Internship Spotlight: Megan Zhang at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute National Youth Orchestra

This summer, rising second-year student Megan Zhang (TC ARAD 2020), is interning at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute as the Artist Training Programs Intern and working with the three youth ensembles: National Youth Orchestra – USA, NYO2, and NYO Jazz. 


The National Youth Orchestra-USA program brings together the brightest young musicians, ages sixteen to eighteen. They come from across the country to participate in a three week residency at SUNY Purchase, with leading professional orchestra musicians. They also get to tour to some of the world’s most renowned centers for music. 

The NYO2 program has a particular focus on recruiting musicians from communities that are underrepresented in classical music. This runs alongside NYO-USA with a week long residency at SUNY Purchase as well as a residency at New World Symphony in Miami Beach, Florida. 

The NYO Jazz program gives outstanding young jazz musicians from across the country an opportunity to perform as cultural ambassadors on an international stage, sharing a uniquely American musical genre with cultures around the world through an international tour.

As the Artist Training Programs intern, Megan has been working on several projects and events including the following: preparing excerpts for the NYO 2020 auditions, tracking student paperwork and arrivals, creating guides for the students, and assisting with the Joyce DiDonato Master Class series. Megan has also been updating data on students, alumni, faculty. She reviews the data in Tessitura so the team can generate up-to-date reports that assists with future projects.

We asked Megan to answer a couple of questions about her internship experience:

What’s your favorite part about your internship?IMG_4730.JPG

I love working with the Artist Training Programs team! It is a small team of only five people, but they have really made my feel like a sixth member. They also make an effort to play to my strengths when giving me projects. It is also great participating in other Weill Music Institute programs since the department’s programming is so vast and everything they do is so embedded with their values of artistry, community, and equity.

What does a typical day look like?

I start off my morning with a trip to Joe & the Juice for a coffee and then get settled at my desk checking unread emails and checking in with the Assistant Director on the day’s tasks. For the past couple of months, we’ve been preparing for over two hundred kids to arrive in New York and start the residency program so it has been a lot of tracking forms, information, and contacting students and parents. I have learned so much through this experience!


Congrats Megan on your internship!

Following Up with Spring 2019 Microgrant Winner, Gaosong Heu

Following Up with Spring 2019 Microgrant Winner, Gaosong Heu


                                            (Gaosong Heu taking notes during her layover in Portland, OR). 

Gaosong Heu is a Hmong American performance artist, published writer, arts educator, arts administrator and scholar of Hmong performance practices. She is a second year Master’s student in the Arts Administration (ARAD) program at Teachers College (TC), Columbia University. Her current studies are primarily focused on diversity within leadership, programming and evaluation in arts organizations. Gaosong’s work and career aspirations are informed by her passion for the arts, equity, access and social justice. In the future, she hopes to go back to get her Ph.D in Anthropology, American Studies, Feminist Studies or Music Ethnography with a focus on Hmong-American performance practices.

Describe the opportunity you participated in and how it aligns with your career aspirations.

Last Spring, I had the honor of applying for a micro-grant to attend the Hmong National Development Conference through the ARAD program. I was ecstatic when I found out I actually received the grant! The micro-grant would cover the registration fees, lodging and airfare to the Hmong National Development Conference in San Jose, CA. I was fortunate enough to lead two workshops during my short weekend there. My first workshop was a presentation of a short documentary I starred in and co-directed with my fellow director, Kelly Huang, titled “Flourish: The Renaissance of Hmong Flower Singing”. This documentary tells the story, tradition and history of Hmong Flower Singing (a traditional form of Hmong folk singing) and my journey to learn this dying artform from my mother in the United States. This presentation would have been the second time I showed this documentary to an audience. I was excited to share my personal journey with this musical form with Hmong scholars from all parts of the world.

You can watch the promo video for “Flourish” here.

The second workshop I led was with my dear friend and colleague, Johnnie Yang. Johnnie Yang is a Hmong American scholar pursuing his MA in Education at TC! His research is focused on the phenomenon of diversity within higher education. We led a very practical and important workshop called “Demystifying the Grad School Application Process.” We shared our personal experiences and philosophies regarding higher education and how despite having very different journeys and motivations to attend grad school, we were both accepted into the same college at Columbia. 

IMG_2568.jpg(Left: Gaosong Heu and Johnnie Yang taking a moment to breathe before the workshop begins)
  1. What were the most important takeaways from your experience?

