Students majoring in the arts currently make up about 8 percent of the undergraduates at BYU, according to University Communications.
Over the past 10 years, the number of students majoring in visual arts, design and art education has increased 7 percent while the number of music, theater and dance students has decreased. Despite enrollment dips, students still choose these majors out of passion for the arts.
Enrollment in BYU’s School of Music has gone down 15 percent in the past 10 years, according to University Communications. Music education pre-major Alisyn Reed said she thinks this may have to do with society getting less exposure to the arts.
“As little children are growing up, there have been a lot of budget cuts in the arts programs in schools,” Reed said. “Less and less people are able to see if they have an interest in the arts because they don’t have the same opportunities as others did to see if that’s something that they like to do.”
BYU Theatre and Media Arts chair Wade Hollingshaus said he thinks the theater department’s 6 percent drop in enrollment in the past 10 years might be because of the social viewpoint that arts majors are less likely to find employment upon graduation.
“There is certainly the perception that if you want to make a living, it’s much easier to do it in another field,” Hollingshaus said. “I don’t really believe that’s the case, but I think there is very much that perception.”
Enrollment in BYU’s dance department has decreased 9 percent in the past 10 years. Ballroom major Chanel Kostich said a dance major can be difficult because of the limited availability of teaching jobs in dance.
Hollingshaus said he chose to major in theater as an undergrad student not for the potential possibilities it would create in his future but because it was the subject he was most passionate about.
“For me, the biggest pro about majoring in the arts is that there is a focus on meaning,” Hollingshaus said. “It’s one thing to sustain a life, but if that life is unfulfilled and has no meaning, then that’s the hugest con out there.”
Reed said she chose to apply to the music education major because music has always played a big role in her personal, family and academic life.
“It’s what I’m good at, what inspires me and something that I want to develop and learn more about,” Reed said. “I want to help others learn how to love and play music.”
Illustration major Rebeca Alvarez said majoring in the arts has allowed her to do what she loves and inspire others while creating her own art.
“I find so much satisfaction in seeing people react to my artwork,” Alvarez said. “My goal one day is to make an impact on someone and motivate them to do what they love.”
Kostich said an advantage to majoring in the arts is that it makes students unique and can help them stand out to employers in different areas of work.
“Majoring in the arts is different than most science and business majors because we think and learn visually,” Kostich said. “Many law schools and business schools actually favor art majors because they are unique and add diversity to their program.”
BYU percussion performance alumna Anna Meacham said her education in the arts taught her skills such as such as time management, taking criticism and practice which apply across many types of work.
“You can learn so much from these disciplines,” Meacham said. “Being a music major was the best thing I could have done for myself.”
BYU law student Annalee Moser said her undergraduate degree in theater arts studies was very helpful to her in preparing to go to law school.
“If you’re going to come to law school and work in litigation, you’re performing in front of a judge and jury all the time, and that’s exactly what you do on stage,” Moser said.
Reed said she hopes to get an education in music because the arts provide an environment in which she can constantly learn new things.
“There are never-ending things to learn about the arts,” Reed said. “I love learning and I want to be able to become someone who knows a lot about music.”
Alvarez said she would have regretted having chosen a major outside the arts despite the challenges she has faced during her time in the program.
“I don’t think I would be as happy if I would have chosen another major,” Alvarez said. “I came here to make art.”