Arts graduate study brings hope, but fails to address tough issue

In case you missed it, I wrote an article about a study released by Indiana University regarding arts graduates. The study of 13,600 arts graduates found that 92 percent found some type of employment in their field within one year of graduation. Those surveyed range from theater to architecture graduates.

While the study revealed mostly positive statistics, as it was conducted by the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project, it ceased to take an important area into consideration —  artists’ pay level and revenue satisfaction. About 30 percent of formal professional artists surveyed indicated that debt, including student loans was a reason for pursuing a different career path.

I interviewed Jamie Buxton, a graduate of University of Central Oklahoma, and David Herendeen, an OCU professor for the article, which examined pursuing an acting/music theater degree in Oklahoma.

To view the full article published in The Oklahoman and Look at OKC, visit


Past struggles motivate dance degree candidate

Sam Payne, dance performance senior

Sam Payne is all by himself.

The dance performance senior is the only prospective December 2010 dance performance graduate. He will perform his senior piece, a portion of his graduation evaluation, Dec. 15 and will return to the Kirkpatrick Auditorium stage for an oral exam in the absence of his classmates.

Payne’s four and a half year tenure at OCU hasn’t been easy. It has included second guessing his prospective career path and facing his worst critic — himself.

Payne began his education at OCU in 2006 in relatively low dance class levels.

“I was in Level 1 ballet, Level 1 tap and Beyond Basic Movement jazz,” he said. “Some dancers have the luxury of leveling in at higher levels, but I knew I had a long way to go.”

Dance levels in the Ann Lacy School of American Dance and Arts Management range from Basic Movement to Level 8. Dance performance seniors must achieve technique qualified for Levels 8, 7 and 6 as a criterion for graduation, according to the dance department’s standards and procedures. See previous story outlining more dance performance graduation requirements.

Payne said he almost lost his passion at times and had to build himself back up. He first began feeling down at the end of his sophomore year.

“I just kind of lost touch with the fun of it,” he said. “It just kind of felt like a job.
“I think everyone goes through it, no matter what you’re going to school for, you just kind of question ‘Is this really what I want to do for the rest of my life?’ There were also times when I thought, ‘I really like doing this, but am I really good enough to be able to go out and do this with my life?’”

Payne said he was lucky he was able to fall back in love with the performance aspect of dance by taking class that summer.

“I got a job in Branson, Mo. dancing with Andy Williams in his show,” he said. “It was my first taste of a real job.
“I got to perform every day and meet real people.”

Payne began to lose his passion again in the middle of his second semester of senior year. He knew he wouldn’t graduate at the same time as his classmates because he hadn’t achieved his required levels, which didn’t allow him to take all necessary classes.

“It was a lot of me knowing I wasn’t going to walk alongside my peers who I spent four and a half years with,” he said. “They became my family.”

Payne’s friends were working in Los Angeles, in the national tour of “Cats” and on a Carnival cruise ship this semester while he spent at least eight hours weekly rehearsing to perform in his fifth “Home for the Holidays” show. It was difficult for Payne to see his peers begin the next chapters of their lives and their careers.

“I kind of was dreading coming back to OCU a little bit, just because I knew it was going to be a different experience,” he said.

But an extra semester actually worked out for the better, Payne said.

Payne achieved his graduation levels this semester after many hours of practicing outside the classroom. He will test out in Level 7 ballet, Level 6 jazz and Level 5 tap.

“I had to work really hard to get where I needed to be,” he said. “But it didn’t really feel like work, because dancing and performing is what I love to do.
“Looking back I think the thing that made me question the most was me. I think I am my worst critic. The department has always been really great in believing in me, but I think it was really just me not believing myself that was the biggest issue.”