Both workshops were well attended and well received by our audiences. The main takeaways from my first workshop were the following notions: (1) Hmong folk music does not need to be made more Western in order to be considered “legitimate” and or “art;” (2) If people do not begin to learn this art form, it will disappear within the next 20 years; (3) Anyone and everyone, regardless of skill, age, gender, race, culture, language, can perform this art form. I had planned to give some contextual information for my project, show the film, perform live and facilitate a Q&A. Everything almost went as planned, that is until I showed the film. I was crying by the end of the film. I always cry when I show that film. Possibly because it was such a great project I had taken on and I am still amazed I was able to create that film. Or maybe because it was such an important part of my own growth as a human being, professional and artist. Or maybe because it was an incredibly stressful experience and I am slightly still traumatized (so much could have gone wrong!). When I looked out into the room, I realized that most of the audience was crying with me. I wiped my tears, took a deep breath and started my live performance of Hmong flower singing. However, there was a young Hmong woman in the front row who was crying…and the more I sang the more she cried. But the more she cried, the more I wanted to cry! I messed up a lot. Stopped and started over; had terrible breath support and was everywhere with the pronunciation of my text. It was a raw, beautiful performance of connectivity, vulnerability and support. I wouldn’t have had it any other way. 

IMG_2598.JPG(Right: Gaosong posing with her presentation before attendees arrived.) 

The second workshop was very intimate and honest. After Johnnie and I presented, we and our ten attendees sat in a circle and told one another about our grad school dreams, career aspirations, hopes and fears. We all listened to one another with open hearts and provided each other with the space to be heard. My goal with this workshop was to provide them with the resources and strategies they need to be competitive applicants to any reputable graduate program in the world. More importantly though, I just wanted to show them, “I know your struggle as a first generation Hmong American and if I can do it… you can do it too!” I left the workshop feeling so proud of    my fellow brothers and sisters, and the bright futures they each will continue having as they go forward.

How has the microgrant helped to enrich you professionally? 

Oh, I had such a blast! I met so many people, saw old friends, learned so much about my community and about myself again. The most important thing for me in attending the conference was to reconnect with my intellectual and cultural community. I am proud to have shared all that I have learned since I last attended and facilitated a workshop for the Hmong National Development Conference in 2015! I gained so much more from that short weekend than I could have ever thought possible. All of the workshops I attended, people I met, the conversations I had…it all taught me the most valuable lesson: that there is no such thing as the “perfect” time, setting or situation to create access and equity. As I continue to grow as an arts administrator and artist in my own fields, I sometimes think that there will be a better time, in the future, when I am more “qualified” or “experienced”, to teach people about Hmong flower singing, or to create change within my community, but that perception is false. Change is nature, but to ignite change within oneself and one’s community is radical. Sometimes I feel like I need to give myself permission to exist as I am, unapologetically. But the truth is, sometimes I just need to do.

If I want people to learn Hmong Flower singing before it disappears completely, I have to just start teaching people now, anything and everything I know about this art form. 

If I want people to have more access to the arts, I need to create those opportunities, in any capacity I can. 

And if I want to empower others to see the value of their own voice, then I have to remember my own worth and make sure to never apologize for ASKING more questions, for more help, for more money, for more time or for more space when it comes to my own personal and professional development. 

IMG_2578.jpg(Left: Gaosong with a group of wonderful Hmong scholars and professionals from CA, WI, MN and CO.)

Three days in California and I honestly felt my spirit was reinvigorated and renewed. Having the opportunity to teach, to be taught and to be inspired by other amazing Hmong scholars and students was incredible. Thank you ARAD Faculty and Administrators for even providing us students with this grant! This experience was and will continue to be a highlight of my experience in the ARAD program and will serve as a reminder of the ways in which people must continue to give back and contribute to their communities if they are to grow themselves. 

Cheers and uas tsaug! (Oo-uh chow = thank you!)



Student Advocates for the Arts experience at the National Arts Action Summit 2019

By Student Advocates for the Arts

With funding from the ARAD Spring 2019 Microgrant, Student Advocates for the Arts (SAA) recently participated in the National Arts Action Summit 2019, a two-day training and direct advocacy experience in Washington D.C. This conference consisted of a training session and a day of meetings in Congress.

On day one, attendants received an informational handbook containing the year’s talking points and useful facts and figures to build their advocating cases to members of Congress. This first day allowed us to delve deeper into some art issues that interested each of us personally through engaging breakout sessions.

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Interview with second-year student, Carolina Cambronero Varela

DSCN2759ARAD’s social media coordinator and first-year student, Mari Takeda, recently sat down with second-year student and president of Student Advocates for the Arts (SAA), Carolina Cambronero Varela, to talk about being a TC student, running SAA, and more.

Mari: What drew you to this program?

