Getting to the Art of the Matter: Part 1

By: Peter Van Houten
Getting to the Art of the Matter story feature photo
Want to sell your car? Take a piano class. Interested in law school? Perhaps you should audition for “Guys and Dolls.” A fine arts degree can teach you so many useful skills.

When Albert Einstein was struggling with a huge scientific problem, he often played his violin to set his mind. He saw the orderly reading of musical notes in the same logical way that he viewed math. “If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician,” Einstein once said. “I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.”

Research continues to show the value of the arts in educating our children. For instance, one famous University of California at Los Angeles study of 25,000 middle and high school students found that youths who were highly involved in the arts scored higher on standardized achievement tests than students with limited involvement. Just as telling, the arts-involved students watched fewer hours of television and complained less about being bored in school. Other studies have shown that young children involved with the arts have greater career aspirations and are more civic-minded.

So, the evidence is clear. But what about college students? What do they get from the arts? To answer those two questions, we talked to eight successful former Casper College students who are now working in their respective fields. In discussing their careers, they offer numerous ways that music, dance, painting, and acting apply to other professions such as law, finance, sales, and politics. Oddly, no one brings up the world of physics.

Matthew Dailey (’09)


Matthew Dailey came to Casper College because it gave him two years to test his theory. A theater major, Dailey caught the acting bug at age 9 thanks to the encouragement of his parents, who were also artistic. He continued to take the stage through high school, and, with graduation imminent, he needed to know if acting was a viable career option.

“Casper College gave me two years to immerse myself in a theatrical program to see if it was something that I could be doing the rest of my life,” Dailey said. “And it turned out that it absolutely was.” Dailey attended CC under his given name, Matthew Gottlieb.

Dailey said it was the support of his instructors that kept him motivated, as well as the many friendships he formed. The clincher, however, was much simpler. “Ultimately, I realized performing is when I am most happy,” he said. “You have to do what makes you happy.”

After Casper College, Dailey earned his bachelor’s degree at Western Michigan University, then on to New York City where he took on hundreds of auditions. Working the “typical” actor’s job of waiting tables, Dailey tried out for any part that came his way, whether it was the lead, an ensemble part, or something in the chorus. He got a lot of nos, but he also heard several yeses, enough to pay the rent.

“You must have a thick skin in this business because there is so much rejection,” Dailey said. “I also reminded myself that with every job out there, someone will get it, so why not me. You will never get the job you don’t go out for.”

Success came with shows like “Cats” (Rum Tum Tugger), “A Chorus Line” (Mike), “1940’s Radio Hour” (BJ Gibson), “Cinderella” (Prince), and “Viva Las Vegas” (Elvis), before he accepted a nine-month part in “Saturday Night Fever – The Musical” aboard a cruise ship.

His latest role as Tommy DeVito in “Jersey Boys” has kept him on tour for two years across the United States, including the Buell Theatre in Denver, where he sat in his dressing room to complete this interview. He said that even though he has performed in the role of Tommy more than 500 times, the thrill remains each time the stage lights hit him.

“I am most proud of being able to find steady work over the last 10 years,” he said. “My goal was to work and pay my bills. I have been able to do both.”

Dailey believes he made the correct career choice, though knows he could do something else if needed, because of all he has learned as an actor.

“I have to demonstrate my abilities in public speaking and creative thinking,” he said. “I have friends with theater degrees who went to law school. I have another actor friend who went into the FBI because he worked so well with others. Acting applies to so many things.”

This story originally appeared in the Winter 2017 issue of Footprints.

Learn more about the theatre performance program at Casper College.

Media contact: Lisa S. Icenogle

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