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Student Spotlight: Embedded with New York Philharmonic

Editor’s note: As part of the UMS 21st Century Artist Internships program, four students interned for a minimum of five weeks with a dance, theater, or music ensemble part of our 2015-2016 season. Evan Saddler is one of these students. This summer, he was embedded with the New York Philharmonic.

Below, Evan shares his travel stories with the orchestra in advance of their return Ann Arbor for three concerts October 9-11, 2015 and many surrounding residency activities. 

It was April 1, 2015 and I hadn’t heard back from UMS about the 21st Century Artist Internship. Despite the feeling that I had done well in the intense interview process (in front of a panel of eight core UMS staff members), I assumed that no communication meant that I hadn’t made the cut; thus I began to make other summer plans. Later that same evening however, a voicemail appeared in my inbox. It was one week old. The contents of this stale voicemail: Jim Leija, Director of Education and Community Engagement at UMS, was informing me that I would be moving to New York in less than a month’s time to intern with the New York Philharmonic. I contacted Jim right away, apologized for my tardiness, and accepted the offer diligently.

manhatta skyline avery fischer

Photos: On left, lower Manhattan taken from the Manhattan Bridge. On right,  a view from a rooftop looking down at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center, home of the New York Philharmonic.

My world went into chaos mode. The end-of-year to-do list was perpetual. I was finishing up classes and projects in Ann Arbor, preparing for exams, and performing my Junior Recital. And now I also had to find a place to live for six weeks in Manhattan, book the flights, and prepare for an experience of a lifetime. Also, I didn’t know exactly what I was getting into. I had a phone interview with my boss to-be, Vice-President of Artist Planning at the New York Philharmonic Ed Yim, followed by follow-up interviews with two members of his team. Thankfully, both phone interviews went smoothly, and I got the green light. I would have many more interviews to come, I discovered, and these interviews would become a crucial component of my internship.

new york phil on stagest john memorial

Photos: On left, after a performance of Brahm’s Symphony No. 4 with Manfred Honeck. On right, following a Memorial Day concert open to the public at St. John The Divine Cathedral on the Upper West Side.

The school year drew to a close, and I found myself transplanted to New York City. I was fortunate to be put in contact with the fabulous Lauren Flanigan, an operatic-soprano who has sung with the New York City Opera and the Metropolitan Opera. She runs a wonderful organization called the Music and Mentoring House. Lauren has created an incredibly supportive environment that caters to young artists studying, auditioning, and transitioning to living in New York City. She graciously took me in and allowed me to stay in her gorgeous Harlem walk-up brownstone townhouse for six weeks. She even cooked breakfast and dinner Monday through Friday for all of us living in the house. In addition, every Sunday evening before the work week began, all of us students living in the house, and some of Lauren’s close friends, colleagues, and neighbors gathered for what I called “family dinner”; a grill-out on the back patio (yes, in New York City) enjoying food and wine, discussing music, art, life, and one another’s company. It was always a highlight of my week. In addition to all of that, Lauren also set up a lesson for me with drummer Barry Altschul, one of Chick Corea’s early drummers. The entire situation could not have been better.

family dinnerbreakfast

Photos: On left, family dinner, a weekly Sunday-evening tradition at Music and Mentoring House, which included grilling out and celebrating summer with new friends! On right, the goodness I woke up to before leaving for Lincoln Center; one could say we had it made at Music and Mentoring House.

I cherish the time that I had during my internship with the New York Philharmonic. I learned a great deal about the inner-workings of a world-class performing-arts organization, experience that will be invaluable to me moving forward. The extent of planning, precision of logistical execution, leadership, and effort on the part of everyone, on a daily basis at Avery Fisher Hall, is astounding. Most of this work is unseen by the average concertgoer. In addition to day-to-day administrative duties, I conducted formal and informal interviews with countless people within the New York Phil. The interviews helped me to see how component parts makes up the whole. Whether I was meeting with someone from the marketing department, the production team, the archivists, a musician in the orchestra, or the president of the organization, everyone was passionate about making a positive contribution to the forward momentum of the organization to ensure it’s longevity in the ever-changing 21st century’s musical and artistic climate.

interview set uppercussion room

Photos: On left, taken during my video interview with President of the New York Philharmonic, Mr. Matthew VanBesien; the culmination of my series of interviews with people throughout the organization. On right, Associate Principal Percussionist Daniel Druckman took me on a brief tour of the Philharmonic’s extensive percussion collection.

Each week, I was able to attend rehearsals and the orchestra’s concerts for free, a tremendous gift of this internship. I observed and was a part of weekly production meetings, which outlined logistical aspects of upcoming performances at Avery Fisher Hall and around the city, and was also put to work in the Artistic Planning department on many communication and planning agenda items for the orchestra’s upcoming residency in Shanghai, China. Scheduling those conference calls between Shanghai and Manhattan (a 12-hour time difference) was no easy feat! Neither was learning how to use the office telephones; during my first week I accidentally hung-up on a board member (among many others!) while trying to transfer calls. You could say there was a bit of a learning curve to my office know-how.

batonsscore database

Photos: On left, during a visit to the Archives, I was shown a collection of batons owned by none other than Leonard Bernstein. On right, an interesting process through which the archival team uploads scores to the public online database. This is done through photo (with camera mounted vertically) rather than through scanning or copying.

Not only was I able to work at the New York Philharmonic at Lincoln Center for six weeks, I also lived in one of the greatest cities in the world. Practicing photography, attending concerts outside of the Philharmonic, going to museums like the MET and MoMA, and exploring chic restaurants in the Village occupied my nights and weekends.

I cannot thank the good people at UMS and the New York Philharmonic enough for this wonderful opportunity. The experience will stay with me for a lifetime, and I cannot wait to share its stories with others.

mirror mirrorbang on a can

Photos: On left, taken on one of my off days exploring the Museum of Modern Art. On right, one of the great privileges of living in New York City during the early months of summer was the vast number of concerts going on at any one given moment; this was at a performance by Bang on a Can.

The New York Philharmonic returns to Ann Arbor October 9-11, 2015.

Interested in more? Explore New York Philharmonic in our archives.