UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Aimless. That’s how Olivia Jones felt when she started at Penn State in fall 2012. Fast-forward four years, and she’s interning at a recording studio in Nashville while singing and writing with local musicians, in hopes of making her singer/songwriter dreams come true.
Jones, who will graduate in December 2016, is focusing on music technology and arts entrepreneurship as part of her degree program in integrative arts, a major that allows students to combine courses from different areas to meet their interests and career goals. She was among the first students to take classes in the College of Arts and Architecture’s new arts entrepreneurship minor, part of the University-wide minor in entrepreneurship and innovation.
“I learned about the arts entrepreneurship minor when I attended a presentation during Global Entrepreneurship Week about the ‘starving artist,’” she explained. “It’s almost like it’s expected for people in the arts to struggle financially. But that presentation — by School of Theatre alumnus Joe Abraham — made me realize that if you think about the arts from an entrepreneurial business perspective, you don’t have to struggle. I realized I wasn’t going to be someone who failed, as long as I educated myself.”
Jones began taking arts entrepreneurship courses from Jonathan Gangi, director of the minor, and soon realized she had a plan not only for the rest of her Penn State career, but for her future.
“Music had always been a big part of my life, but I sort of blocked it out when I started college. I wanted to pursue music, but I was afraid it wasn’t a viable path financially, that it had too many risks," she said.
Discovering the arts entrepreneurship minor, and soon after the integrative arts major, was the turning point.
“I had bounced back and forth aimlessly in DUS (Division of Undergraduate Studies) for a long time, but I could never stay away from music," Jones said. "I joined the Pennharmonics, an a cappella group, during my sophomore year, and later began singing in the J.R. Mangan Band. So I became even more impassioned about performing. I realized that maybe I shouldn’t listen to those who told me not to pursue music.”