MSF | Ten transferable skills you can learn from the performing arts
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Ten transferable skills you can learn from the performing arts

In a few weeks time parents will be accompanying excited children to their Mid-Somerset Festival classes. Perhaps they have taken time off work to do so, and the children might be missing a couple of hours of school. We hope that it will be an enjoyable experience for all involved, but is there more to it than that?

Can education in the performing arts be useful for a young person who wants to be a doctor, fashion designer, plumber or architect? 

Rehearse a song, piece of music, poem or scene. Polish it to performance level. Present it to an audience. Receive feedback from an experienced adjudicator. Through all the stages in the Mid-Somerset process children learn numerous transferable skills, in addition to creativity and confidence. 

The conscious acquisition of so-called ‘soft’ skills allows young people to adapt what they have learnt in the arena of the arts, in order to help them achieve their professional goals in any field. 

Here are the top ten transferable skills anyone can gain from participation in the performing arts. 


1. Time management and organisation 

Learning to play a musical instrument, or attending theatre school in addition to school, can be a tough lesson in time management for the whole family. Once a young person takes responsibility for organising practice and rehearsals around their homework and social lives, they are well on the way to managing time effectively. 

Keeping track of progress leading up to a presentation deadline is key to ensuring success. When there’s an audience watching, you know you need to be ready!


2. Teamwork and collaboration 

Students working towards successful individual performances know the value of close cooperation with their teacher. 

In group work, the participants often learn more about each other, and human nature in general, than they do about a piece of music or drama! Collaboration in performing arts requires listening, understanding, patience, selflessness and a sense of humour – all very important skills to rely on in any pressurised work environment. 


3. Attention to detail

Performing a song, a poem, a short piece of music or a monologue takes less than a few minutes. Perhaps the audience is unaware of the intense attention to every note and syllable that makes it all seem so effortless. 

The ability to focus on detail is a valuable asset in any workplace. 


4. Problem solving

Inevitably, during the rehearsal process, there will be setbacks. With the prospect of a public performance looming it becomes essential to find a way through, as an individual or part of a group.

For example, one problem that frequently has to be overcome is nerves! Performers learn various strategies to control their anxieties in the run up to an event. These strategies can be applied in other stressful situations, such as interviews or pitches.  


5. Accepting feedback and evaluation

Taking feedback on board is essential for actors and musicians, and for most other educational paths and careers too. At the Mid-Somerset, professional adjudicators provide both verbal and written feedback. 

Those who return to the Mid-Somerset year after year have built on the advice the adjudicators provide, but have also learned  from honestly evaluating their own work, and the work of their peers.


6. Commitment

It’s easy to underestimate the determination required to transform words or notes on a page into an accomplished interpretation. A commitment to focus within lessons and practices, whatever else is going on, sets the most successful performers apart. 


7. Adaptability

Drama and music teachers know all too well that their pupils don’t always have the perfect circumstances in which to learn. Nevertheless, this enhances a young person’s ability to adapt. 

Often, this is tested further when arriving in an unfamiliar space. Sometimes it’s necessary to change the performance at the last minute to suit the venue!


8. Empathy 

Essential in the caring professions, empathy is one of the main reasons why the teaching of drama in school is so valuable. To identify with a character, even for only a few minutes, allows an actor to understand people in circumstances far removed from their own. Through drama we learn to read body language instinctively, and appreciate how others are feeling. 

After all, according to Meryl Streep, ‘Empathy is at the heart of the actor’s art’.

Connecting with the mood in a piece of music or poetry stretches the emotional imagination beyond everyday experiences. 


9. Positivity 

According to the National Careers Service a positive attitude is highly valued by employers. Willingly putting yourself forward to compete with others takes lots of positivity! 


10. Communication 

The Mid-Somerset provides an opportunity to practise all aspects of communicating with an audience; projection, clarity, eye contact, body language, facial expression and more. 

However, all kinds of communication skills can be acquired through the performing arts from close analysis and discussion in the beginning, to ‘telepathy’ between a duo on stage. 


Whatever mark is achieved at the Mid-Somerset Festival, however well the performance goes, it will be a beneficial learning curve. 

UCAS explains how to identify transferable skills gained from activities outside formal education. For example, a pianist who always challenges himself.

The Mid-Somerset Festival encourages young people to challenge themselves this spring, and step out of their comfort zones. 

by Rosemary McEwen

Photo by Kyle Head on Unsplash

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