Carolina: Having the access to interdisciplinary resources in education, human rights, leadership, and peace education (to name a few) in conjunction with the dual (visual and performing) arts administration (ARAD) nature of the program. I came to ARAD with the question of how can the arts, particularly its transformative power, create social change? The opportunity of being in this program has provided insights into the importance for advocating that the arts are a human right. The arts change lives by providing freedom to thrive!

Continue reading “Interview with second-year student, Carolina Cambronero Varela”

Davinia Gregory, Visiting Scholar from University of Warwick


davinia - headshot
Davinia Gregory, Visiting Scholar from University of Warwick

Current ARAD student Sarah Lamade recently interviewed Davinia Gregory, a visiting scholar in the Arts Administration Program and the Sociology Department. Davinia is currently working on her PhD at the University of Warwick and will be presenting “The Creative Case for Diversity? UK funding policy and The Drum arts centre,” on April 1, from 6-8pm, at Teachers College, Columbia University in GDH 543. This presentation emerges from Davinia’s PhD research, which compares the United Kingdom’s (UK) arts funding system and those in France and the USA. Debates surrounding interculturalism and post-race in the UK context will also be discussed. This talk is free and open to the public.



By Sarah Lamade


SL: So, I’ve read a little bit about your work with the Drum, but maybe we can start with a brief overview of your research?


DG: Sure. The Drum was a performing arts center, in Birmingham in the U.K. It closed in 2016 in its 20th year of running, and that was a shock for everybody. It was the last of a series of quite well-established Black-led arts centers in the U.K. to be closed down by the Arts Council because of a lack of funding, but it had been doing really well. People who weren’t on the inside didn’t expect this closure, and the question was always sort of “Well, what happened?”


I had been brought in as a PhD student to do a collaborative PhD between The Drum and Warwick University. The expectation was that it was going to run for the duration of my PhD, and six months in, it was gone. My PhD became this kind of post-mortem of the organization, looking at not only what happened within the organization, but also what happens within the U.K. funding structure, which is a very top-down funding structure. I’m looking at the Arts Council’s policies and how they affect small arts centers and regional arts centers outside of London, but also how their cultural policies can be decolonized so that centers like The Drum that served to supplement the mainstream can be valued as much as mainstream arts organizations. It then also became a critique of the idea of a “mainstream” and other streams, and figuring out how to devise a structure that aims not to fix the branches on a rotten tree but cut down the tree and start again. My work looks at why an organization like the Drum was needed in the first place, as a sort of supplementary organization, but also at the role of what decolonization of arts policy could do and could be in preventing something like its closure from happening again.


SL: Can you explain to me how you’re thinking about these terms of colonization and decolonization in the arts sector and in funding specifically?


DG: It’s huge. So, decolonization, from the beginning of my PhD, as the four years have gone on, the word has increasingly become kind of stripped of its meaning. But, in making an argument for the word and for sticking with the word, if we actually look at its meaning, it’s still very much relevant. The people who The Drum served initially came from former British colonies in the 1950s to rebuild the country after the war, by invitation from the government. The people in the U.K. weren’t told that this was happening, so there was a lot of hostility when they came, and the immigrants ended up in these silos, one of which was Handsworth, in Birmingham, and the Drum sits on the edge of East Handsworth. These people, who were Afro-Caribbean, largely Jamaican, and also South Asian, largely from Pakistan and that area, ended up forming a kind of alliance and built these organizations. The Drum in itself in the beginning was decolonial, not necessarily in decolonizing the nation, but decolonizing the minds of the people who had been brought there. They needed to have some kind of solace, sort of a community center. When The Drum opened in 1995, it had multiple decolonial slogans from the Indian subcontinent and the Caribbean across its walls. The Drum closing down and being the last of its kind said a lot about what’s happening with decolonization in the U.K. At this point, because it closed on the day of the Brexit vote – yeah, it was quite poetic – we want to ask, so what is happening now? Do we need to revisit this idea of decolonization, and are centers like the Drum not needed at this point? It doesn’t seem to me that that’s the case.


SL: What was the experience like of starting your PhD and having your case study close on you, and how did that change your research and your methodologies?


DG: Well, that was terrifying, but we all had to kind of snap out of panic and think well, actually, it’s terrible for the organization, it’s a loss for the nation, but actually for the project, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. It makes the argument stronger, and it enabled me to consider things that I couldn’t necessarily consider before. And people were more willing to talk. My PhD is in sociology, and not the arts, and so my methodology was largely ethnography, but I also had access to people who were afraid of speaking to me in interviews because of the turbulent times for the organization, and they weren’t sure of their job security. Once it closed, they were like, “Ok, I want to tell you my side of the story.” So that was helpful, cathartic, I think for everyone involved, and it was good to be there as a kind of neutral voice.


