I’m incredibly excited to be interning with the LA Opera PR staff, not only for the credit on my resume, but because everyone here is genuinely interested in helping me participate and learn, rather than simply being a go-fer. These hands-on experiences offer a valuable opportunity to practice and improve the skills I’ve learned in the classroom and to network with working professionals in my chosen field.
I’m currently a senior at California State University, Northridge (CSUN.) I will graduate this fall as a journalism major, with a public relations emphasis and a minor in writing and rhetoric. I don’t look like most interns though, because I returned to school after a 25 year break to raise my large family.
During those years I wore many “career” hats, including a stretch in market research and a decade as a school librarian. I also spent 14 years as a costume mistress for a statewide children’s musical theater company. While my husband and children are gifted musicians and performers, I unfortunately lack even the slightest talent in this area, so I have remained a happy observer and supporter of the arts. However, I’ve always been a strong writer and when I returned to school I was looking for an opportunity to put that skill to legitimate use.
Initially I was majoring in English, until I took a random public relations class. I was immediately smitten with the industry. I had never considered how closely public relations mirrored so many of the skills I naturally and frequently used. Plus, it allowed me to be an employed writer, which has always been my dream job.
My original plans tended toward a more corporate career path, but my long history with theater and music has driven my professional passion for non-profits and the arts. While there’s a sense of stability and consistency in corporate, which appeals to my “lifestyle,” I am overwhelmingly inspired by the feeling of community and purpose that comes with the arts and non-profit work. I need to feel like what I’m doing is important and makes a difference on a personal level.
My prior experience with opera is limited to a few painful PBS television experiences as a child and a weighty performance of La Traviata, at the Metropolitan Opera in New York when I was 15, but it has quickly became a natural fit. My first week involved sitting-in on a rehearsal for anatomy theater and a sitzprobe of Gustavo Dudamel conducting La Bohème. Being so intimately close to the music and activity hooked me for good. I can proudly call myself an opera lover now.
I look forward to using this internship to explore the daily workings of an in-house public relations team with an eye towards continuing on in the arts (particularly music) following my graduation. While I’m here working on next season’s planning, I hope I can help deliver the same sense of awe I found to audience members who don’t consider themselves “opera people.” I’ve already started by over-sharing my new found enthusiasm with my family and friends and I can’t wait to bring them – and others – to the opera this fall.
Erin Knell is a student at California State University, Northridge majoring in journalism with a minor in English. Her previous internship experiences have involved public relations for a small documentary film, an event at the Valley Performing Arts Center and The Museum of the San Fernando Valley. She has been published in several literary magazines and for syndication onlineLA Opera is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to the greater good.