Student Spotlight: Zamara Choudhary

Zamara Choudhary graduated summa cum laude zamara-picture
from CUNY Macaulay Honors College at  Hunter College in 2016, where she majored in History with minors in English and Arabic Studies. A native Brooklynite, Zamara enjoys exploring the diaspora of cultural organizations in New York City, and dreamed of working in a museum as a child. Zamara has interned at Studio in a School, the Museum of Arts and Design, the Museum of the Cityof New York, and the Brooklyn Museum. She hopes to use her unique background and passion for social justice to facilitate cross-cultural understanding and exchange through the arts.

What attracted you to the Arts Administration Program at Teachers College, Columbia University?
I approached three forks in the road at the end of my undergraduate career: education; historical academia; and arts administration. I ultimately selected the Arts Administration program at Teachers College, Columbia University because I felt it combined all of my interests with its flexible, interdisciplinary curriculum and ability to cross-register into other schools at Columbia University. There is also no place more suitable to study the arts and its impact on diverse communities than New York City, where the numerous new shows and exhibitions enrich academic experience.Describe student life as a member of the ARAD community.
When coming into this program, I did not expect to create such strong relationships with my incredible cohort. I have never been surrounded by such a supportive and close-knit community, who are so passionate about inciting change through the arts. My peers force me to think differently and critically about multiple issues, both in and outside the classroom, allowing me to come into my own as an arts administrator of the twenty-first century.
Who are your three favorite artists, in any medium?
Only three? I would choose mangaka Junji Ito, mixed-media artist Faig Ahmed, and soul singer Sam Cooke.

Student Spotlight: Myriam Varjacques

Tell us about yourself.

Originally from Paris, France, Myriam Varjacques myriam-varjacquesis a 2014 graduate of Barnard College with a distinction in English and a minor in Dance. She has interned for American Ballet Theatre, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and The New 42nd Street, Inc, among others. From 2014-2016, Myriam was the Marketing Assistant for the Mark Morris Dance Group, where the collaborative environment allowed her to work with nearly every department of the organization on such projects as brochures, company programs, website content management, and audio and video archiving. Her ambitions lie in advocacy and fundraising for the performing arts.

What is your professional ambition or dream?

My dream is to be the executive director of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. I will be interning in the Public Programming department this January working on contracts for two summer festivals so I’m off to a good start!

What are the three things you need to have on you at all times?

My planner, my phone, and lipstick.

Who are your three favorite artists, in any medium?

Too many to count but here are a few… Carrie Fisher Marcelo Gomes (principal dancer at American Ballet Theatre) Patrick Rothfuss (author of The Kingkiller Chronicles)

Thesis Feature: Blaire Townshend

Minding the Gap: Targeting Millennials to Ensure the Future of Opera 

Metropolitan Opera 1937. Photo from Wikimedia Commmons

My thesis explores supplemental operatic programming that is catered to the interests and needs of the Millennial demographic—a population that I argue is key to the survival of opera. As opera’s current audience ages out of attendance, a replacement audience is called for—and programming that encourages Millennials to engage with opera on their terms is a vital ingredient to this process of replacement.

 As an opera lover myself, I am deeply invested in the future of the art form—yet rarely see my peers represented in the audience when I attend performances. I have also attended supplemental operatic programming catered to the Millennial demographic, and have not only enjoyed these experiences myself, but have watched as people my age begin to engage with opera. This is something that I want to support and encourage, as I feel that the more that we do to introduce Millennials such as myself to these programs, the larger our numbers in future audiences will be.

My thesis is meant to act as a sort of best practices document for opera companies looking to further engage the Millennial demographic. The hope is that the research and interviews that I have compiled would serve as a resource for such efforts, and will help to shed light on the relationship between opera and young audiences.

Don’t be afraid to reach out to people above and beyond the administrators that fit your requirements! I talked with someone who had been involved in the implementation of a Millennial-focused grant outside of the operatic world, and that conversation was very helpful in framing my thoughts. Cross-disciplinary discussion can be so useful, and is a nexus where we can learn a great deal about best practices. Additionally, I personally think it is important to focus on programs/organizations that are somewhat different from one another. Obviously, choosing programs that are entirely unrelated isn’t helpful, but it is in those points of difference that you can really make some headway in determining successful and unsuccessful models.

