’ll need to know more than just how to play.

"You have to be familiar with your instrument and able to play on it," Drewes said. "But you also have to know other things that can help you get ahead with the business side. You need to know what it takes to meet people, create a social media account ... to broaden horizons to get to know more people so you could have more opportunities to make money or make music."

Drewes said he would have liked to learn more about the business side of music while at The University of Texas at El Paso. That will soon change for musicians. 

UTEP and El Paso Pro-Musica are teaming up to create the Center for Arts Entrepreneurship (CAE) that will become operational in fall 2017 on the UTEP campus. 

The center will engage students in a variety of projects and workshops geared around resume enhancement, creating digital portfolios, audience development, and creating performance opportunities, said Steve Wilson, DMA, Department of Music chair.

In its first year, the center will offer a series of weeklong artist-in-residence workshops featuring world-renowned musicians from a variety of backgrounds. The residencies will allow UTEP music students to have up-close, meaningful interactions with these artists. 

Additionally, the center will host workshops on working with the media in cooperation with the Department of Communication, resume development and job interviewing with local arts leaders, and will sponsor creative activity innovation grants to incorporate concepts from the center into capstone projects.

The center will officially be housed in the Department of Music in UTEP’s College of Liberal Arts.

“The ideal students for the CAE experiential learning opportunities are those who have achieved a level of proficiency in their art such that they are ready to perform in a solo or small ensemble public performance, typically students in the junior year and above,” Wilson said. “Through hands-on, intensive interactions with nationally renowned artists, the CAE will help them develop communication skills, both written and verbal, improve audience engagement, provide real-life performing opportunities at a variety of on-campus and community engagement events, and help students in the arts understand the workings behind the scenes required to make arts events happen.”

Zuill Bailey, senior lecturer of cello at UTEP and artistic director of El Paso Pro-Musica, will be the center’s artistic director.

“Basically we’re teaching artists, musicians, creative types to think outside the box and to (help artists) affect communities through their craft in ways they didn’t know possible,” Bailey said.

Patricia Witherspoon, Ph.D., dean of the College of Liberal Arts, said Bailey is an outstanding choice for the founding director of this innovative organization.

“His international reputation as a musician, his vast networks of leaders in the arts, and his creative ideas for the purpose of the center are just a few of the many reasons he is poised to make this a world-class initiative,” Witherspoon said.

Imparting musicians with what careers are available for them after graduation also is a part of the center’s purpose. It’s something Bailey has seen other educational institutions try to address before.

“This topic has been discussed since I went to (The) Juilliard (School),” Bailey said. "But they theoretically spoke about these kinds of ideas. They said, ‘Why don't you consider doing this?' But there were never any hands-on options to learn by example. So we're taking it 500 steps further. We're going to give the opportunity, but we're also going to have the curriculum in the classroom and we're going to have lectures from musicians around the world that will come in and be in residence year-round in El Paso, at UTEP, through El Paso Pro-Musica, in performance, education and apprenticeships.”

El Paso Pro-Musica (EPPM), founded in 1977, is devoted to making chamber music available to the community by bringing world-renowned artists to El Paso to perform and educate audiences. El Paso Pro-Musica’s relationship with UTEP has grown even stronger since Bailey became a faculty member in 2004.  

“For the last couple of seasons, EPPM has ensured that the visiting artists conduct master classes for the Department of Music students,” said Felipa Solis, El Paso Pro-Musica executive director. “All of the amazing musicians who perform in the region are also educators. For instance, members of the renowned Juilliard String Quartet are accomplished professors. El Paso Pro-Musica will work hand-in-hand with the Department of Music and all of the arts on campus to develop a curriculum to ensure the highest caliber training and guidance for careers in the 21st century.”

The center will work with local arts groups to help train students in the arts to be prepared to enter the 21st century arts environment with a solid background in marketing, audience development, media relations, grant writing, fundraising, and the ability to perform a wide range of music in a wide range of styles in a variety of settings. 

“Talks have already started with other arts organizations in the area for internship opportunities for these students,” Wilson said.

Wilson said ultimately the center could grow to offer a minor in arts entrepreneurship for students pursuing liberal arts degree programs.

Courses for the minor might include Principles of Economics, Principles of Marketing, Entrepreneurship in the Arts, Introduction to Arts Economies, Seminar in Arts Entrepreneurship, and Arts Leadership Practicum for a total of 18 hours.

The center also will offer the following:

  • Seminars for music majors who don’t have room in their degree plans for additional courses to cover the arts entrepreneurship content in shorter formats.
  • Support for research and creative activities related to the state of the arts in the next century, including film music, gaming and other technology, including development of apps.
  • Outreach activities between the UTEP arts programs and community partners including school districts, museums and professional arts organizations including the El Paso Symphony Orchestra, the El Paso Opera and EPPM.
  • Guest lectures, recitals, and special events that promote entrepreneurship in the arts.
  • Relationship building to help the arts work together in unprecedented ways and reach out to other colleges to create innovative scholarship/research/creative activities.
  • Opportunities for multiple artist-in-residency programs annually. These residencies will allow UTEP students to observe the performing life of successful 21st century chamber musicians and see a behind-the-scenes look at what is required to run a modern arts organization. These include marketing, grant writing, social media, development, interacting with media, audience development, community engagement, and working in a variety of venues.

Bailey is hopeful the center will have an impact beyond the El Paso area.

“The Center for (Arts) Entrepreneurship is incredibly exciting because it’s formalizing a dream to make the biggest impact, but also to be a reverberant example,” Bailey said. “Because now that UTEP is doing this, others will see that it is doable, successful, and makes a huge difference in the community.”