MIW Student Michael Spaeth jamming at local DC restaurant

Why would a music student want to spend a semester in Washington DC working at an internship, taking classes and writing a research paper? Isn’t DC all about government and politics? Two SMTD performance majors and two LSA students with strong backgrounds in music undertook a DC semester through the Michigan in Washington program in Fall 2013 and found unique and meaningful opportunities in DC to become involved in performance as well as performing arts policy.

Michigan in Washington is a living and learning program for juniors and seniors from all UM schools, departments and campuses. Program requirements include working at internships 4 days a week (for credit), producing a research paper on a topic of interest, and participating in elective evening courses. Students earn a full semester of credits while living near DuPont Circle, less than a mile from the White House.

Each MIW student is assigned to a mentor in DC who shares professional and personal interests.  Mentors are UM alums who have volunteered to advise UM students during their DC semester.  UMS President Ken Fischer was tremendously helpful in finding mentors and providing support for music students this term.  He sought out David Kitto, VP of Marketing at the Kennedy Center (former VP of Marketing at Carnegie Hall)  and Wayne Brown, a UM alum Director of Music and Opera at the National Endowment for the Arts, to assist the student musicians.   Mr. Brown has just been named CEO and President of the Detroit Opera House beginning in 2014.  

Zoe Kumagai at U.S. Capitol

Zoe Kumagai is a major in Double Bass Performance with a minor in Writing.  She believes that education is a great gift, and has actively sought out unique opportunities while on campus:  volunteering as a mentor and artist teacher in Ypsilanti, Dearborn, Detroit and even Brooklyn, New York.  She thought that MIW would be  a good stepping stone to life after college.  

Zoe’s internship was with the National Symphony Orchestra, where she scheduled musicians to play concerts for students in DC Public Schools.  She enjoyed coordinating with teachers and musicians  and is interested in being part of an orchestra with education at the core of its mission.  Wayne Brown was Zoe’s mentor, and she tells us that he  inspired her to think expansively and in terms of managing her own orchestra some day.  Zoe continued her bass studies with the National Symphony Orchestra, and they were kind enough to lend her storage space for her instrument so that she didn’t have to carry it around!

Stephanie Aboukasm is a dual major in Vocal Performance  and Communications with a minor in Performing Arts Management.  She decided that a semester in DC would be a perfect place to explore her diverse interests and prepare for “the real world” before graduating in December.  

Stephanie served as the Marketing and Communications Intern for the Washington Performing Arts Society (WPAS), which is one of the nation’s leading arts presenters.  WPAS brings classical, dance, world and jazz artists to stages across DC and offers educational programs and events to students in local schools and communities.  Stephanie’s role in her internship was to conduct research on grassroots marketing efforts, and to implement marketing plans for performances and educational programs.  Her research paper focused on social media and how arts organizations can use platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to bring wider ranges of audiences to their performances.  Before leaving Washington, Stephanie accepted a job offer from WPAS as Ticketing and Marketing Coordinator  and will be relocating to DC.  She’s looking forward to her new life and beginning her career in the arts!  

Michael Spaeth (Junior, Political Science and Communication Studies) is an accomplished saxophonist.  During his stay in DC he played lead alto saxophone in the American University Workshop - a small ensemble that primarily plays jazz, but also does contemporary classical, fusion, funk and rock.  Their final concert for the term was the Friday before Thanksgiving and several UM students attended to cheer for him.  Michael also performed at several jazz jam sessions at a nearby DC restaurant in his spare time.  He enjoyed the opportunity to meet new musicians and perform in new venues.    

Adam DesJardins (Junior, Sociology, with minors in French and Performing Arts Management) previously had worked backstage for UMS and the Summer Festival in Ann Arbor.  His internship was at the Kennedy Center with VSA which is the international organization on arts and disabilities.  He worked on a team with three other people to plan events and opportunities for emerging playwrights, musicians and artists with disabilites.  VSA also collaborates with other affiliates nationwide to provide educational and artistic resources for students with disabilities to make sure that everyone has access to the arts.   According to Adam, “I am absolutely thrilled to be working in the Kennedy Center, and even more thrilled to be working for a great cause that is dedicated to helping others through the arts.”  His research paper analyzed the quality of K-12 arts education programs for students with disabilities.   

One of the popular elective courses is Theater and Politics, where students attend plays and analyze them in discussion groups with a well known director (Ari Roth) who teaches the course.  This  term another elective was a Cultural Heritage and Museums course, taught by a curator from the Smithsonian.  American Political Journalism is always a favorite, taught at the Washington Post by Carlos Lozada, editor of the opinion page.    

Their adventures in DC have made all of these students more passionate than ever about pursuing their interests. While Ann Arbor offers an outstanding  foundation for undergraduate education, a semester in DC has brought it all together for these  talented  musicians.   

Michigan in Washington accepts applications in late January and late September for fall and winter terms of study.  Students can apply as early as 3 semesters in advance for early admission (although sophomore status is required at the time of application).  Please visit the MIW Website for more information, contact the office, or join us for an information session on Thursday, January 23 at 5:00 PM at the Vandenberg Room in the Michigan League (refreshments available).  

Stephanie Aboukasm with the WPAS Marketing Team dressed as the Royal Family for Halloween