At this time of year, dancin’ boys and their parents wait to hear about summer intensives…and if they received scholarships. By the end of the summer, those same families will wait to hear about acceptance into year-round ballet programs. And that almost always means one thing: discussions about money. Can you afford to let your son attend a summer dance intensive or go away to a all-year residential ballet program?
For many families, unfortunately the answer is “no” even if the son was offered a good-sized scholarship. And that means the young dancer misses out on important professional development. After all, any dance classes he takes lead to one thing: a professional career. But summer intensives and immersive-type dance programs tend to push the boys’ skill and technique to new levels—levels necessary if they want to become professional dancers. They should be considered professional training—or a job—just like college.
A better question, therefore, may be: Can you afford not to let him attend?
Four Ways to Pay for Your Son’s Career Development Opportunities
For those of you struggling to figure out how to come up with enough money to afford a summer intensive or to potentially pay for a residential dance program, consider taking a long-term planning approach.
First, think about summer intensives and residential dance programs as career development or higher-education opportunities. If you would pay for college, or find a way to afford college tuition, approach these dance opportunities with the same attitude.
You son may choose not to go to college. Many ballet dancers go straight into the work world. Thus, summer intensives serve as higher education, as does a year-round residential dance program. Approach these eventualities as you would the eventuality of your son attending college.
- College funds. If your son decides not to go to college…or isn’t sure…consider dipping into his college fund (if you have created one) to allow him to attend summer intensives or a year-round residental program. When Julian was accepted into the School of American Ballet his senior year and informed us he did not want to go to college (even though we made him apply to several schools anyway), we used the small college fund we had created for him to afford this program. You can do the same, depending on how you save for your son’s college. Many college saving programs do not allow you to use the money for anything other than college. Be sure you contribute to a fund that gives you the freedom to use it however you like, should your son not attend college or you want to take out money for a summer intensive or year-round residential program.
- Savings accounts and investments. As your son becomes serious about dance, create a savings program for his summer intensives and a possible year-round residential program. Approach this just like saving for college, but earmark the money for dance-related professional training. If you don’t put it in CDs or something that charges a penalty fee for withdrawing money, you can then use this “fund” for your son’s higher-level educational opportunities.
- Loans. If you would consider taking a loan for your son’s college education, consider taking one for his professional development. Yes, the need for this type of loan comes much earlier in his lifetime than it might if he went to college, but he needs it earlier. He might need it as early as age 13 or 14.
- Crowdfunding. You can always try a Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaign to raise money for your son’s dancing. I know people who have raised money for less important ventures.
Julian would not be where he is today—dancing professionally—if we hadn’t found a way to afford the summer intensives and his one-year at the School of American Ballet. His college fund also got used as a cushion to help him get on his feet for the first year and a half or more of his professional life.
Remember: You are investing in your son’s future. No matter how you make it happen, one day he will thank you…and you will be glad you made it possible for him to pursue his dream.
If you have additional ideas about how to afford higher-educational opportunities for your son, please leave them in a comment below!
Jane Steven says
Thank you for posting this. Do you know if a Coverdell education savings account can be used for a ballet summer intensive (without tax penalty) that is held by a ballet company in collaboration with a university? My daughter has been accepted to an intensive at American Ballet Theater in collaboration with the Department of Theater and Dance at UT Austin. I have spoken with the ABT staff and they didn’t know and suggested I ask her school guidance counselor, and I haven’t heard back from my calls to UT or the guidance counselor. I also called Schwab, who manages our Coverdell account, and they didn’t know. I have researched the topic on-line, including reading the IRS publication – the key seems to be determining if the ABT/UT would be considered an eligible institution.
No idea. Julian had money in a college account we could liquidate, and that’s how he attended SAB during the school year.