paul saintilan

In January 2006 The Australian Institute of Music (AIM)  entered into discussions with Sydney Opera House (SOH) to re-launch its Master of Arts Management program as a co-production. AIM was looking for an inspiring venue that would immerse the program in a real performing arts environment, bring a community of industry professionals closer and involve SOH staff as participants and occasional guest presenters so that the program had an authentic connection with the venue. Sydney Opera House also saw itself as a place for learning and education and there was interest in integrating it into their staff professional development programs.

Paul Saintilan, a Program Director of Master of Arts Management at Sydney Opera House at Australian Institute of Music, visiting lecturer at The Glion Institute of Higher Education and adjunct professor at Webster University Switzerland has shared with us his insights on the importance of learning in the professional workplace.

Interview by Natalia Ilyukevich

How important is being involved in industry for the learning process?

It is very important on a number of levels. Firstly, we would not admit a student into the program who did not have at least two years industry experience, because otherwise they have no ‘real world’ frame of reference to which they can relate the concepts and seminar discussion. Eighty percent of students enroll part-time (the average age is 34 – very mature) and are often working in the industry, often in good jobs,  so they can relate the seminar content to their industry experience and introduce this into the seminar discussion. Secondly, the post-seminar assignments provide an opportunity to apply the theory to their working life, or a hobby project, and in doing so students personalise the content and develop a deeper understanding. The ‘Major Project’ that students must undertake (either a Research Project or Business Plan)  which can be sponsored by an arts organisation, provides a deeper opportunity for industry related learning (the Major Project serves the same function as internships do in other programs).

 What were your decisions based on when choosing the lecturers for the Master of Arts Management program?

Generally, we were after enthusiastic, passionate lecturers with deep arts industry knowledge, who could bring theory to life in a practical, relevant and motivating way. We have often asked ourselves who is the best person to present a module, the modularised structure means they could come from anywhere and have flown internationally to present (like Tim Walker from London). For example, we chose Shane Simpson for the entertainment law modules because he ticks all the boxes; he has deep music law but also multi artform experience. He has extensive experience with both non-profit and commercial organisations. He has previously worked as a University law lecturer but is also a celebrated practitioner, having established the Arts Law Centre and Simpsons Solicitors. He is also a very entertaining presenter and so can bring it all to life in an engaging way. For highly theoretical subjects we have gone for academics with a PhD to ensure the academic integrity of the modules, for others we have skewed them more towards a practitioner focus. It is a question of balance.

What contribution do you hope this course will make to the industry?

We would like to see the course promoting and encouraging best practice, the pursuit of excellence and greater professionalism and thoughtfulness in the way we approach the challenges of managing arts and entertainment businesses. We want to ensure students who graduate have what they need to make the best possible contribution to Australia’s cultural life. We also want to help bridge the gap between theory and practice, academics and practitioners, and generic business school thinking and what works in the idiosyncratic environment of arts and entertainment.

 What measures of success will you use?

One measure would clearly be graduate outcomes in terms of the contribution students eventually do make, but as we re-launched this program in 2007, it is early days. There are some tremendously impressive people who have gone through the program who I hope go onto bigger careers than I have had. I am working on a PhD with Prof Ruth Rentschler at Deakin, and so lecturers in the program are involved in research and we would like to see this bridging the academic/practitioner gap. We naturally employ other metrics in the program to ensure we are offering a high quality educational experience such as student evaluation form feedback, which have been excellent and assessment metrics. The quality of work is high and getting higher.

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