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Center for Arts Entrepreneurship Celebrates First Year

Last Updated on April 20, 2018 at 12:00 AM

Originally published April 23, 2018

By Daniel Perez

UTEP Communications

UTEP graduate student Amy Miller is a cellist who previously saw herself strictly as an orchestra or chamber music performer. But The University of Texas at El Paso’s Center for Arts Entrepreneurship has expanded how she sees what she can do – and she is not the only one.

Zuill Bailey is artistic director of The University of Texas at El Paso's Center for Arts Entrepreneurship. The center, which exposes UTEP music students to national voices and unconventional concepts to help broaden their career paths, celebrates its first year in April 2018. Photo: J.R. Hernandez / UTEP Communications
Zuill Bailey is artistic director of The University of Texas at El Paso's Center for Arts Entrepreneurship. The center, which exposes UTEP music students to national voices and unconventional concepts to help broaden their career paths, celebrates its first year in April 2018. Photo: J.R. Hernandez / UTEP Communications

The Center for Arts Entrepreneurship (CAE) celebrates its first birthday in April 2018. Its goals include exposing UTEP music students to national voices and unconventional concepts to help broaden their career paths.

Miller, a native of Chevy Chase, Maryland, earned her bachelor’s degree in cello performance at the University of Michigan and was looking for a graduate school. She had known of UTEP’s Zuill Bailey, CAE artistic director, and contacted him about continuing her studies at UTEP. It was at that time that she learned about the center.

She said that decision has allowed her to be part of numerous CAE lectures that have helped her consider novel ways to use her talents to promote her love of music beyond performances. For example, the cellist added personal insights and a question-and-answer session to a recital for pediatric patients and families at the Hospitals of Providence Children’s Hospital, 2001 N. Oregon St.  

“The center has helped me realize that music is more than just music,” said Miller, who expects to earn her master’s degree in May 2019. “The experience should be interactive. It should not be like going to an aquarium to watch fish.”

Leaders of the center – a collaboration between the University and El Paso Pro-Musica (EPPM) – called its first year a beta test of its efforts to help students enhance their resumes, create digital portfolios, seek different performance opportunities and develop more ways to communicate with audiences. In general, they believe the center has exceeded expectations.

For example, through EPPM, a nonprofit chamber music organization that celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2017, the center has been able to invite multi-talented artists who have shared their technical expertise, worldly perspectives, and collateral knowledge during thought-provoking workshops for graduate and undergraduate students. The center also has generated opportunities for current Department of Music faculty and EPPM personnel to share their ancillary talents that are valuable to 21st century graduates, such as understanding promotional media strategies.

“The focus has been to help students in the arts develop an understanding of the business of the arts,” said Felipa Solis, EPPM executive director. “Working with the faculty and students and exposing them to some of the greatest musical artists in the world has been a great way to open the door for this program so that other departments can see how we are trying to cultivate the students on campus and ultimately students we can recruit to study at UTEP.”

Before the CAE, EPPM guest artists would spend about an hour with students. Now these handpicked performers offer weeklong residencies where they speak on and off campus as part of their community outreach. Students often would have had to travel to a specialty school such as the Peabody Institute of The Johns Hopkins University, Bailey’s alma mater, to be exposed to such an eclectic group of lecturers with such varied interests, insights and skill sets. Some of the guests are Doctor of Musical Arts students, who offer perspectives on what students should expect if they pursue a DMA.

Steve Wilson, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Music and CAE collaborator, said speakers have included a world-class pianist who also owns and operates a construction company and was able to share her experiences as a musician and as an entrepreneur. Other speakers have promoted related professional occupations such as film composer and recording engineer.  

“Many of our students would come in and think a career in music would be as a teacher or a performer with an institution like a symphony or an opera company,” Wilson said. “What they’re seeing this year is that there is a whole wide range of career opportunities for people. You just have to be entrepreneurial enough to go find it.”  

Emilio Montoya, a violinist and senior commercial music major, said the biggest lesson he learned was the importance of communication between the audience and the performer. The El Paso native said his attendance at CAE events and his time as sound assistant and stage manager at the Fox Fine Arts Center has shifted his interest from performer to producer. He plans to graduate in December 2018 and then return to pursue a master’s degree in music education.

“The center provides students with the tools that we don’t usually get on an everyday basis,” said Montoya, a 2013 graduate of Americas High School on El Paso’s far East Side. “They help shape our careers.”

As for the future, Bailey, Solis and Wilson want to involve more departments within the fine arts such as graphic arts, theatre and dance, and eventually others within the College of Liberal Arts such as English majors. They also have started work to create a minor in arts entrepreneurship. There also are initial discussions to involve educators from other UTEP schools and colleges with natural connections to music, such as nursing, education and business administration.

Bailey, an internationally known Grammy Award-winning cellist, said the CAE has a bright future because of its relationships with UTEP faculty and artists around the world. He foresees the CAE as the University’s “ultimate recruitment tool” for the arts.

“Collaboration is the key to success, and working alongside members of faculty and the amazing students shows how the center can truly be a successful tool in building a new generation of artists working to build careers in the 21st century," Bailey said.