Millennials don’t always want something crazy and new! Often, they are looking for that classic, grand operatic experience—because that, in fact, is new to them. In other words, I learned not to assume that a certain demographic holds a particular interest. It is so very important to survey potential participants and audience members to determine their actual interests and needs, rather than projecting your assumptions onto them.

Opera is currently under threat—in the form of dwindling and increasingly aging audiences. Enticing a younger demographic—specifically Millennials—to become the next generation of operagoers is thus vital to the sustainability of opera as an art form. To achieve this, opera companies must look to the interests and needs of this demographic and craft their supplemental programming accordingly. Ensuring that such programming increases awareness, encourages relatability, and promotes accessibility will be key to transforming opera from a form that is often perceived as outdated to one that speaks directly to the Millennial demographic. With this in mind, what programs are opera companies implementing to attract Millennial audiences? What are the greatest challenges that administrators of these programs face? How do the administrators of these programs evaluate success? And finally, how are these programs integrated into the larger audience development initiatives of their respective companies? The answers to these questions will help to demystify opera’s current relationship with Millennial audiences and to determine where this relationship could be improved for the benefit of both Millennial operagoers and opera administrators alike.

Student Spotlight: Harris Cabrera


harriscabrera-aradHarris Cabrera graduated from Northwestern University cum laude in 2011 with a B.A. in Theatre and comes to the Arts Administration program after five years in Chicago as a freelance actress and musical performer. During her time in the Chicagoland area, she worked extensively with children, both as an artist and a caregiver. As an administrator, exposing young audiences and under-served communities to professional theatre and its educational potential are the focus of her pursuits as she continues her education and career at Teachers College.

What are the three things you need to have on you at all times?

Highlighters, my personal planner, and a water bottle.

Describe student life as a member of the ARAD community.

The range of professional and academic backgrounds the members of my cohort bring to the program have given me the opportunity to learn so much about the arts world outside of the classroom, especially as we get to know each other while we explore the neighborhood for post-class drinks and dinner.

What have been some of your favorite cultural experiences in New York City?

I grew up in Monmouth County, New Jersey, about an hour outside the city, so my favorites are long-standing institutions: the Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I recently had the chance to take my six-year-old niece to the the Museum of Natural History for the first time, and it was thrilling to see how excited she was by many of the same exhibits I remembered loving as a child, as well as new additions and experiences that have been added over the years.

Student Spotlight: Kristian Otten

kristian-ottenKristian Otten holds a bachelor’s degree in music performance (bassoon), and has worked in management and as a consultant for various off-Broadway and regional theater ventures in the greater NYC area in recent years. In addition to his arts administration work, he also sustains a position as Music and Worship Arts Director at the Covenant Church of Easton, CT, where he plans and leads services from the piano and guitar. On the side, Kristian enjoys collaborating on various projects as a keyboardist and multi-instrumentalist, including three studio albums with the Connecticut based progressive rock project entitled Digital Exile. He is pursuing a master’s degree in arts administration in order to further deepen his understanding of this dynamic field.

What attracted you to the Arts Administration Program at Teachers College, Columbia University?

I was initially attracted to the program at Teachers College by the caliber and experiences of the faculty as well as the diversity of experience and knowledge of the student cohorts. These two factors continue to impress and challenge me to grow in my understanding of arts administration as both a student and a practitioner.

What are three words you would use to describe yourself?

“Ambitious, agreeable, fun-loving.”

Who are your three favorite artists, in any medium?

Red Garland, Oscar Peterson, and Chick Corea – I’m a jazz fanatic!

Student Spotlight: Alexandra Tweedley

What attracted you to the Arts Administration Program at Teachers College, Columbia alexandra-tweedleyUniversity? 
I was attracted to the Arts Administration Program at Teachers College, Columbia University because of the incredible amount of resources available to students as well as the location in New York City, a culturally vibrant city with many opportunities in the arts. Additionally, being located within Teachers College allows students to explore the educational aspects of an arts organization, which I have gained a greater interest in through my time at TC.

Which courses have been the most eye-opening at Teachers College?

One of my favorite classes I have taken at Teachers College is Principles and Practices in the Performing Arts. In this class, we focused on many issues relating to the performing arts and discussed an array of different strategies and methods in which to work towards solutions to these issues, and we heard from various alumni about how they are currently working in the performing arts. This class was very eye-opening because it helped me gain a greater sense of issues which pertain specifically to my field of interest as well as hear alumni insights from the field.

