What’s “Right” For Performance Majors? Acting Studio Conservatory or a College Conservatory Program? 

Today, aspiring actors have a variety of options to choose from when it comes to learning the tools and techniques to have success in the acting industry. There is not a one size fits all solution for everyone, neither is there a right or wrong choice. Becoming an actor is about what resonates with you — what makes you feel prepared to work with confidence and skill. 

When an up-and-coming actor is looking to get the proper training and education, two popular routes come to mind: acting studio conservatory and college conservatory. Both options provide students with a foundation for a career in the arts; however, the two differ in the teaching methods, study materials, scope, and structure. 

Deciding which acting path works best for you ultimately depends on what type of experience you’re looking for and what end goals you have in mind. *Insert self-reflection time* 

Similarities Between Acting Conservatories & College Conservatories

There is no doubt that both acting studio conservatories and college conservatories offer a great deal of value to the student. Both types of learning will lean on performance experts to share their career experience, fundamental knowledge, and diverse skill sets to help individuals develop into actors ready to perform in any medium.

Similarities include: 

    • Core acting values and education 
    • Top-level instructors and teachers 
    • Competitive, yet supportive, ensemble-based culture

Differences Between Acting Conservatories & College Conservatories

While both acting studio conservatories and college conservatories help develop those “acting muscles,” the two options differ in intensity and curriculum. Here is where students interested in learning the craft need to dig deep and ask the right questions. 

    • What type of learning am I looking for? 
    • Do I want to experience skills and subjects other than acting, performance, and theater studies? (i.e. General studies, other majors, and minors) 
    • What type of community do I want to surround myself with? 
    • Am I looking for a degree? 
    • What are my end goals? 
    • Am I looking for performance opportunities? If so, what kind?
    • How much time and money am I willing to invest?

Acting studio conservatories are designed to zero-in on the real-world skills that develop a successful performer. Areas like voice and speech, movement, specific acting technique tools, and more are critical building blocks that enable a student to form the soft and hard skills to carve out their space within the industry. Students leave with a way of working.

These classes are taught not by professors, but instead by current and former actors, coaches, and industry professionals. Their coaching relies on everyday experience, peer collaboration, and in-the-moment industry trends in order to provide students with the instruction and guidance on how to become the best actor they can be. This kind of coaching places students in group and one-on-one settings where they are putting these techniques into practice. Acting isn’t read about, it’s practiced.

In an acting studio conservatory, students are pushed daily on practical acting techniques to help develop a well-rounded and foundational skill set so that when a casting call arises, they are able to fully understand how to know a character, and deliver on it — the muscle memory, creativity, and imagination are already in place. Acting technique is the only thing being taught–  in this program need to expect rigorous and specific training. 

An acting studio conservatory isn’t going to feature outside general studies similar to a college program. Instead, it focuses solely on the techniques of acting and traditionally will take a shorter amount of time to complete compared to a four-year college program. In an acting studio conservatory atmosphere, you will be surrounded by like-minded and passionate individuals who are dedicated to sharpening their craft in the most true-to-life way. You will find a community of actors who are fully committed to turning their goals into a reality.  

College conservatory programs are built to give students a wide range of experiences in the creative arts. These curriculums feature broad teaching and analysis of the skill sets needed for the actor. These programs aim to give students the opportunity to discover new passions and interests through the infusion of required classes and coursework not directly related to their acting major. In doing so, this helps form a more diverse and well-rounded product in their eyes. 

For example, a college performance major may only spend 50 to 70 percent of their time in coursework related to their major, while the other time is spent in classes on politics, literature, science, and other general education courses. In addition, this 50 to 70 percent is spent in survey style courses, introducing the students to many different kinds of techniques, but rarely leave a student with a practical way of working. 

This formula allows students the time and ability to change their major if they decide acting isn’t what they wish to pursue as a full career. An acting studio conservatory does not give flexibility in education. Additionally, if it is important for the individual to walk away from their education with a higher education degree, college conservatories award bachelor’s degrees to students — giving students a diploma to fall back on if acting does not turn out to be what they hoped for. Because a bachelor’s of fine arts degree is awarded, a college conservatory is dramatically more expensive and may range in costs that are unrealistic or financially irresponsible for some students, keeping some aspiring actors from pursuing their passions, and loading students with mountains of debt. 

Finally, college conservatory programs provide students with a true “college experience.” Giving them all the social circles and interest groups that come with attending an institution of higher learning. From football games to Greek life, college acting programs enable individuals to fill their time with whatever outlets they see fit. 

Terry Knickerbocker Acting Conservatory: The Best of Both Worlds

Terry Knickerbocker has worked with actors at the highest levels of success. Those same people started exactly where you are today. Acting is a journey that isn’t linear nor is it the same for everyone. However, a single theme that runs through every actor’s story is good coaching. Acting takes work, and it’s work that can’t be done alone. 

Because of that, Terry has worked to build his acting studio conservatory into a training ground for the most dedicated performers, who understand their goals and want to achieve them with the right type of help. Through the cultivation of some of the finest teachers in the country, Terry and his team have worked to cultivate a program that leaves no stone unturned — and no student feeling unprepared for their first professional script read. 

Our curriculum seeks to combine the social and educational benefits of traditional college conservatories with the defined scope and skill sets needed for a successful career as an actor. By offering a two-year program, introduced by our shorter intensives, our coaches and instructors are dedicated to propelling aspiring students forward in their acting careers. Learn more about how Terry Knickerbocker Studio might be your solution for rigorous actor training.