SL: Based on your research so far, how are starting to think about applying theory to practice?


DG: It just happened naturally. I don’t know how to say it apart from the theory came out of the practice, really. Because the organization closed down, I didn’t have the luxury of doing a theoretical framework first, or even writing out the methodology first. I did it off the cuff. I was still taking my courses in sociology, I had come from a design history background, so I didn’t even know the methodologies, and I just did it. And then, I created my theoretical framework from had happened, so I almost did Grounded Theory, without knowing what I was doing.


Elizabeth’s Ettorre’s work on Autoethnography as Feminist Method really helped, because I needed to get a sense of my own experiences in the processes of doing this as part of the methodology. That became something that was first methodological, but then I thought, “Why am I using all these men for theory and then the women for methodology?” when actually, my methodology was really theoretical. So, I switched them over, and I have this kind of theoretical methodology and methodological theory section. It made me realize that in applying theory to practice, I did it through constant self-reflexivity and writing it down and recording it, and changing the way that I thought about my interactions with people and my position in the organization, always reflecting on that and then encouraging my readers as I write to do the same thing with their position as they’re reading it, considering where their opinions are coming from. Then, it became what I call self-decolonizing feminist practice, and that to me was inherently theoretical. So, there’s no distinction, I think, between theory and practice in my work.


As part of it, friends of mine who are sociologists, artists, and arts administrators created a group called Friends in Theory, and we ran it for a year. We used to meet up every month in London and read theory that we were putting into practice in our everyday lives, because all of us are engaged in decolonization in our various organizations in some way. It was a way of being able to discuss what we were going through in terms of the heart work and the hard work that decolonization requires, but through the lens of these theoretical texts. That really helped, but then we worked out that actually that was a practice in itself, and that comes into the thesis as well because you can’t do this work without that. The self-decolonizing feminist practice starts with the self but it goes out in waves. Eventually it gets to the organization, but there needs to be a self, a community of people who think like you, and then colleagues you find who are kind of on the same wavelength, and then the organization.

Allason’s sit down with Carl Sylvestre, Spring 2019 Distinguished Speaker

By Allason Leitz (ARAD ‘19)

ARAD was pleased to host Carl Sylvestre as part of its Spring Distinguished Speaker Series. Mr. Sylvester spoke about Fundraising for Social Change in the Performing Arts on February 25th, 2019. He has held senior positions at many cultural institutions including The Metropolitan Opera, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York Theatre Workshop and Theatre Forward.


Carl DSS photo 1

Mr. Sylvestre began by breaking down the differences and similarities between equity, diversity and inclusion as they relate to a performing arts organization. What I found most interesting the ways in which our (now very popularized) language around diversity initiatives can also hold so much weight that it can quickly becomes  polarizing in a given community.

Continue reading “Allason’s sit down with Carl Sylvestre, Spring 2019 Distinguished Speaker”

Arts Administration Faculty Develop Course with Palestinian Arts Organizations (Part 3)

Throughout the semester, we will feature highlights and insights from Dr. Lena and Dr. Mangione’s time in Palestine last summer. This is the final installment of the three-part series. 

by Dr. Gemma Mangione

What is evaluation, and why is it important for arts professionals? I’ve written on this issue in other contexts, including in a recent blog post for RK&A, the planning, evaluation, and research firm serving museums for which I serve as a consulting analyst. As I suggest in the post, the question has in some ways become a rhetorical one. In an era of ever-increasing accountability to external stakeholders — primarily funders — evaluation savvy is not just an optional set of marketable professional skills, but necessary to the practice of arts management. Nevertheless, few arts professionals have the training to either lead smaller-scale evaluation projects or the resources to work with external consultants that can help them develop larger or longer-term initiatives.

Continue reading “Arts Administration Faculty Develop Course with Palestinian Arts Organizations (Part 3)”

Arts Administration Faculty Develop Course with Palestinian Arts Organizations (Part 2)

by Dr. Gemma Mangione

Throughout the semester, we will feature highlights and insights from Dr. Lena and Dr. Mangione’s time in Palestine last summer. This is the second installment of the three-part series. Please stay tuned to our blog and social media channels for more #ARADPalestine.

As the prior blog post on ARAD’s international curricular partnership in Palestine noted, Dr. Jennifer Lena and I began work on this project by conducting a pre-program assessment. The assessment aimed to identify core needs for administrative training among administrators at a sample of arts and culture institutions in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. From this, we were able to provide recommendations that were used to develop curriculum design for the Arts Management certificate pilot.

Continue reading “Arts Administration Faculty Develop Course with Palestinian Arts Organizations (Part 2)”