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This qualitative case study examined the entrepreneurship training program BLUE (Build, Learn, Understand, Experiment) at the New World Symphony (NWS), an orchestral academy located in Miami Beach, Florida. The purpose of this study was to understand how the program impacted Fellows and contributed to their professional development by initially focusing on the following two research questions: 1. What individual and organizational characteristics best support sustainable culturally- and community-relevant entrepreneurial activity and innovation within the NWS BLUE Program? 2. What role might the NWS BLUE Program play in promoting artistic and civic innovation among their Fellows and their community partners in Miami? Data collection involved interviews, focus groups, and observations with Fellows, staff, and other mentors during the 2021-2022 season. Key findings revealed BLUE provided a unique creative space for NWS Fellows to develop and realize self-directed projects. The open, personalized structure enabled diverse outcomes from reinforcing traditional symphonic careers to catalyzing new entrepreneurial identities. Mentorship and modeling from staff and industry experts, and individualized support from program leaders were vital to instilling skills and mindsets for developing successful projects. Institutionally, BLUE projects have permeated the NWS’ organizational culture and community programming resulting in new standing concert series and initiatives originally pilots as BLUE projects. While the experiences of the BLUE curriculum are not broadly unified or standardized from the perspective of each Fellow, the disposition of leadership in enabling risk-taking and possibility is central to the program’s efficacy. This suggests that the NWS BLUE Program succeeds through facilitated customized experiential learning and personalized, growth-focused relationships with mentors, peers, faculty and staff over multiple years of the program and NWS Fellowship, rather than formal workshops and training sessions. Further research should examine long-term impacts of the BLUE experience on alumni, as well as comprehensively measuring the skills, mindsets and prior dispositions Fellows have developed prior to their experience with the New World Symphony to better track and evaluate the direct impact of the NWS Fellowship program, and to better differentiate and support Fellows diverse incoming mindsets, skills, and professional visions of success in their careers.

This NEA Research Lab is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts (Award#: 1879471-38-C-21) from its Research Labs program, specifically under their priority area on Arts, Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

The opinions expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not represent the views of the National Endowment for the Arts. The National Endowment for the Arts does not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information included in this material and is not responsible for any consequence of its use.