UTEP Students Gain Real-Life Experience in the Business of Music
Last Updated on January 28, 2020 at 12:00 AM
Originally published January 28, 2020
By Daniel Perez
Sweet sounds made by several student musicians from The University of Texas at El Paso blended with the reverberations of quiet conversations, the clanking of ceramic coffee cups and other expected noises inside West El Paso's Hillside Coffee and Donut Co. on a recent weekday morning.
Student interns at UTEP’s Center for Arts Entrepreneurship (CAE) learn about musicianship and how to successfully execute a music event at venues in the area. CAE is a collaboration between the University’s Department of Music and El Paso Pro-Musica (EPPM), a nonprofit chamber music organization.
Several dozen patrons of the cafe came and went with their pastries, breakfast sandwiches, teas and coffees during the hour or so that the students performed classical and contemporary selections.
The mini concert was part of an internship program organized by UTEP’s Center for Arts Entrepreneurship (CAE), a collaboration between the University’s Department of Music and El Paso Pro-Musica (EPPM), a nonprofit chamber music organization. The CAE selected 10 music students as interns.
The CAE developed this internship program – its first – to coincide with EPPM’s annual Chamber Music Festival, which started Jan. 9 and continued through Feb. 1. The goal was for the students to learn about musicianship from the festival’s performers as well as other aspects involved in the organization and execution of a music event such as guest relations and interactions with media.
“There’s a lot more to being a performer than playing in front of an audience,” said Kornel Juhasz, a first-year clarinet performance graduate student. He was part of a duet that played classical music at the coffee shop.
Juhasz, who grew up in Brownsville, Texas, said he wanted to participate in the internship to network with professional talent and learn more about the behind-the-scenes aspects of music festival management. He said organizers stressed the basics: show up early, provide a clean venue and presentable, approachable and knowledgeable staff who will offer a hearty welcome to patrons.
“It was fun,” Juhasz said.
While many coffee house patrons were involved in their personal conversations, Amy Ramspoth took a seat close to the performers who played guitar, cello, violin or clarinet. The resident artist with El Paso Opera, whose voice coach teaches at UTEP, said she learned about this pop-up concert through Instagram. She came from her home in far Northeast El Paso to support the musicians.
Ramspoth, a soprano originally from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, said she liked the informality of the concert sounds, which wafted within the café’s glass and dark wood-paneled walls to become part of everyday life between sips and nibbles.
“I especially like the cello,” she said. “I played it badly in middle school.”
Steve Wilson, DMA, chair and professor of music, said the CAE internships are a wonderful way for UTEP students to understand better the inner workings of a professional music organization.
“Interacting with the many guest artists that El Paso Pro-Musica brings in for the Chamber Music Festival is an outstanding way for our students to network, see how different artists handle the stresses of an intense rehearsal, performance schedule, and learn from how these artists interact with the public in a variety of settings,” Wilson said.
The interns worked the front and back of various venues to get a well-rounded, real-world taste of how a music festival works, said Felipa Solis, EPPM executive director and part of the CAE leadership team.
“We all had to learn from the beginning at some point,” said Solis, who developed the CAE internship with Wilson and Zuill Bailey, EPPM artistic director, Grammy Award winner and UTEP music instructor. “It will be on-the-job training for them.”
Solis said 40 individuals applied for the internship and the selection committee based its decision on academics, interviews, interest in performance and participation in the Department of Music and community projects.
Another intern was recent graduate Marisol Terrazas, who earned her bachelor’s degree in music education from UTEP in 2018. She wanted to be part of the program to learn how to manage an event, and how to market herself. One of the things she learned was the difference in preparation between a manager and a performer.
Terrazas, an El Paso native, was enthusiastic as she noted that music teachers must also stress to their students the importance of audience engagement, as well as exposure to new things.
“It was a positive experience,” she said. “I loved this internship.”