“I have two big dream careers — one is I would like to direct films, and I also want to compose the scores,” Kari Hustad ’21 told the News, trumpet in hand. “There’s a need in the film industry for female directors, and I would really like to be part of that movement — even though it’s the smallest entry point in Hollywood.”
Hustad was a member of the Berkeley Orchestra last year, and now she belongs to the Yale Jazz Ensemble. But this year, she’s shifting her focus to filmmaking.
Every fall, at the peak of recruitment season for students pursuing corporate careers, Yalies like Hustad hoping for a career in the arts face the pressure of an uncertain path to success.
“That’s my biggest existential crisis of the moment,” said Aïssa Guindo ’21, who performed in a local production of “Dreamgirls” last semester and belongs to the a cappella group Mixed Company. “The first thing people say when I tell them I want to perform is, ‘You’re so brave, you’re so daring, I believe in you.’ But if I said I want to go into business, it’s a very different approach that kind of adds more validity since it’s a more stable career path.”
Guindo added that, in part because both her parents grew up in low-income families, they place importance on occupational security. She said she is considering taking a gap year to act and sing so that she can seriously evaluate a career in the arts.
“I have reconciled with myself that I’m going to be pursuing an unrealistic career, but for a really long time I was definitely very torn,” Hustad said. “I really felt the pull of going into something like a government job — which is also very unstable, but perhaps more stable than the arts.”
Some students told the News they thought that Yale has faced challenges recently in assisting those pursuing creative careers.
According to Sammy Grob ’20, a member of Yale’s oldest improv group, Ex!t Players, the creative careers fair Yale organizes has become less effective as the theater industry has become less bureaucratic. He added that “breaking in” to creative careers is more about working with specific people than organizations, making useful fairs difficult to organize.
“There’s not a lot of resources to help students figure out how to get an internship in Hollywood,” Hustad said. “When I went for an internship to [Los Angeles] this summer, I discovered an extensive Yale alumni network there. But the existing alumni network doesn’t play really well with career services here, or career services isn’t completely aware of how extensive the network is, because I didn’t know about it before I got there.”
Guindo said she instantly finds out about major Goldman Sachs networking events even though she is not an economics major but she receives little information about Yale networking events for those interested in creative careers.
“The Common Good & Creative Career initiative was developed to address this very perception of imbalance,” said Derek I. Webster ’99, associate director for the arts at the Yale Office of Career Strategy. “The Creative Careers have each year accounted for as many — and sometimes more — summer and post-grad engagements as the equally broad career categories of finance and consulting. As a Yale undergrad in the late ’90s, I was one of those students that assumed Yale’s career office was not interested in supporting the nuances of a creative career. Part of my role at Yale is ensuring that similarly interested students don’t make that mistake today.”
Webster said that the Common Good & Creative Career initiative provides advisory services tailored to the creative industries and “sympathetic to the idiosyncrasies of artistic careers.” He added that these counseling sessions are individualized and can help students outline a particular arts career path.
Despite the challenges they have faced in the recruitment process, students interviewed by the News said Yale’s extracurricular opportunities and alumni network have been helpful to those considering a career in the arts.
“It was important to me as a first year considering a career in theater at the time to see seniors graduate, move to New York and work in the arts,” said Sofia Campoamor ’20, the first female member of the Yale Whiffenpoofs. “It made the world outside Yale feel more concrete — and less intimidating and lonely — to know that they would be there when I left Yale.”
Nina Goodheart ’19 said one of her “directing heroes,” Lila Neugebauer ’07 — who had her Broadway debut in 2018 — gave Goodheart the opportunity to work with her for the summer. Goodheart added that she is studying the careers of Yale graduates whose work she admires as she plans her steps after graduation.
During the 90th Academy Awards held in March of this year, Frances McDormand DRA ’82 claimed the award for best actress, and Robert Lopez ’97 won for best original score.
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