Where have you interned while in the program?
During the program, I have interned at Juilliard Global Ventures, a department within The Juilliard School, as an operations assistant.

What was the most rewarding part of your internship experience?
During my internship experience, I was given several projects, including licensing digital assets for Juilliard Open Studios, an online arts educational app. However, one of the most rewarding experiences of my internship was my involvement in designing and implementing user testing of the Juilliard Open Studios app, which was integral to updates we made to the app a few weeks later and gave me a sense of how new technologies are facilitating performing arts education.

What have been some of your favorite cultural experiences in New York City?
Living near Lincoln Center has been a large bonus for me, because I often take advantage of student rush tickets to various performances there. Additionally, Juilliard has a very extensive performance calendar of great works for a very reasonable price.

Student Spotlight: Jessica Isgro

Jessica is a Student Mentor for 2016-17

Jessica Isgro graduated with Phi Beta Kappa honors from Bucknell University in 2015 where she majored in Music Education and minored in Creative Writing. Jessica has worked in the marketing, publicity, and editorial fields, holding internships with Lincoln Center, West Branch Literary Magazine, Jazz at Lincoln Center, 21C Media Group, and The Princeton Festival. Most recently, she worked as a voice teacher and a freelance publicity writer.

What attracted you to the Arts Administration Program at Teachers College, Columbia University? Initially, I was attracted to the Arts Administration Program at Teachers College, Columbia University for its strong, well-rounded curriculum. Additionally, as I interned with various arts organizations, I met many program graduates who passionately detailed the profound impact the program had on the development of their professional abilities.

How are your studies helping to advance your career goals? My studies in the ARAD program have helped me develop and fortify skills that are vital in the field while simultaneously allowing me to pursue my own interests. The strong curriculum makes room for self-directed learning pursuits, allowing ARAD students to develop skills that will allow them to become arts leaders.

Describe student life as a member of the ARAD community. There is never a dull moment for a student in the ARAD community, and our relationships as students extend well beyond the classroom. Within my first semester of the program, my peers and I attended music performances, art exhibitions, sporting events, Student Advocates for the Arts meetings, guest lectures, networking events, and countless restaurants. The ARAD community actively seeks varied and interesting experiences in New York City, both within and beyond the arts scene.

Student Spotlight: Kayli Callahan

Kayli is a Student Mentor for 2016-17

Kayli Callahan is a 2015 graduate of Cornell University, where she earned a B.A. in the History of Art and minored in Law & Society and Studio Arts. While completing her studies at Cornell, Kayli worked as the Development & Special Events Intern at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art. She is currently working at Teachers College as the Annual Fund Department intern in the Office of Development and External Affairs. Kayli plans to pursue her interests in both arts administration and law to work towards bridging the communication gap between arts administrators and governmental policy officials.

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Student Spotlight: Mari Ogino

Mari is a Student Mentor for 2016-17

Mari Ogino graduated from the University of California Los Angeles with a Bachelor of Arts in Art History. Following graduation, she held positions at a contemporary art gallery in Los Angeles, the FIDM Museum, and the Wildwoods Foundation. Additionally, she volunteered with Oakgrove as the event and site coordinator. Mari is researching visible and invisible barriers that prevent some children from accessing arts education. She also advocates to make arts education accessible to all children. Arts accessibility is the driving force behind her decision to pursue an M.A. in Arts Administration; she wants to ensure that arts programs are fully funded and sustainable.

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Student Spotlight: Jade Ong

Jade Ong
Jade is a Student Mentor for 2016-17

Jade Ong graduated from Tufts University with B.A.s in Clinical Psychology and Art History. In her undergraduate years, she worked in neurology research at Massachusetts General Hospital, and studied the neuropsychological basis of creativity at Harvard. Prior to joining the Arts Administration program, she worked at Christie’s doing auction consignments and sales, lot evaluation, research, and events planning. She currently serves as the co-president of Student Advocates for the Arts at Columbia, and is a member of the Acquisitions Committee at the Solomon R. Guggenheim museum. Jade is originally from Singapore, and is fluent in both Mandarin and English.

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