Chicago Symphony Orchestra: An Intern’s Story

Chicago Symphony Orchestra: An Intern’s Story

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This week I attended a free performance at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) featuring a collaborative performance between the Youth Orchestra of the Americas playing and the Chicago Civic Orchestra. Not only was it an amazing experience, but afterwards I had the opportunity to sit down with one of my classmates, Carolyn Sybesma, to talk to her about her ongoing internship at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. She had a ton of great advice for the classically-inclined arts managers amongst us…

Hi Carolyn. So first things first, how did you get your internship at the CSO?

I applied to the CSO a few times and didn’t get in, so I reached out to the president of the music school at which I teach.  She knew someone at the CSO’s Institute for Learning, Access, and Training and passed along my resume and cover letter. The next thing I knew I had an interview!

What is your role as intern?

My role has been to support the Chicago Youth in Music Festival. Some of it was the real nitty gritty stuff like photcopying music, picking up musicians from the airport, and getting them to places across Chicago for community events. Now that the festival is over, I am helping with the auditions of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago. As the musicians come in, I will be the first face that they see. I am also going to be helping with the learning programs which includes all the children and family programming at the CSO.

How do you feel like the Arts, Entertainment, and Media Management (AEMM) graduate program at Columbia has prepared you for the internship?

I feel extremely prepared, and I have received a lot of positive feedback. Being in the AEMM graduate program, my head is in the zone of planning, putting on events, and organizing the detailed aspects of arts events.

Did you feel like being an AEMM graduate student was instrumental in getting you the internship?

Definitely. When you are a student, you have an excuse. You have to make use of the fact that you are a student and use the opportunity to meet people and make contacts. It also gives the employer the opportunity to see what you can do in a risk-free setting, and these sorts of things lead to jobs all the time. Pretty much everyone who works at the institute at the symphony began as an intern!

What are your favorite things about the AEMM grad program?

I think my favorite thing is the networking. Obviously, I am learning a ton of practical skills in my classes, but I love that grad school gives me an excuse to meet people, talk to people, and build relationships. I have come across opportunities that I never would have had otherwise. I am doing marketing for a music school in Chicago, because in my marketing class, I had to do a marketing project that allowed me to work with the Executive Director and Marketing Director. Now I am doing freelance marketing for them.

So what would you say has been the highlight of your internship so far? Have you been able to see the CSO play?

I have two highlights. One was being in an open rehearsal for the CSO before they left for their tour through Asia. It was truly the most amazing sound I have ever heard. It was a rehearsal, but it was just a wave of sound from some of the best musicians in the world. The second was the end of the Chicago Youth in Music Festival. There was a culminating performance between the Youth Orchestra of the Americas, a group of musicians largely from South and Central America, playing with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, which is based at the symphony. Seeing them perform and also attending the after party and dancing together was amazing. Music brings people together, and I got to be part of it.

Finally, what advice would you give to future and current AEMM grad students with regards to getting these kinds of internships?

Make use of your contacts! I was nervous to approach people in order to get this, but I just did it and now I have a whole new base of contacts at the CSO. You just have to keep growing your network. The worst people can do is say no!

To learn more about the CSO and the Institute for Learning, Access, and Training click HERE.