By Jacob Nelson
Cory Sandrock wants to teach his students the stuff he wished he’d learned when he was an undergraduate studying theatre: how to raise money.
A Northwestern alum who majored in theatre, Sandrock has always been interested in live performance. He recently directed a production of Frankenstein at a community theater in Elmhurst, and spent a few years working in the New York theatre scene after he graduated. His struggles to raise money for the productions he was working on pushed him to get his MBA. Now, he works as a vice president at Northern Trust.
“When you have a really good arts education you don’t necessarily learn that,” Sandrock said about basic accounting and finance skills. “It wasn’t recognized as being important.”
Sandrock, who now works as a vice president at Northern Trust, is teaching an Masters in Science for Leadership in Creative Enterprises course this winter about finances in the creative industries. He wants his students to know where to look for capital, how to ask for capital, and how to create and manage a budget for a company or production.
He knows those skills don’t sound immediately engaging, but hopes they will jump out at some like they did with him.
“I went to business school not thinking I would like a lot of the classes,” he said, “but I really liked economics, so that for me was like how do I bridge the worlds and still be creative.”
Sandrock is happy to see that, as the theatre scene becomes more competitive, the division is coming down between the art and business side of things. He remembers working for a Broadway company and getting blank looks when he asked if the production had enough budgeted for him to print copies of flyers.
“Everyone looked at me like I had four heads and someone said, ‘You’re not supposed to worry about that,” Sandrock said. He remembered thinking, “Well, do I have the money to go make copies?”
He’s also hopeful his students will see, as he did, the similarities between business and performance.
“The minute you give a monologue for an audition you are selling yourself,” Sandrock said. “Art and business are basically after the same thing, they just speak two different languages.”
Ideally, the class will equip students with the skills they need to understand the basics: what a spreadsheet means, for example, and how to navigate a financial conversation. In short, the skills that, if Sandrock had learned them as an undergraduate, may have made a big difference when he was working in New York.
“I would have totally applied for this program,” Sandrock said. “I think it’s important for (students) to have both skills, add enough skills so that you can take it to the next level and not always be just trying to make it.”