One of the most important attributes of an internship is for the student to get “real world” experience from professionals who have the knowledge, passion, and structure to create and maintain an internship program. The COVID-19 pandemic gave all of us new and unique ways of interacting and utilizing virtual platforms. Even before the pandemic, the importance of communication among all three entities (sponsor, intern, and the college or university) are the key building blocks in providing “value.” Three summer internship sponsors discussed with me how they go about educating, engaging, and encouraging our students as we navigate this unprecedented time together.
Khadeeja Grace: Changing the Narrative
Khadeeja Grace of GBB Studios created her internship program in January of 2021. With a background as not only a producer/engineer, but also a recording artist, she set forth a plan that would give student interns the opportunity to grow and flourish at the studio while incorporating an inclusive environment. This philosophy was paramount to her own experience before starting her studio. In fact, her first taste of the industry came about due to individuals being open to showing her the ropes when she first began. “I had a mentor that attended the same church as I did, and I brought it to his attention that I had song ideas in my head but didn’t know how to get them recorded. He and his wife invited me to their home studio setup, and showed me how to use Protools and how to create sessions.” That experience helped craft her desire to give students real-world experience. As she noted,
“I like to make interns operate in the functions they desire to be in after the program is complete. If they are producers, I’d like them to engage more with producers and the same goes for engineering and songwriting.”
When bringing aboard a new intern, Khadeeja is looking for students who want to learn and have a professional approach. As she related, “I’m looking for humility and someone who’s teachable even if they are very knowledgeable, because I’m exposing them to another level of clientele that will require them to take a back seat and learn from those clients along with myself. I’m also looking for interns that are currently active in their own personal development as far as engineering, producing, and songwriting, because someone like that is easier to invest in.”
Being one of the few female-owned studios in the Chicago area, Khadeeja has brought new ways to connect with students in a male-dominated field. Using her music background, experience as an audio intern herself, and self-motivation, she has put together an internship program that allows students to thrive and have a clear understanding of the business from top to bottom. Her advice to students? “Understand that you need to have a strong sense of courage to carry this venture out. No one is going to care about if you make it more than you, and you must be willing to do it for yourself even when no one is cheering. This is not a glamorous life in terms of the labor that must be put in, and you have to be patient and remain willing to do the work when necessary.”
Time Well Spent: Creating a Virtual Internship that Matters
For many students, the idea of doing a virtual internship was an unknown commodity prior to March 2020. Finding a company that can successfully integrate learning objectives and experience can be a challenge. Enter Alexy Erouart. As a recent graduate from the Music Business program (’18), he is one of three former Columbia students who own and operate Zoetic Management, a music boutique service that offers artists the tools and resources to succeed in the music business. Alexy is no stranger to the music business. As a student, he had several internships and cites his past internships in developing the company’s philosophy towards having robust internship experiences for students.
In early 2020, I visited with the company prior to the pandemic and discussed the launch of in-person internships for the summer 2020 semester. Meeting with all three former students gave me the chance to not only hear their stories but also see the unchallenged passion each had for the industry. With a strategy in place to begin in-person internships for the summer of 2020, plans were altered due to the pandemic. The company quickly pivoted and created value-driven virtual internships that gave students hope, inspiration, and skills through carefully designed learning outcomes. Throughout the past year, Zoetic has hosted at least two Columbia College Chicago interns per semester. This has been a major highlight for student interns to learn from three recent graduates who are creating a buzz in the industry by providing top-notch management for clients.
Whether virtually or in-person, Alexy summed up his philosophy in providing value-driven internships. “The main key is communication and very clear standards for what needs to be done. If each day doesn’t have actionable items, then things may not get done properly.”
Hey Nonny Completes the Trifecta!
As more internships that are in-person start to open, many new opportunities have presented themselves for students. One is the music venue, Hey Nonny, located in Arlington Heights, IL. Matt Rusinek, Promotions Manager at Hey Nonny, has been overseeing interns this summer and has strategically implemented an internship program that has seen interns learn the business by learning about scheduling artists, venue management, digital marketing, and much more. Having a wealth of knowledge Matt has held numerous positions in the music industry including working closely with Lollapalooza, as well as touring with a major label artist. He has set out to provide students an up-close and personal experience. “The pandemic has, if anything, shown interns what it looks like as the industry comes back to life, and how to roll with the punches of what it takes to restart the machine that is live music.”
The internship with Hey Nonny is, in Matt’s words, “Hands on! This internship is on the ground floor of everything. We have them putting up shows, working doors, learning different deal structures, and everything else in between. The big culmination is a show that our interns booked, are promoting, and running. At the end of it, they will have walked away with a complete start to finish understanding of the lifecycle of a show, from the booking, promoting, advancing, and running of the event. It’s a truly hands on, and unique experience that not many are able to get.”
Matt shared some great advice for students looking to intern not only at Hey Nonny, but in the music industry.
“Being absorbent to not only learning what they teach you, but also observing everything that goes on around you, and also applying it automatically, goes a really long way. You have to think of this as an investment of time that will benefit you in the long term. So, dive into it, get what you can out of it, and be ready to get your hands dirty. Venues are always looking for the next generation of people to work with them. Be that person! If your attitude is positive, open, and you are serious about working, you will be ahead of the game!”