Rachel Wilkes is a student of diverse interests – a vocal performance major, a tennis player. But as she contemplated her career path, she wanted to explore something new.
“I like performing, but I don’t see it as being strictly what I’m all about. I’m more of a black and white person – I love math – so I thought, I like music, and management, let’s see how I can combine the two.”
She hit on the idea of arts administration, and a summer internship at the historic Newberry Opera House in a nearby town confirmed her interest.
“When I came back to Converse in the fall, I was brainstorming how to get more experience in the field.”
She called Witney Fisher, Director of Student Development in the Center for Student Development and Success.
“I told her what I was looking for and she helped me identify and narrow down possible sites. We landed on the idea of the Chapman Cultural Center.”
The Chapman Cultural Center is Spartanburg’s unique education facility, gallery, and performance venue which unites community pursuits in history, science, and the arts. Run by the Arts Partnership of Greater Spartanburg, it provides museums, classes, performances, art exhibits, office space for area nonprofits, and more. It was perfect for a Converse intern wanting to experience the many aspects of arts management, without even having to leave Spartanburg.
With Witney’s help making the connections, Rachel landed the internship for January Term, 2010. She credits the unique 4-week structure of January Term for being able to fit an internship into her hectic school-year schedule. As her primary Jan Term course, she does not have to juggle it with academic courses, in addition to voice and tennis. The 30-hour-a-week internship counts as Music Business credit.
So what does Rachel do as an intern?
Her time at the Cultural Center is split between the offices of the Arts Partnership on the west wing, and the Music Foundation on the east wing.
At the Arts Partnership, she has written brochures for tours, helped restock concession stands, proofed press releases, and booked hotel rooms for guest artists.
“At the Music Foundation, most of what I do pertains to marketing. They keep careful databases of their patrons and supporters so I have been updating those.”
One of her favorite experiences has been helping with Music Sandwiched In, a free, monthly, lunchtime concert bringing regional talent to the Spartanburg public library.
“I like the jobs that take me into the community. Yes, you have responsibilities and the things you have to do, but I love that chance to interact with the people you’re serving. It’s an added bonus that they’re actually enjoying what you are working to provide for them.”
Rachel plans to pursue a graduate degree in Arts Administration and has applied for the Fulbright Fellowship to attend Goldsmith College in London. She urges students who are contemplating an internship in a field of interest to “go for it.” But be prepared for lots of surprises:
“Don’t go in there with a preconception about what you’re going to be doing. Much more than an academic class, when you’re actually working with people it will always be different – each day is a surprise, and that’s actually kind of exciting.”