Marginalia, Graduate Blog

Nikki Hartel AEMM Ambassador

Tell us a little bit about what you were doing before you came to Columbia.

Growing up, my house was always filled with music. When it came time for family road trips, I would not get into the car unless the Elvis CDs were in the CD binder.

I have always had a passion for live music. During undergrad, I headed a student organization called POP Entertainment where I booked shows at Michigan State University (MSU). I also worked at Meridian Entertainment Group where I helped organize and promote concerts. In addition to being heavily involved in the music scene, I devoted quite a bit of time working at MSU as a student fundraiser. I started as a telemarketer and was promoted several times to become the Promotions Manager.

After college, I decided that New York City was the place to be. So with very little money and no job, I loaded up the family mini-van and had my mom and brother drop me off in New York City. Looking back, I cannot believe I did that! However, my fundraising experience paid off and I was able to land a job at Marymount Manhattan College doing development work. This job allowed me to live in what I believe to be one of the greatest cities in the world.

On one fateful New York City evening in the East Village, I found myself in the basement of a seedy bar where my friend was DJing. Later on I was introduced to the bar owner. That night, he offered me a job to sell tickets to patrons coming to check out the bands.

As much as New York had to offer, I felt like I wanted more out of my career and that graduate school would help me obtain a more lucrative job in the arts industry. After doing some research, I decided that Columbia College Chicago sounded like an excellent fit.

Why did you choose Columbia for your graduate study?

I chose Columbia for a number of reasons. Most importantly, I felt like the program was an excellent fit and would help prepare me for the type of job I really wanted. I was interested in getting a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) but all the programs I was looking at didn’t have any ties to the arts industry. While the Arts, Entertainment & Media Management Program at Columbia offered many core classes that an MBA program would, the College also offered excellent electives focusing on music business and entrepreneurship.

I was also impressed by the fact that all the professors are actively involved in the industry I want to work in. This signaled to me that the professors are knowledgeable regarding the current state of their industries and maintain valuable connections.

Another benefit of attending Columbia College Chicago is it would allow me to move to a vibrant city. Traveling and trying new things are what keeps me motivated and excited about life. I felt like moving to Chicago would be a fun adventure.

There was an Open House event at Columbia that I attended, which sealed the deal for me. I liked what I read online, but interacting with the faculty, staff and students gave me a good feel for what it would be like to attend the College. Bottom line, I felt like attending Columbia would allow me to develop a stronger, better career in the music industry.

Tell us about a project you’re working on that you’re excited about.

This past summer, I interned at Rock For Kids (RFK), a Chicago non-profit that provides music education to children living below the poverty line. I served as a behind the scenes leading light by helping fundraise, plan events, deal with donor relations, write grants, help with sponsorships and attending RFK’s events. I worked with a lively staff that was dedicated to making a difference.

My internship was not only enjoyable and thought provoking, but allowed me to make important future connections. As my internship was winding down, I was extended an invitation to join RFK’s Junior Board, which I gladly accepted. As a junior board member, I will help organize events, promote awareness and fundraise with fellow Rock For Kids affiliates.

On Friday, December 2, 2011, Rock For Kids will host its 23rd Annual Rock & Roll Auction from 6 – 10 pm. Autographed items from numerous musicians and A-list celebrities will be auctioned to benefit RFK’s music education programs. Last year, the organization provided music education to over 1,000 underprivileged children at 18 locations in Chicago.

I encourage everyone to check out the web site:

Please feel free to contact me if you have any further questions about RFK and especially if you are interested in attending the Rock & Roll Auction, donating or volunteering.