ICNYC Student Reflections

Students in the ICNYC program share their experiences and insights from one of the greatest cities in the world.

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Posted by Jenny Stockdale at 11:44AM   |  1 comment
Justine Stephens Ithaca College School of Music

Justine Stephens is a senior Music Performance major from Norwalk, CT. She is studying flute with Bärli Nugent in New York City, as well as interning with American Ballet Theatre. 

Working in the Special Events department at American Ballet Theatre has been a dream come true. Since my freshman year, I had been back and forth about what I wanted to accomplish for my future. At that time, I had just been accepted into the Music Performance and Music Education dual major program, but as a wind instrumentalist, it was not in the curriculum to focus on what was a stronger interest for me: Teaching general music in elementary school. Maybe I could have focused on the piano more or pushed my six-year background of choral singing further, but either way, the more semesters I took secondary instrument and pedagogy classes, the more disinterested I had become in that direction. It just wasn't for me.

I had tried to switch my major several times - usually at the end of each academic year, frantically running around Park, the business school, and Whalen to get the deans to sign off on forms changing my degree to Bachelor of Music with an Outside Field, adding an Integrated Marketing Communications minor, or double majoring in Music Performance and Business Administration. I usually was unsuccessful finding the right professors come late May every year, so by the fall of my junior year, I was student teaching.

I stopped my Music Education degree because I knew that I wasn't even going to apply for high school band jobs post-graduation and because I didn't want to waste my colleagues', mentors', and students' time knowing that I could be taking the place of someone who was more passionate about teaching band than I was. As a new "just Performance" major, my mother was very worried with what exactly I was going to do to further myself. But I had it all under control.

Long story short, I began interning with the executive director of the Cayuga Chamber Orchestra in January of this year, as well as picking up a minor in Marketing. Learning about the administrative aspect of the 501(c)(3) world was something that I did end up being passionate about. When I was accepted into the ICNYC Music Immersion Program, I wanted to take that one step further.

Fast forward again, and I am now the Special Events intern for the American Ballet Theatre. Through a process of sending out cover letters and resumes (and making Christy Agnese's office a second home with all the revisions and corrections that she helped me make), I had applied to Jazz at Lincoln Center, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra (with whom I had an interview), American Ballet Theatre, Lincoln Center White Light Festival, New York City Ballet, and New York City Opera (by whom I was contacted for an interview, but I had already accepted a position). Going into my interview with American Ballet Theatre, I was comfortable and felt like I had fit in - and they must have thought so too, because I was called the next week that I got the position!

The most important "thing" that I always try to do is to make connections and always leave a positive impact on people. You never know what they could be able to do for you! Ms. Ossit of CCO wrote me an amazing recommendation letter for ABT, as well as my youth orchestra conductor, who actually conducted for ABT's Hong Kong tour last year. My flute teacher in New York, Bärli Nugent, is someone that I had kept in touch with since high school. She was an alumnus of my youth orchestra, and came back to give the flutes a masterclass. I had visited her at her job at Juilliard since - and as the Assistant Dean, Director of Chamber Music (for both the college and pre-college divisions), and Director of Career Development, as well as having two degrees from Juilliard and her doctorate in flute from Stony Brook AND a prominent performing career as a founding member of the Aspen Wind Quintet, I am really getting the best of both worlds by studying with her. For my Professional Mentor Shadowing credit, I get to audit the Career Development Seminar that she teaches to a class of mostly Juilliard grad students. So far with the class, I have updated my press kit significantly, bought a domain name for my website, and recorded background music for a filmmaker's next project.

As for what I do with American Ballet Theatre, a lot of it is preparation of events - and putting them into place! This past Wednesday was our huge 700+ guest Fall Gala. Taye Diggs, Star Jones, Nicky Hilton, and Sigourney Weaver were among just a few of the rich and famous in attendance. It was amazing to see my contributions, too - I had bought and chosen the colors for the programs and dinner menu, as well as brought them over to Staples to have them printed. I have really found another niche in helping productions like this take place.

1 Comment

Awesome! Much kudos to Justine for her drive, tenacity, and gumption. And, of course, for her keen intellect and always-positive personality. Well done!
Prof. John White

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