Behind the Pen with Madison Kobe ‘18
By Cassidy Skorija ‘19
For the last three years, Madison Kobe has sat at the keyboard writing articles and listening to recordings of interviews. But as she starts her senior year, she sets down her pen, closes her laptop, and reflects on her time at Carthage, specifically her time in the Office of Ensemble and Events as an English major.
As a non-major, how did you get started working for the Fine Arts?
I originally got involved with the Fine Arts my sophomore year when the Ensemble and Events Manager, Tianna Conway, hired me as a house manager and writer for the Office of Ensemble and Events. I was nervous at first since I didn’t know any of the Fine Arts students or faculty, or facilities for that matter! Even though I had a few embarrassing moments along the way, everyone was still super friendly and welcoming towards me.
Part of my job in my first year in the office was writing press releases. I would talk to faculty or visiting artists about events and write a short article about the interviewee, the event, and the date and time for the event. These short pieces were then published in the Kenosha newspaper. This was my first time trying marketing and journalistic writing; it was a whole new experience for me, and I’m glad I had the chance to experience it at Carthage. I loved being able to talk to people directly involved with events; I felt like I was getting a view into a part of Fine Arts not a lot of people get to see. More importantly, I could see myself doing this for the rest of my life.
After about a month of press releases and house managing, Tianna asked me how I felt about doing more writing, namely a weekly blog that would expand to include Visual Arts, Performing Arts, Music, Theatre, Dance, Music Theatre, and alumni. I was thrilled by the idea of pioneering a Fine Arts blog, so we both began building a schedule for when to publish articles, which topics to write about, and who to interview. Our biggest concern for the first year was keeping a regular schedule to establish the blog; if a blog “goes dark” for too long, it is more likely to lose viewers.
There were a few setbacks along the way, and we are still figuring things out even after three years, but the journey has been great and I can’t wait to see where the blog goes once I graduate!
Last fall I also joined the Box Office team, which was like a whole new world I had never even known existed. My first day working I got locked out of the Box Office and nearly started crying when theatre department head Martin McClendon, then Dylan Baxter ’17, then Corrie Riedl ’17 came to my rescue. After that, I knew I would love working with the theatre department. Somehow I ended up as the student manager (I still don’t really know how, but I love learning what it’s like to work in a managerial position).
How do you select people and/or topics for your interviews?
We try to include a wide variety of people to interview, such as students, faculty, alumni, and visiting performers, and we try to interview people from different callings. So while we started as mainly a vocal and instrumental performance blog, we have now interview a wide variety of individuals. You never know who is going to end up on the blog!
What is your process for writing a piece?
The first step (after you have your interviewee, of course) is to write up some questions. It’s difficult to gauge how many questions to have, since you never know if someone will give long answers to a single question (like me), or if they are able to answer the questions concisely. Most people end up having quite a bit to say, since they are passionate about the topic.
Then comes my least favorite part: the waiting. I send an email to the interviewee explaining why I am emailing them, what the blog is, and when they need to respond by. Apparently, not everyone checks their email every 10 minutes like I do, but usually within a day or two, we have scheduled a time to meet and go over the questions in person, which I record to ensure I write everything as the interviewee wanted. After a bit of formatting, hyperlinking, and what-not, you’ve got a finished post!
Who helped inspire your love of writing?
I think my love of writing stems from my love of reading. My dad used to read to me when I was young; and two of my older sisters, who I am very close with, were really into reading while we were growing up. I thought reading was what all the cool kids did. The funny thing is, when I was in elementary school, we would have a “March is Reading Month” competition to see which class read the most, and I would lie about how much I read; I would say I read way more than I did. Maybe I felt guilty about that, so I felt like I needed to read even more to make up for the lying.
But the more I read, the more I thought, “I bet I could do this.” I submitted pieces to writing competitions at my middle school and high school, and my pieces were well received. I talked to one of my sisters, and I found out they also had been writing for the last couple years; they are two of my closest friends and biggest supporters, so hearing them talk about writing convinced me to go all in.
In between senior thesis and blog posts, I am still working on my own projects, and I use my friends and family as beta readers for my writing.
What is it like being non-major working in an arts position?
I was really scared when I first got hired because I didn’t know anyone in the fine arts department. I was only a sophomore, so most of my classes had been gen-eds or required for my major. I hadn’t really interacted with people from other majors, and I was nervous I wouldn’t fit in. I told myself I would be fine because I was involved in choir up until the end of high school, but deep down I knew I gave up choir because I wasn’t crazy about it.
In reality I shouldn’t have worried. Everyone in the Fine Arts department is extremely friendly and welcoming. I made so many friends within the first month of house managing, and I’ve gotten to know the faculty and most of the students by interviewing them for the blog, working scholarship auditions, and spending a considerable amount of time in the Box Office. The students and faculty always say hi and ask me how I’m doing whenever we see each other, and they genuinely care.
Of course, I also get an insider view of what happens behind the scenes for shows and performances which usually ends in an interesting story, and at least one out-break of a random song. There is never a dull moment in the Fine Arts.
What are your ambitions for the future?
I am still working on some personal writing projects, which will hopefully see the light of day in the future. As of now I want to work in marketing, or else as a literary agent.
What kinds of experiences have you had at Carthage and in the Office of Ensemble and Events that you couldn’t have gotten elsewhere?
I have met so many artists that have multiple records and albums and are actual professional artists. That, to me, is so amazing.
Being the Student Manager of the Box Office has also been eye-opening. I had worked as part of team before, but I had never been in charge of one. As soon as Tianna offered me the position, I knew I wouldn’t say no. I knew this might have been my only chance to have a managerial position in the fine arts, and I am glad I took it. I have grown so much, and learned so much about myself by accepting the position.
Also, establishing this blog is one of my major accomplishments. Whenever I tell someone about it, and every time I see an article I wrote published on the Fine Arts Facebook, I feel so giddy. This blog has been one of the projects from the college years that I am most proud of.