A Summer of Song: Looking Back at an Internship with the Kenosha Opera Festival
By William Dowell ’22
I will admit, I am absolutely nervous about having a career in the arts. The various fields that encompass the arts and entertainment industry are both highly competitive and uncomfortably unstable. Whether it is the loss of public arts funding, the shuttering of various companies, or just the chaos that comes with an industry that relies heavily on freelancers, I expect it to be challenging to maintain a steady income. That is why I think it is essential to build a wealth of skills, contacts, and portfolio pieces before I leave college. It is also why I find myself extremely lucky to have been able to immerse myself in the joys and trials that come with working for an independent arts company such as the Kenosha Opera Festival. Throughout these past few months, I have been constantly learning and growing as a professional and as an artist.
One of the biggest things about working in the arts is that you need to be able to wear many hats. Not only do many professionals balance multiple sources of income, but even those with steadier positions often have to take on tasks that stretch beyond their original role. Working for a smaller company heightens this breadth of work. Nicholas Huff ’15, my boss, managed the marketing for the company, created numerous promotional materials, worked with the guest artists, sang a lead role in the mainstage production, La fille du Régiment, and handled many other parts involved with running a company. As an intern, this gave me the opportunity to cultivate a wide variety of skills, from video editing to photography to social media management. I was able to help set up and film various events, building a body of work that ranged far beyond my small writing portfolio.
Some of the work stretched beyond marketing. For a couple weeks I worked on arranging a synthesizer part for the opera due to a lack of orchestral musicians. Luckily, we were able to fill out the orchestra and move some of the parts around, so we didn’t have to use the part. However, that experience both heightened my ability to use music notation software such as Finale and reinforced the fact that working in the arts can be extremely intense. That project combined with the work leading up to our main production was exhausting but satisfying.
The pace of the internship, combined with outside jobs and gigs, meant that some months felt like a blur. A single week could have multiple rehearsals, a performance gig, a video editing project, and a performance to shoot. It forced me to develop my task and time management skills so I would be able to balance the various priorities that come with multiple jobs. It was not easy, but in the end it was worth the late nights and hectic schedules. Beyond pushing forward into a career in the arts, I was also able to give back to the community. Having grown up in Kenosha, I have had many people nurture a love for the arts and through this internship, I was able to do the same for others. I worked with previous teachers as equals in pit orchestra rehearsals, saw kids laugh as our Fellows put on a silly children’s opera, and watched people who seemed apprehensive to opera lean back and enjoy the music.
Now that the internship is basically completed, I know that there are many paths forward. I still plan on working with the Kenosha Opera Festival but I also plan on using my new skills to create future adventures. I want to foster a love for both the arts and for adventure wherever I go. It may not be easy or simple, but it will be exhilarating.