Christine Beamer—Running Start Program at MSU: Simple Q&A

By: Alexea Hankin

What is Running Start?

Running Start is the Career Readiness Program at the College of Music at Michigan State. It is designed to help students go from their passions into a profession. A lot of times today, in the arts, in addition to traditional career paths, many performers and teachers and musicians do a nontraditional career path. This is something we call “portfolio careers.” Here, they’ll find a variety of interests into different revenue streams. Where 70% of musicians are self-employed at some point in their lives, the ability to think of oneself as a business and one’s music as a product, this can be very helpful when pursuing a career in the music field.”


What’s the history of the Running Start program?

“The program’s been going for about five years. I’ve only been here for three, and the years before it was running at a smaller capacity. A group of professors sat down and started thinking about: “What are we not teaching music students about the field?”

It started as a series of workshops that were very occasional about entrepreneurship and concepts of entrepreneurship. When I came one board and now, it’s sort of a four-tiered structure where students can engage on any level. And this isn’t just for students of the College of Music, but anybody who is interested in the music field.


What does the Running Start Program have to offer?

We have workshops every other week with guest artists or professionals on either their career path and how entrepreneurship has shaped them or actual skill-building workshops such as how one writes grants.

The second level of engagement is individual advising. So students will come in and can say anything from: “I want to start a nonprofit” to “I am going to be a sole proprietor and I’m going to need to build some marketing materials for that” to “I want to start my own studio” and we can help them with that.

The third level of engagement is for music students specifically. We run what we call “residency programs.” A very common model for entrepreneurs in music is to build an educational product for original a company. So, for instance, a chamber group will say: “You can hire us to do educational concerts for K-12 students, or you can hire us to come in and talk to your corporation about creativity. We have two residency programs where students get to create their own residency but we establish the organizational relationships.

The 4th level is our Running Start competition, which is a business pitch competition. This is where students have the opportunity to win up to $2,500 for a business idea or project, etc.


What is the goal of Running Start?

“Artists are constantly up against the question: “How do we display the value of our work? How do we communicate and pitch the essential nature of music to society?” We’re a very non-scalable industry. In other words we’re a very people-intensive, experiential industry. So regardless of where they end up in the industry, we try to teach students that entrepreneurial mindset that will help them regardless of what role they eventually take on.


What is the ideal outcome of students involving in the Running Start program?

“We want students to engage in the communities that they are in. We want them to develop an entrepreneurial mindset, and by that we mean we want them to be proactive at identifying opportunities for the arts in their communities. We want to see students equipped with the ability to build fulfilling and stable careers.”