Colin Keane: the "Real World" Beckons

by Jonah Dratfield

The period of time after college graduation is one of the most daunting periods in a “former student’s” life. After years of structured classes and regimented academic majors, students are forced to face the job market - a seemingly impregnable beast. But, more frightening still, they are forced to venture to his lair - the "real world.” While John Mayer, in his pop-star wisdom, insisted that no such thing existed, new college graduates might beg to differ. After excitedly leaving crowded amphitheatres, their long gowns fluttering beneath them and their golden diplomas shielding their eyes, they are forced to confront a daunting question: are they prepared to face what lies outside? Not long ago, Colin Keane was one of these students. Yet, unlike many, Colin came to the real world confident in his skill set. And AES courses played a pivotal role in his preparation.

Colin Keane is from Brockton, MA and initially enrolled as a Music Education major (saxophone being his instrument of choice) at UMass Amherst. He quickly realized, though, that this was not the right path for him. “I stuck with Music Ed for a year and half before I switched to Legal Studies for a semester,” says Colin. “After that, I switched back to Music Ed and realized it wasn’t working out and wasn’t giving me what I wanted, especially on the business side of things. It wasn’t teaching me what I’d do as a musician outside of school other than strictly teach - and I wanted to do more than that. I wanted to learn more about business, marketing, and finance as well as music. I discovered the BDIC (Bachelor’s Degree with Individual Concentration) program my junior year and got into the program the second semester of my junior year. I did my BDIC in Music Entrepreneurship.”

Colin enrolled in various courses as part of his Music Entrepreneurship major. “AES courses gave me a lot of foundational skills, especially for work in the nonprofit sector,” says Colin. "I learned the fundamentals of how a how a non-profit operates  and I also learned about fundraising practices, board development, and the laws governing organizations. AES is a good step towards what UMass Amherst can do better for their arts students. They not only built connections for me with people and organizations outside the University through their internship fairs and case study organizations, but they gave me the tools to reach out to people and make connections myself. I’m very thankful for the things they did.”

One case study in Arts Marketing course had a particularly strong impact on Colin. “I had rarely seen people who loved their jobs as much as the team at the Art Garden in Shelburne Falls," says Colin. "WIth local public schools lacking arts programs, the Art Garden made a space for teens and kids to come in and create art after school. It was incredible to see all the happiness kids got from that - especially in a place where their extracurricular options were limited.”

Colin participated in various internships in his time at UMass Amherst in addition to taking AES courses. Looking back, he sees them as having been an immensely valuable experiences. “I interned at Surefire Creative Studios based out of Lowell in the summer of my junior year,” says Colin. “I got to sit in on a lot of studio sessions and learned so much just being present. I wish I had done more internships and would recommend that current students take advantage of any internship opportunities they have.”

Colin graduated from UMass Amherst in the winter of 2016. He began applying for positions in January and, after only four months of interviewing and applying, was offered a job in early May. Today, Colin works as an executive agent assistant at the Andrew Wilson Talent Agency. “I send out the casting notices,” says Colin, “and communicate with the clients on a daily basis. I help with the paperwork and the various union documents for the actors. I’m constantly communicating with casting directors, ad agencies, and production companies to schedule auditions, confirm booking contracts, and confirm shoot details for our talent.” Colin sees his current position as a way to build his arts administration skills, resume, and professional relationships. While this is Colin’s first job out of school, he is optimistic about the opportunities this job and the Andrew Wilson Agency (AWA) will provide him in the future. Colin does hope to get involved with a nonprofit music organization in some capacity in the future.

Reflecting on his transition into the “real world” and his career path, Colin notes the importance of maintaining a positive outlook. Thanks to his courses and internships, Colin’s period of applying for jobs in his desired field was not remarkably long for a recent arts graduate - yet it was certainly trying.

“It’s stressful, exciting, and scary all at the same time,” says Colin. "There were a lot of jobs that said ‘we really like you, but you are not quite ready yet.' You lose confidence sometimes. You start to get worried, but really it’s about throwing out as many applications as you can and keeping a positive attitude. Don’t doubt yourself too early, give yourself some time. It does take awhile to get a job, especially in the arts sector, but don’t get discouraged. A lot of your friends in different fields will have locked down jobs or clear paths. Even if you don’t have that, stay true to yourself.”

Colin Keane has undoubtedly stayed true to himself. And, the job market, while a daunting beast, was no match for his spirit. Colin Keane, because of AES, answered the real world’s beckon.