Don’t Forget Leadership and Teamwork

I was helping out a local high school by conducting mock interviews with their students today. I enjoy doing this because the school does a great job preparing the students for the experience. I often don’t realize just how nervous the students are until the sweaty palm handshake as they depart. The last student I spoke to was applying for a position as a nurses aide and I was pleased to hear him talk about how his experience as the section leader in his band conferred leadership and conflict management skills. I made sure I complimented him on mentioning that and coached him about mentioning it in future interviews. (My interview partner who was not an arts person did so as well.)

It occurred to me that when I have read about the benefits of the arts recently, leadership and teamwork didn’t seem to figure largely in the lists. Given the recent push that education make someone employable, it is probably important that it be emphasized more.

I did a quick and, by no means exhaustive, survey of articles listing the benefits of arts education and found that my suspicion was generally true. Many talked about the cultivation of very desirable traits like intellectual and emotional development, flexibility of worldview, judgement, problem solving, expressiveness and ability to anticipate consequences.

In our desire to justify ourselves by identifying some distinctive advantages conferred only by the arts and creative expression, we seem to have forgotten some basic benefits a high school kid can cite. Speaking of which, while we are touting these benefits, it probably behooves us long term to make sure high school kids who are having these experiences can cite the benefits.

The intellectual and emotional development advantages frequently referenced are often individual achievements. Leadership and team work are assets in the social sphere and warrant inclusion. It may seem of little consequence now, but I suspect there is a fair chance that in the next 10 years technologically induced anti-social/introspective tendencies may be be deemed a crisis and these qualities will be highly prized.

This all being said, there are a lot of benefits to arts education and it is tough to list them all. If you are looking for a list to keep handy, here are some great ones. (A couple which list leadership and teamwork). Again, these are some I personally find helpful rather than an exhaustive list.

Americans for the Arts
National Assembly of State Arts Agencies
Artsblog post by Kristen Engebretsen

Feel free to add a few of your favs in the comments section.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

I am currently the Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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2 thoughts on “Don’t Forget Leadership and Teamwork”

  1. I know being involved in music has certainly been a huge benefit to my life development.

    As a child I did poorly in math. I couldn’t go very fast, and tests scared me to death. By the time I reached college I hadn’t done any serious math for several years, and I was very worried. Luckily, I was able to go through my music theory classes first. I found that after I had passed music theory (with very good grades, I might add) I could wrap my mind around (and complete quickly) more complex math that had been a huge struggle for me a few years prior. The pathways in my brain required for doing complex math were set and exercised by doing something that I loved.

    I also noticed a great deal of quality skills developed in band: Teamwork, leadership within my section, teaching in the lower classes, and something akin to public speaking when I was a student conductor on occasion.

    I cannot imagine my life without these experiences.

    Sorry to go on and on there! I just always feel so sad for those who do not have the time, funding, luxury, what-have-you to experience what I have gained from being apart of music and other arts.

    Thanks for a great post!

    • Rachel-

      Thanks for the quick response to the post! I don’t know enough about exact connections between math and music to tell you what to credit for math becoming easier.

      Whether music opened up new neural pathways or just showed you a new way of perceiving and approaching the math, it is great to hear a story like yours.

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