March 22, 2013

Jr Music Executive: Interview with a Former Intern and Upcoming Rise & Shine Event

Jr. Music Executive (JME) is a nonprofit based in Philadelphia that shows high school and college students the business behind the entertainment industry. They work to help youth understand the importance of education and experience in a successful career and inspire them to set goals in order to reach their full potential. It's a fantastic program that gives students real hands-on training by providing workshops, internships, scholarships, and networking opportunities. Their signature program is a 10-week internship for high school and college students as well as recent grads that provides a holistic view of the industry and matches students with a partnering business or project to get real-world experience. JME recently announced this year's lucky interns, who were chosen via an application process: Devon Brown, Sierra Cody, Breannemarie Davis, .Tinesha Davis, Chantias Ford, Okoma Mita, Juliana Peche, Dillon Sweigart, and Isaiah Weatherspoon. 

If you're in the Philadelphia area, please support this wonderful music industry education program by checking out their upcoming power breakfast fundraiser where you can enjoy a buffet breakfast and special performances alongside others who feel that music education and career development are extremely important for today's youth (and I'm willing to bet if you're reading this site you probably do). Plus, if you're looking for a bit of real-life wisdom from the Jr. Music Executive Program yourself, then keep reading, because I had the chance to talk to Ashley Coleman, a former JME intern and current Membership Coordinator at The Recording Academy, who shared how the JME program helped her succeed in music and what advice she would give for students looking to break in to music now. 
What is your current role in the music industry? 
Currently I am the Membership Coordinator at The Recording Academy Philadelphia Chapter. We are a professional organization that is most well known for producing the GRAMMYs each year in February but we also have 12 chapters across the country. My job is to aide members with any questions they have about membership, diligently seek out viable recording industry musicians that should be members and also help facilitate professional development and networking events for members throughout the year. 

How did the Jr Music Executive Program help you get there? 
Well, I think the email to tell me that the position was opening was literally from Aisha Winfield, the Executive Director of Jr. Music Executive. But even before that, the program really gave me a crash course into what the music business was all about. I first got involved with JME because it seemed like a good first step in my pursuit of songwriting. It really helped me understand how a complete project was put together by an artist, what steps it took to make the project successful and showed an array of careers surrounding one artist. Working on independent projects with Aisha, really helped me sharpen up my administrative skills. And I felt like I was more prepared once I landed my first gig. 

What advice would you give someone interested in getting a similar job at a similar company? 
Well one of the things that helped me was that I was also a member of the GRAMMY U Program. With that, I would always volunteer to help at some of the major events. I think that in being a familiar face around the organization, it made the interviewing process that much easier. I already knew a lot about the culture of the organization, not just what I rehearsed right before the interview. My best advice would be, see if there is a way you can help the organization even if there is not a paying job readily available. 

How would you explain the Jr Music Executive Program to someone who wasn't familiar with it? What were your favorite parts of the program and what are some examples of activities a Jr Music Exec intern might participate in? 
The Jr. Music Executive program is basically an opportunity for students to receive information about the music industry in a more in depth and detailed fashion. Sometimes school courses just gloss over certain information. But I feel like JME really broke down the things that make the music industry tick. My favorite part of the program is the networking element. And I don't mean with top industry execs, although that happened too, but I mean between peers. I still work with many of the other students that were a part of my JME class. It gave us a sense of belonging and we had a group of people who were like-minded all striving to be in the same business. That was so valuable to me. Activities while I was there included putting together an end of the term event, we also visited Def Jam, and we were able to visit music studios as well. 

What was the most important or helpful thing you learned by participating in the program?
I think one of the most important things I learned by participating was how to go with the flow and also how to deal with a lot of different types of people. The music industry is full of egos and also full of changes, JME prepared me to be able to think off the cuff and how to handle high pressure situations without losing it. I think that is an essential part of working in the industry. 

Did you complete other music internships and did you feel your experience with in the Jr Music Executive program helped with those?
I of course did a few different internships. Most of mine were actually before JME though. I interned for JME during my last semester at school. But all around, JME taught me so much that it has been helpful in many areas of my professional career. 

What advice would you give someone just starting out in the music industry? 
The advice I would give is to be patient. It seems that the generations coming after me, seem to be even more impatient than we were. But really, the music industry is not an easy business to break in to by any stretch of the imagination. I am still working to get to my desired place in the industry, but I have learned that all things come in time. It takes a ton of networking and a ton of working for free to get you where you want to be. But I believe that people that are patient and persistent will always win. 

Anything else you'd like to add? 
I would like to add the one of the other great things about JME is that it's not just an internship for 3 months and then it's over. It ends up being something that you are connected to for life. I still call Aisha when I have questions about how to handle things and she continues to create opportunities for the alumni of the program, which is awesome. Continuing to have that support system of your peers as well as Aisha, has been essential to any "success" I've found so far in this industry.

Thanks Ashley! For more information on the Jr Music Executive program visit their site here, and to purchase tickets to their upcoming Rise & Shine power breakfast fundraiser on April 5th at the Hard Rock in Philadelphia click here